Holy moly. It is so easy to leave Australia (once you have that ship’s registration thing) – but it is so HARD to enter New Caledonia. Not hard as in physically hard (although the passage did suck) – but hard as in knowing which regulations to observe.
First of all we believed that we could take in no fruit and no vegetables. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200. That seemed doable.
Then members of the Go East Rally told us that coffee was rationed to 800g per person – and so was cheese. Someone else said their popcorn had been confiscated. As well as all meat that was not vacuumed sealed with a label on it.
Coffee and cheese? Two of our major food groups. I’d already bought 4kg of coffee beans to keep M’s caffeine habit well serviced. Sam brought her own 2kg of coffee on the (incorrect) assumption she’d be quaffing it throughout the passage. Plus 3kg of bog standard tasty cheese, two packets of feta, two containers of bocconcini and two packets of parmesan. Milk, I can do without – cheese and yoghurt? I cannot.
In addition to the above concerns I had bought 5kg of almonds, 5kg of cannellini beans, 5kg of chickpeas, 5kg of chia seed, 5kg of lima (butter) beans – you get the idea. I wanted to be able to survive offgrid. But when I heard that the popcorn had been ditched – I had The FEAR. Maybe customs would confiscate anything that might potentially SPROUT!?
Cut to four hours out of Noumea. Captain M wants anything and everything that might anger/intrigue biosecurity piffed over the side. I am not great at divesting myself of things I have looked nurtured. It was hard to throw over the two aloe vera plants given to us by our friends in Franklin, Tasmania. The plant I had grown in water since we arrived in Sydney for the first time… I threw out my bag of sprouting seed mix I bought in Hobart…
Sam and I began an emergency rescue effort and cooked up all the remaining potatoes, turning them into a 14 egg frittata and a potato salad. M was putting on the pressure to get rid of all the cheese. I refused, and dug up some kind of official looking file that seemed to say we were able to keep cheese as long as it was unused and still in plastic, showing where it was made.
The cheese stayed.
When we got to Port Moselle Marina the following morning (after a night spent on a purloined mooring) the biosecurity guy who came aboard could not have cared less about what we did and didn’t have. I helped M fill out the declaration form, in which we admitted to the possession of cheese.
“We have cheese. Fromages!” I told Biosecurity Man, with a panicked expression. “They are all sealed. None of them are open.”
He shrugged a French shrug. “Fine,” he said.
I immediately began feeling even more mournful about my lovely aloe vera plants. And I needn’t have stashed a small cache of water kefir grains where no one would find them. I could have grown my sprouts.
“Our rubbish?” we asked him, gesturing to the bags in the net above Foamy. I knew that biosecurity would take away any organic matter.
“Any organic matter?”
“A bit,” said Sam.
Another French shrug.
“It’s OK. Just use the bins at the dock.” And he was gone.
So now, I publish this post to try and help other cruisers that might be thinking of sailing to New Caledonia. But it’s probably as helpful as all the other posts I’ve already read – the biosecurity laws are less intimidating in practice than they are in the documentation. And quite possibly depend on how much sleep the biosecurity representative has had the night before.
The only word I can come up with to describe my feelings is ‘frustrateful’ – a combination of gratitude and frustration. Grateful that it was far easier than had been anticipated; frustrated at the unnecessary waste and stress.