A Travellerspoint blog

New Caledonia

Flying foxes and other interesting critters

Travelling down the east coast of New Caledonia

sunny 28 °C

Silly tablet has inserted photos first, blog follows
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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

Posted by Arin MacDyer 18:43 Archived in New Caledonia Comments (3)

Wind and Mountains Along the West Coast

sunny 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:
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Posted by Arin MacDyer 19:14 Archived in New Caledonia Comments (1)

The red dust of the "Sud"

Travelling around the southern tip of New Caledonia

rain 23 °C

Let me fill in some of the details of our recent camping and explain why James needs a shower so badly...

We left Noumea and travelled south to the tip of the country. It is only an hour away from the city but very wild and we knew not to expect grocery stores or conveniences. New Caledonia super marche is excellent for preparing for a week of no refrigeration (although we could buy coolers we've never seen ice for sale), the milk is either UHT or powdered, you can buy UHT yogurt, and most of the veggies come in a can. The produce section is pretty meager and very pricey so we eat out of cans a lot. Like i sais the only things that are cheap is baguette and wine. But I digress....

First stop was the Le Parc de la Rivierre Bleue, and the reserve of the cagous. We rented mountain bikes and had a blast riding through the park (and its red puddles). The soil is bright red and sometimes burgundy because of the high concentration of iron, nickel and manganese. It stained our clothes and our skin! The amazing variety of plants and animals we saw is due to the unique environment and all the different microclimates - we would cycle round a bend and find ourselves either in a jugle or the desert depending on the aspect. We saw cagous, they hissed at us, and seemed a lot more agressive than i imagined. If they arent afraid of humans maybe that is why they are endangered.

We camped at two provincial park campgrounds that were lovely and new. One was in the jungle "Bois de Sud" and the other in the desert "site de Netcha". The covered picnic spots meant we stayed dry in all the rain, but James refused to try out the cold water showers. Other parents forced their children but the screams like torture disuaded us from trying. The bird life has been amazing - so much variety and the dawn corus is so loud it wakes us up every day at 5:00am. The giant Imperial pigeon is also endagered but its owl-like hooting follows us everywhere.

We toured ruins of penal colonies, hiked in the giant tree fern forest, and to a couple of waterfalls. One falls had a botany hike associated with that was much more interesting than the falls! Like i said, its not touristy here but because of the biodiversity and its World Heritage Site designation they do a good job of interpreting nature.
Here are our photos from these amazing places!
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Posted by Arin MacDyer 16:49 Archived in New Caledonia Comments (5)

Camping in New Caledonia

Five days on the Isle des Pins

rain 23 °C

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So we've done our first stretch of camping on the Isle of Pines. Named by Captain Cook for the tall Auraucaulis (Auraucalia columnaris) pines that grow along the shorelines. We felt at home in more than one way - a slow pace, everything within walking distance, and a luxury campsite at the Gite Nataiwatch that was tucked in a forested setting but five minutes from the beach.

As usual we didn't spend much time sitting around. We took an outrigger canoe ride to a nature reserve called the Piscine Naturelle. It was a bit chilly for snorkelling but the kids were thrilled to find brittle stars everywhere - I wasnt so thrilled with the poisonous cone shells everywhere. The next day we hiked to the top of the only mountain on the island. The rain came and we decided to rent a car and tour the rest of island - we toured caves, cultural sites (like the statue of Jesus surrounded by tribal totems - very fitting to sum up the native Kunie people that run this island), and poked around the tide pools and flats. We managed one afternoon of culural activities put on in honor of a giant cruise ship of tourists before taking thr ferry backmto Noumea.

After several dissappointing attempts to sample french cuisine in Noumea, we finally had some memorable meals. We were served the local delicacies of Bulime snails and unicorn fish. Still, we couldnt sample anymore because the effort involved in starving our children til 7:30 and then putting them to bed after 9:00 wasn't worth it. Here they are very rigid about the timing of meals and most daytime restaurants close at 5 pm and the dinner restaurants don't open until 7:30pm. On the island you had to order your food at least one hour before.

A great side trip and now we are off on three more weeks of camping around the Grande Terre. Life is good - our biggest worry is how to handle the stench of our sandals (if anyone has any tips let me know!)

Arin

This is what Neve wanted me to write:
I went to crab beach and found a ghost crab. It was very small, as small as my thumb nail. It was white.

I read five books today and I have made friends with three dogs. The big one is named Scratchy, the medium is called Smarty (because he is smart not for the candy), and the littlest one is called Dobby. They beg for food and play with us. Dobby is the best dog out of the three for listening.

We are playing with coolvines that look like wire but It was not wire.

I like camping!

Some pictures from the time we spent there:
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Posted by Arin MacDyer 03:11 Archived in New Caledonia Tagged beaches food camping neve arin Comments (3)

insects golore.

sunny 23 °C

Yesterday we were walking around town when my sister spotted a huge grasshopper, it was as big as my dad's foot. When we got home we looked it up and it turned out to be a female giant coconut grasshopper. The largest grasshopper in the world . They are not dangerous but they can give you a painful skrach. They are endemic to New Caledonia. The females are green and the males are brown.

Noumea is great we get treats every day my favorite treat is a sugar crepe. it has the delicious combination of sugar butter and heat.

My parents make us walk every where every day I hate it!!! My parents make me walk to the top of the mountain to the aquarium to the beach they wont even get a rental car! I eat a baguette every day . I get up at 4 in the morning because of the blabber mouth birds.
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Posted by Arin MacDyer 15:40 Archived in New Caledonia Tagged insects james Comments (2)

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