Best time to visit:
from May to October
In a word:
Ti-Va-Ouere (Bothers of the Earth)
Set the tent on a beach on the Island of Pines and spend a few days there; Toast with kava bought from a nakamal (private houses); Breakfast at the Marchè de Noumea like a Parisian from another era!
New Caledonia is a French overseas territory located in the Pacific Ocean, a couple of hours flying east of Australia and just north of the Tropic of Capricorn.
Contended between Great Britain and France during the first half of the nineteenth century, the island, in 1853 became a French possession. Starting in 1864, it served as a penal colony for forty years. New Caledonia also includes the Loyalty Islands and the Isle of Pines.
Its capital is Noumea and there is a large main island called Grande Terre, about 400 kilometers long and about seventy on average, while the Loyalty Islands (Ouvea, Maré, Lifou and Tiga), an archipelago of rather large atolls, most of which are "raised" tens of meters above the surface of the sea. Further south is Ile Des Pins (Isle of Pines), an island of limestone twenty kilometers wide. Around the major islands, in the arms of the sea that separate the latter, there are dozens of small uninhabited atolls and coral reefs just emerging from the surface of the sea, which create an environment rich in life with great biodiversity. A trip to New Caledonia is therefore particularly recommended for those who love the beautiful sea with wide beaches and crystal-clear lagoons, to those who want to admire landscapes that go well out of the ordinary and to those interested in observing endemic species that include particular birds, trees , corals and fish.
With a short flight from Vanuatu islands we reach this umpteenth paradise of the South Pacific!
How one place changes from another just for the simple domination of one or another nation.
In particular, here, this aspect is very much alive given the strong political weight that the France still holds.
The French tricolor flies everywhere, next to it, the shyest flag is the colorful flag of Nouvelle Calédonie, the license plates are French (with the initials NC final), around more white than Melanesian encounters and the products of the supermarkets are all imported from the Oltralpe!
We are in Noumea. The administrative capital of New Caledonia, is a quiet town of one hundred thousand inhabitants, with a beautiful coastline, a fantastic aquarium and some interesting museums. A series of small islands and coral reefs to explore with mask, fins and snorkel, can be reached from the city in just a few minutes by boat.
We are guests of Mathieu, a couchsurfer from Paris who moved here two years ago.
Soon he takes us to the top of one of the hills of the city to admire the sunset ... what a peace!
While not speaking a word of French, we immediately manage to take a ride to the Air Caledonie office in the center. The office is packed with people, in fact the tickets cannot be bought online: what a disorganization, but we can get two and, with a couple of hitches, we reach the domestic airport of Magenta from where we take off for the Island of Pines!
Thirty minutes of flight, spent stuck to the window to admire the wonderful landscape from above.
A strange feeling because although it is only 19.00: it is already late at night.
Even the small airport is dimly lit.
The journey from the airport to our bay of Rouelaux takes about 20 minutes and from the window only pitch-dark beyond the outline of the island's famous pines.
We set our small tent almost on the beach, a few meters from the waves of the Pacific ocean, we are alone here, far from everything and everyone ...
We eat something, we made a good supply of food in Noumea before leaving.
Shortly before holing up in our tent we take ten steps towards the sea and we are literally speechless!
We had rarely seen such a show!
A slice of moon reflected in the immense and majestic ocean ...
The evening is cloudless, we are on a lost Pacific island with no lights ... one of the few times my heart beats stronger before a naturalistic landscape.
We go to sleep lulled and a little too frightened by the sound of the waves!
The Isle of Pines was first approached by James Cook in 1774, on the occasion of his second trip to New Zealand.
It is so called for the woods of Araucaria columnaris (similar in appearance to the common pines) that host ancient trees over 40 meters high. The landscape becomes particularly unusual for a tropical environment, as these conifers reach the beaches and crystalline lagoons around the island, creating a surreal and primordial atmosphere that looks like a mix between the Alps and the tropics.
The day starts early on this island ... we can't wait to get out of our tent and walk around it.
The show that we admire from our beach takes your breath away.
We are at the center of a small bay, to our right a strip of white beach framed by a thousand green pines, to the left a large rock that separates us from the Bay of Kuto.
The classic image of lost Pacific beaches materializes before our enchanted eyes!
Very white sand, transparent water that makes you snorkel even without a mask, very clear sky, no noise other than that of the small waves breaking on the corals and the singing of some happy birds. We are the only ones on the whole bay.
It only takes a few hours to turn us into two castaways!
Here we are: sunburned, a few rations of food, a bottle of water, "breaded" from the sand and with all our belongings dangling on the branches of a tree to dry.
We enjoy this day in the most spartan, wild and simple way possible ...
Our day? In the morning we wake up when the tent starts to get too hot.
I get up first, pull up the zip of the tent and spend five minutes looking out without saying anything; green palms, straight pines pointing towards the sky, the sun that makes crystal clear water shine ... peace.
There is just us and our little green tent all over Rouelaux Bay.
I prepare a breakfast of butter and salt biscuits and, since we have recovered a kettle, we also have coffee and hot tea.
A minute later we are in the water ... in what looks like a huge natural pool ... we are soaking for hours ... after a relaxing reading, you can walk on the shoreline ...
In the afternoon, after a walk of about 20 minutes on a dirt road, we arrive at the only small shop in the area to eat a nice coconut ice cream ...
We expect the sunset between a bath and our notes in the travel diary and when the sun greets us: we prepare the "dinner" (ie cans of tuna or noodles brought by Noumea).
Time to go to sleep, but only after a nice tea by the sea ... illuminated only by the moon and the stars ...
The night sky is nothing short of impressive ... never seen so many stars all together ...
The night is chilly but wrapped in our sleeping bag we are fine!
With a flight at dawn, we are back in the capital: Noumea.
We decide to spend the whole day discovering it!
We start with a breakfast at the "Marchè de Noumea": the city market which, in addition to fruit, vegetables and souvenirs, also sells fragrant croissants, pan de chocolate and fried banana donuts!
Like two Parisians, sitting at a table in the only bistro, we enjoy a rich breakfast and admire the local daily life as we pass by ...
Not far there is the "Mwa Ta", a large totem, 12 meters high that praises the identity"kanak", the native Melanesian, as if to remind everyone where we really are!
We follow the itinerary suggested by Lonely Planet and we walk the various avenues with the names of great French soldiers and generals or battles of the past coming to the church of Saint Joseph where the priest is giving the final blessing.
I was very impressed to see that at the end of the Mass, the parish priest, at the exit of the cathedral, shook hands with every single believer who left the house of the Lord.
"Place de Cocotiet", the city park that stands right in the city center.
We relax enjoying a large baguette with French ham ...
Today is a holiday and all the museums are closed ...
Set aside the culture we decide to head to the Citrones Bay to drink something in front of the many kite surfers and the places that bask in the sun ...
But the day is still long!
Mathieu invites his Mexican and Indonesian friend to dinner; Stefy nowvagabond cook", (she can boast of having cooked all over the world!), Delights us with abundant cheese and ham omelettes ...
Couchsurfing is also this and we advise everyone to live similar experiences because only when you are with the locals can you say you have lived a place!