Travelling down the east coast of New Caledonia
21.10.2014 - 29.10.2014 28 °C
Silly tablet has inserted photos first, blog follows
We've now done 26 nights in a tent and the last 8 have been along the east coast of New Caledonia. We crossed the mountain pass and it was immediately different - a much narrower strip of land between the ridges and the ocean and the road weaves its way through many more small tribes. It was wetter, big trees full of ripe mangoes, and just more like being in the jungle. Also, the Kanak people on this side are entrepreneurial, there was a roadside stall in front of each house. Some were selling fruits and vegetables, others were stone carvings or ceremonial axes. We stopped at a stone carving stand because James wanted to buy a small totem. A young girl popped out at the road and took us to a larger "store" with a bigger selection and also gave each if the kids rainbow loom bracelets she'd made. James is making and collecting them, who knew rainbow loom would be popular here too.
I digress, the first place we stopped was the village of Hienghene. So pretty! Interesting buildings, bridges and natural setting. The buldings are tucked into the mountainside which slopes steeply down to a bay. There are several green bridges crossing lagoons and estuaries. Unique karst limestone outcroppings are a big draw here. In the bay near to town they look like a hen and chicks (you pronounce the town "hi hen", coincidence?). Near to our campsite the stones were towering cliffs with interesting caves, external stalactites, and huge trees growing out of the top. We spent an afternoon kayaking around the base of these cool rocks. That night we came back and watched the flying foxes leave their roosts at the top of the cliffs and swirl around in great masses as they left to forage on fruit and flowers. They were very noisy! The campground we stayed at was also a diving shop and did brisk business taking people to the limestone reef where, apparently, there was some of the best diving in the world and comprises the third portion of the World Heritage Site. Again, I wished my french was better so I could go on an introductory dive with them. The clients were mostly rich french people staying at a resort down the road. It was an old Club Med taken over by the Koulnoue tribe. We had a rare evening out there sampliing many local dishes (tahitian salad is a new fav: raw white tuna, coconut milk and cucumber) and the kids actually played with other kids! This was a great spot with scenic water, mountains and lots of wildlife - we even caught a sea horse in the lagoon during low tide.
However after our usual three nights it was time to move on. Driving further south, and looking for a campsite with wifi we stopped at Poindimie. Although we didn't get to kayak out to a nearby small island for snorkelling as planned we had no trouble finding things to do. We spent a day playing in the waves at the beach (its rare to have waves here because of the barrier reef). The rock pools ten steps from the tent were super interesting - loads of fish, sea cucumbers, crabs, birds, and I was even startled by an eel hunting its dinner. It was a great spot but we were disappointed to not have hot showers (it had been a long time with cold, and we were paying for them) and more worrisome was that we could see and smell sewage leaking out into the rock pools during low tide to be dispersed when the water came up. Yuck! I had expected better of these operators.
Our plan was to keep driving down the coast to get to Thio, which had more great Marine wildlife and a chance to see Dugongs up close. But to do so would have taken us though some terrible roads. Its only one way traffic alternating north or south by the hour. The decision was made for us however when they officially closed the road for repairs. We drove as far as we could through some huge nickel mines right adjacent to the lagoon and crossed the mountains back to the west coast. The first place we drove to had a locked gate and appeared closed, and it was getting dark by then, so we quickly pulled into the municipal camgound in Sarramea. This turned out great. It wasn't busy, had nice bathrooms, power and was only 1500 francs a night (~$15). I loved the fragrant air, flowering trees and birdsong here.
We are now tucked into a Gite in Bourake Bay packing and getting ready for New Zealand. Kids are enjoying 'educational' french TV. I think weve covered much the Grand Terre and still there are things we would like to do - more hiking, snorkelling, swimming and soaking up the sunshine.
I know we are big geeks when it comes to nature, so I tried to include more pictures of places and other interests. If i havent said it already, many thanks to our Pembina friends for the awesome camera.
Off to New Zealand on Saturday where we are excited to be met by friends