16.10.2014 - 20.10.2014 28 °C
For a week now we have been alternating our campsites between wind and forest, ocean-side and tucked in the mountains. Not a bad way to live! We are making our way up the western coast of New Caledonia, changing campsites every three days. Our first stop was the Refuge de Farino because it advertisred hot showers and wifi, and was tucked in the mountains neat the pleasant villages of La Foa, Sarramea and Farino. Although the site could have used more maintenance it was pretty sweet - showers, a kitchen, and a bar! We enjoyed the forest birds and did several hikes to waterfalls and got to try swimming in a pool created by one called the Feillet rock pool. We spent a day hiking the Parc des Grand Fougeres and marvelled at the giant tree ferns and cycads that are remnant species from the time of dinosaurs. While taking in the view of the Sarramea valley we ran into a conference of Birdlife International people all from south pacific islands and it was nicte to have a conversation in English. Here I wished my french was better - since leaving the south we had not met any other English speakers - the fragrance of the night air was amazing and wish I could ask about it!
We left these little mountain villages and stopped in the town of Bourail. At the visitor information they sold many Niaoli oil products and I guessed that the night air perfume was Niaoli or sandalwood. Bourail is tucked into rolling pasture lands and has a cowboy culture, but is the gateway to the Roche Percee and Poe beach. Amazing crystal green water and , again, unique wildlife so much that this coast is another zone in the world heritage designation. We set up our tent at Poe beach, chilled out and watched the wind sufers, kite boarders, and parasaillers do their best tricks. The water was warm and shalllow, and we had to hike out nearly half a km to actually swim. We boarded a glass bottom boat to get out to the barrier reef and to see colorful coral, green turtles, and even a leopard ray. Simon pulled oyt his best french and asked the guide if we could see Dugongs on the excursion and he explained thst this is a very small but globally important population that can only live in one spot in the bay - where the water was deep enough for them to sleep but still have sea grass. To see them, if we were very lucky, would be from the top of the Roche Percee and only when they came up to breathe. Well lucky us, we hiked to that view point the next day a caught glimpses of a large individual in the ocean below. Very cool - another endangered species spotted!
The kids were sad to leave Poe beach but we decided it was time to get out of wind and to find another campsite with hot showers and wifi so travelled further north to Koumac and were pleasantly surprised at the size of the town and its pretty setting. We stayed at the Gite du Logon and got tohave showers but no internet and my was it windy! But it was super close to town so we were able to stock up in the market, visit a library for internet and source out a laundry mat (who proceeded to charge me $34.00 for the sevice - did I mention N.C. was expensive?). Ever since the Isle of Pines James has been super keen on caving, so on the advice of the information point lady we went to explore the Koumac caves. This was such a ggod site and they were so nonchalant about it! Free, a bunch of safety measures, and really cool long tunnels and chambers to explore. We walked about 200 of the 380m cave until the kids got scared when two of our headlamps went (we had more though!). The caves had it all, bats, crystals, and stalactites. I could have spent all day there!
We left Koumac the next day and headed over the mountains to the east side of New Caledonia, bypassing the north tip of the island due to yhe wi d and because we werent sure if there were enough activities at the point, it seemed rather rocky and bleak. We have been here over a month now and are just starting to figure it out - stores close Sunday and Monday, Snacks are restaurants for the day and close by 5:00, restaurants are open at 7:30, liquour can be bought everywhere but only from Saturday to Wednesday.
Thanks everyone for reading and keeping in touch! I have intended this blog as a way to remember our trip but it is nice to know you are enjoying it. Here are some photos of the past week: