Posted by: lindsaygoes | December 28, 2015

New Caledonia: Initial adventures in Noumea and Ouvea

So I’ve just got back from a trip to New Caledonia, and it was an interesting holiday.

Ouen Toro, Noumea, New Caledonia

Ouen Toro, Noumea, New Caledonia

First, a few points about language. I am ashamedly monolingual, although I do try and pick up a few basics (hello, please, thank you) when I’m travelling. While in Noumea a lot of people speak English, more off the beaten track, it is predominantly French. In order to try and be understood I found myself (not deliberately), speaking English with a bad French accent, or if I understood an occasional French word, repeating it in English (that probably doesn’t help someone who doesn’t speak English). We did bring a French-English dictionary, but it was a picture based one, and so mainly focused on nouns, which wasn’t always helpful.

We arrived in New Caledonia in the evening, and so the first day really just consisted of dinner.

Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center, Noumea, New Caledonia

Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center, Noumea, New Caledonia

The next morning we visited the Noumea morning market, where we got some breakfast. Then we drove to Ouen Toro, which had some wonderful views over the surrounding area, and explored the Anse Vata area, with it’s lovely beaches and promenades.

Next we went to the New Caledonia museum, which had some interesting exhibits. I particularly enjoyed the yam farming exhibits (with their English information!). We then went to the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center, with it’s interesting architecture, and some fantastic sculptures and lovely gardens.

Then it was to the domestic airport to fly to Ouvea. This was the first point where I really felt I was struggling with the language barrier, as no one at the airport spoke much English. Our flight was delayed and ended up taking off at about the same time as another plane, but they didn’t have any screens for the flights, just someone who called out for families to get on the plane. So I was hoping we were on the correct flight! It turned out we were, and it was a short flight to Ouvea, one of the loyalty islands.

Bridge between Ouvea and Mouli, New Caledonia

Bridge between Ouvea and Mouli, New Caledonia

We had a transfer from the airport, which went smoothly, and arrived at our accommodation, which was tribal accommodation. This meant we were staying in a thatched bungalow type building on a families property. We were greeted by someone who spoke no English, and when we tried to organise dinner, it turned out they had other plans, that did not involve cooking us dinner. We managed to get the instructions to walk for four kilometers and we would find somewhere. On our walk a car pulled over, with someone who did speak English, who told us that everything was closed because it was Sunday, and the closest restaurant that was open was 18 kilometers away. But they could take us to the only supermarket on the island that was open on Sunday evenings. So we had dinner of barbecue shapes and cake.

Mouli, Ouvea, New Caledonia

Mouli, Ouvea, New Caledonia

The next day we thought we had a day tour of the island organised, but that language barrier was there again. Instructions that there was a phone at the post office were vaguely understood, so we walked to the post office, to discover that there was indeed a phone, but it was a pay phone. We felt that phoning someone who didn’t speak French to organise a tour was probably an exercise in futility, but luckily someone at the supermarket spoke English, and organised a day tour for us. Our driver picked us up later in the morning, and with the help of a map of Ouvea, and my few words in French, we managed to understand most of what we were seeing. Ouvea is a stunning island, with crystal clear bright blue waters, and gorgeous scenery, and so not much explanation was needed.

DSC_3066 copy

After our tour we headed back to our accommodation, and ended up having a bit more of a chat with our hosts. It is custom among the Kanak tribes to give a gift when you are staying somewhere, and we presented our hosts with some Australian souvenirs and some rice. They were very appreciative, and gave us a platter of fresh fruit, and we tried to have a bit more of a conversation. I think I managed to convey that we were from Australia and what we did for a living, but that was about it. We did also confirm dinner for that night. It was a delicious meal, with a whole fish, and local vegetables.

Ireital (tribal accommodation), Ouvea, New Caledonia

Ireital (tribal accommodation), Ouvea, New Caledonia

The next morning we were up early for our flight back to the mainland, and it all went smoothly.

 

 

 

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