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brucemoon Noumea - A travel report by Bruce
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Noumea,  New Caledonia - flag New Caledonia -  New Caledonia
4266 readers

brucemoon's travel reports

Gallic indulgence

  22 votes
Without doubt, New Caledonia is a colonial outpost in every sense of the term; the French administrators subordinate the indigenous locals with welfare (instead of training them for self administration) while they rape the landscape for the minerals.

Noumea - the city, the harbour & the Catholic Church!
Noumea - the city, the harbour & the Catholic Church!
New Caledonia consists of three 'aspects' (1) the French administration, Noumea, the civil administration and mining (2) the Melanesian population of Grande Terre (main island) and (3) the Kanak community of the Loyalty islands. The first aspect (1) is a modern day example of 'old style' colonialism. The French RULE! Noumea is a contrast between urban investment for the French, and urban neglect for the indigenous locals. The mining? This is just environmental vandalism on a grand scale - remediation? What's that?. (2), the friendliness of the Melanesian population (mainly on the pretty eastern side) is a welcome and very pleasant contrast. They'll stop and talk all day and the smiles just makes your heart melt. (3) it the aspect of Kanaky that is most revealing; it's THEIR nation and they want it back! They have a well entrenched and communally oriented way of life and Gallic arrogance isn't part of it!! In general, though, travel around the nation is easy, with most 'tourist' places readily accessable. Where the French are in control, expect to pay European prices, elsewhere, prices are reasonable - even to just a big warm smile. Possibly because of the heavy-handed way the French 'control', the impact of crime on tourists seems minimal. Walking around Noumea at night was quite OK, with all ages wishing us Bonsior!

Favourite spots:
The East coast - near Hengene
The East coast - near Hengene
The west coast has been denuded and is unappealing. With few exceptions, most beaches on this side are stony. The east coast, esp. around Hengene is delightful. The landscape is rugged, and makes the impact of (unsightly) mining all the more visually (and morally) challenging. Most beaches are stone or shell sand, with fringing rock ledges that are excellent for snorkelling. Don't miss the Loyalty Islands. Here the 'sand' is powdered limestone - so light and white, making the VERY aqua water so compelling. The kanaky (traditional) lifestyle on these islands is accessable to all who take the time to befriend them (go for it, its so worthwhile). Remember also, that kanaky time is 'Pacific Time' - meaning there is no dominant clock, if it needs to be done then it get done - eventually! For a holiday, this is both wonderful and frustrating!

What's really great:
Lifou Island
Lifou Island
Perhaps the most special aspect of my time in New Caledonia was finding the best domestic travel agency in the place. I used the net to book much of the 'frame' of my trip. I discovered once there that the administration set 'maximum' prices for services (eg. hotel bed prices, bus sector pricing, etc.) and most adhere to these prices in the public domain. But, get the help of a good domestic travel agency and you can drastically reduce many of the prices. The agency - Center Voyages, the agent - Susan LELO, the email address - AND, as an Americal Express agency, they don't charge a commission to exchange currency - everywhere else charges around $5-8. If you are planning to visit, contact Susan - she speaks French and English fluently.

The Tjibaou Cultural Centre
The Tjibaou Cultural Centre
Parts of Noumea are in disrepair! the 'tourist' area of Anse Vata is somewhat cleaner - but its not that wonderful!

The French 'import' their Gallic citizens to do all the administrative /policing /etc jobs on 4 year contracts. They get double pay, free accommodation, and 'import' a houseload of furniture which they 'sell' at a profit at the end. To address discontent, fresh food is flown in. Had fresh berry fruit from southern France (Mmmmmm!).

In the meantime, the footpaths of Noumea are a broken disgrace, kitchen waste is directed into gutters (YUK) and money is spent unwisely just to appease the 4 year contractors!

Use the local bus - 200xpf per trip. At the central park (Pl de la Cocotiers) the Information Office sells a pack of 10 (= to 145xpf - note there is a refundable deposit). Also get the FREE maps and go see the sights - don't miss the Tjibaou Centre to get an understanding of the REAL culture!

Get out, see the east coast of Grande Terre & the Loyalty Islands

The West coast - horseback country!
The West coast - horseback country!
The note about Center Voyages cannot be overstated. I used the net to get a frame of accommodations. When in Noumea, I found out the administration posts a maximum price to be charged for different styles of accommodation - and most just charge this price. But, if you use a good agent, you can get it much cheaper. eg. 'normal' 2 star double = 10,000xpf - got it for 7,000!

Do try the 'homestay' style accommodation offered by the locals - typically a grass covered dome. With shower and toilet - ensuite - expect to pay around 3-4000xpf, without mod cons, about 2000xpf.

You'll hear a comment that the locals don't barter. On basic food and artifacts, that may be true, but on accommodation, bartering goes. That so many Vietnamese (ex refugees) are in business means that bartering IS a way of life.

The mining industry 'runs' the economy - pity about the 'environment'!
The mining industry 'runs' the economy - pity about the 'environment'!
The clubs are 'interesting' - try French 'chic' as the style' but with a local 'atmosphere'.

SUNDAY - in Noumea,  nothing moves, elsewhere in the country Sunday is Funday!
SUNDAY - in Noumea, nothing moves, elsewhere in the country Sunday is Funday!
As alcohol is sold everywhere, there is no need for a 'pub'. So, if you're into getting drunk at a licenced venue and becoming rowdy (and anti-social), you'll be disappointed.

Not only a view of Lifou (at Jokin), there's also the 'underworld'!
Not only a view of Lifou (at Jokin), there's also the 'underworld'!
Anse Vata is where the tourists go, and they get ripped off big time. Put simply, the food in Noumea is priced as for France, but the menu quality lacks much. Put it this way, in terms of Australian standards, the food style is 1950's and the prices are about 4 to 5 times what we'd pay. Try the Latin Quarter - its where the locals go. For those on a budget, the morning markets (5-11am) offer a great alternative, and the Vietnamese food vendors opposite offer reasonably priced (but rather boring) fare at night.

Outside Noumea, its either lunchtime offerings, or resort access. But do try the local custom - bougna!

Other recommendations:
To many, the height scale of the mountains will be a surprise.
To many, the height scale of the mountains will be a surprise.
Plan to spend most time outside Noumea, especially the Loyalty Islands - Mare, Lifou and Ouvea. Isle de Pines is visually spectacular, but expensive.

Try also the fast catamaran - the BETICU - from Noumea to the islands.

And, if you're from Europe longing for good patisserie, or from the southern hemishere wanting to know this side of French cuisine, its a must do! One firm even imports french flour to ensure 'quality' patisserie!

While French is the dominant language (I'm told there are over 50 local languages), English is generally understood. Parle vous Englais? A leeetle!

Select prudently and you'll enjoy yourself.

Published on Thursday August 4th, 2005

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Fri, Aug 05 2005 - 11:48 PM rating by maehof

fantastique , i so much love when someone ( YOU) tells the true about french and their arogancy and self centered way of life, great job good on ya. martin ( add some pictures please)

Fri, Aug 05 2005 - 04:59 PM rating by eirekay

Bruce, I enjoyed your report - would be a ***** with Pictures!

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