New Caledonia is like a little slice of the French Riviera right here in the South Pacific.
Last year we had been lucky enough to be invited to go and sail on a friends yacht for a week and this year we were even luckier to be invited back again!
We weren’t joining the yacht until the Sunday night, so to make the most of our annual leave we decided to head up to New Caledonia on the Saturday morning, and do some exploring further afield.
We were pleased that we did!
We arrived at La Tontouta airport at lunchtime on Saturday, picked up a rental car and headed north.
Bourail is located about half way up the West Coast of Grand Terre – the largest Island in New Caledonia. It is about 120km north of the international airport. Driving on the right hand side of the road was a bit of a challenge, but Andrew was soon in to the swing of things as we cruised along the highway.
We stopped briefly at a supermarket to stock up on French cheese and a baguette and then continued North, turning off towards the coast just before we got to the town of Bourail. We were heading out to a beach called La Roche Percee.
Golden sand, and a bright blue sea awaited us at the end of the road. A peninsula dotted with guest houses separated the beach from a river estuary. We sat on the beach eating our bread and cheese and watched the local families playing with a ball. We still had some time to kill before we checked in to our accommodation so we walked a small track leading through the bush to a mangrove swamp on the other side. Huge holes dotted around the base of the trees, and we wondered who lived inside…
Soon it was time to check in to our lovely accommodation for the night. L’Effet Mer is a delightful guest house located just back from the beach. Veronique is a wonderful host, and welcomed us with passionfruit flavoured drinks and our favourite Number One beer. We sat in the lovely garden and started to feel like we were in holiday mode. We watched the sun go down behind the rock on the beach and then came back to the house for dinner.
Veronique is an amazing chef and she had prepared a beautiful meal for us, accompanied by some fabulous French wine. We were joined by another couple who were working in New Caledonia for a museum. Taking photos of the places that Kanak artefacts had been collected from. We had a great night with lots of discussion and we fell asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the beach.
The following morning Veronique once again spoilt us with fresh fruit, cups of strong hot coffee and her home made bread and jams. Absolutely delicious. If you are looking for boutique accommodation in New Caledonia, then we can highly recommend this place.
After we packed up and paid we headed off to do the three bay walk. Starting at the northern end of the beach, the track climbed steeply up over the headland and dropped down in to the next bay which was full of the unusual pines that are dotted over these islands. The white sandy beach looked like a stunning place to spend a day. Then we climbed up again, admiring the views out over the bay. The cruising guide says you can anchor in here, but there were no yachts while we were there. We could see turtles swimming in the water below. Stunning!
At about 1100 we realised that we needed to buy some beer before 12.00, so we hot footed it back along the track and jumped in the car for a drive in to the town of Bourail. A quick scope of the supermarket confirmed our fears – NO BEER! Emily sprinted down the road – it was 11.55 – all alcohol sales close at 12.00, thankfully she found a wine shop that could help our thirst predicament! But she had no money! Naomi and I were still back in the supermarket choosing cheese with the kitty. Thankfully Andrew went to the rescue and we managed to get our beer, along with a fresh baguette and some more cheese. We were happy.
We drove up the road just out of town to the New Zealand war cemetery. This beautiful place is a burial ground and memorial to the New Zealanders who died during the Second World War in the South Pacific. Two lines of headstones on either side of a manicured lawn stretched out in to the distance. At the bottom of the lawn was a cross and a list of hundreds more names. These names were people who were lost with no grave. We wandered up and down the rows of headstones, sombrely reading the names of the young people who sacrificed their lives to save our country such a long time ago.
Beside the cross at the bottom of the field was a little bench. We sat on the bench eating our lunch and discussing the horror of war, and what a terrible waste of life this was for such a small country. The sky grew grey and large raindrops fell down like tears from the sky.
It was time to head south and we had read about a fern park – Parc des Grand Fougeres. It didn’t look far off the main road. However it was quite a long way up a very narrow shingle road in to the mountains. It was quite cool when we arrived in the car park – I think there was an entry fee, but as we were arriving a bit later we weren’t charged. The man at the office didn’t speak any English but he pointed out a short track that we might like to try and so we set off in to the bush. We dropped down in to the thick forest and were surrounded by a million shades of green, tall trees towered above. It was beautiful and well worth a visit, there were lots of other tracks to do.
Sadly we were running out of time, so we were back on the road heading for Noumea – Port Moselle Marina and the beautiful Esther Louise waiting for us. Stay tuned for the next instalment!