Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…New Caledonia born and raised

James Cook may have been a great explorer, but his knack for coming up with names for his discoveries leaves a lot to be desired. Much like New South Wales (and presumably New Britain), New Caledonia offers little in way of resemblance to its eponym. Its tropical climate, palm fringed streets and the fact the fools drive on the right make this about as different to Scotland as I can imagine. To top it all off, they all speak French.

With a couple of days of cruising behind me, my immediate impression of Noumea, New Caledonia’s capital, was that it barely wobbled at all. As I stepped off the boat onto firm land it was raining heavily and, as I was intent on heading to one of the beaches, that wasn’t welcome.

One of the major problems I found during my cruise with day trips to islands was that any small thing could cloud my memories. Whether it’s terrible service and lacklustre food (isn’t that right, staff of La Sorbetiere?) or the best ice cream I’ve ever seen (and possibly tasted), something simple can easily change the way I remember and think about a place.

The other is that once I was back on the ship, that’s the end of my time on land. Of course, chatting with other passengers will often bring up a couple of recommendations of great places to see and things to do, but what can I do with this advice now?

Noumea itself isn’t much of a city. Apart from a handful of semi-interesting landmarks, the appeal seems to be in its eating establishments, its beaches and the island of Amedee, 18 kilometres to the south. After being claimed by the French way back when, it still remains under Parisian control to this day and French influence is easy to see, especially on the menus. (So, technically, I was in Europe as recently as last week.) Steps towards independence are underway and in 2010 it became on of a select group of countries to have two official flags.

Anse Vata and Baie des Citrons are the two beaches that came recommended, and with restaurants, cafes and ice cream bars in each area, they weren’t completely isolated. Unfortunately, having been in Australia for so long now I’ve been completely spoilt by the quailty of beaches and what I was offered didn’t seem too impressive. Instead of lying around, I got on a wee boat to Canard Island (which presumably looks like a duck, or a rabbit, if you look at it from the right angle). There I snorkelled and the poor visibility didn’t matter too much as the fish were quite interested in coming to me.

Baie des Citrons, or Lemon Bay, was better for me than Anse Vata, and the best ice cream I’ve ever seen (and possibly tasted) certainly helped. Why all ice cream parlours don’t sculpt their produce into flowers, I don’t know.

Although a nice break from the boat, Noumea isn’t the greatest place I’ve been, or will go to on this trip. What would I do if I could go back? Head to Amedee.

And I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there, I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Vila.

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3 Responses

  1. Dave says:

    I hope you had that amusing beard when you visited this place, it looks very French to me, in a racist cartoon/musketeer way.

    The small things really do colour my experiences in countries. Even though my day-to-day life doesn’t change that much, I could easily make a Good & Rubbish list of each one I’ve been to, based only on not-that-significant details (maybe about half and half so far).

    • Oliver says:

      I think the problem is that if you’re just somewhere for one day, then a bad trivial experience carries more weight. If I was in Noumea much longer, I could go to one of the other dozen or so eateries along that stretch and maybe find something amazing. When we were there it was very easy to spot who was an islander, who was a French expat and who was from the ship. I’m sure the locals don’t really care what we think — we’re not going to come back so they don’t need to bother too much with trying to make us happy. Maybe I should go back just so I can deliberately ignore them. That’ll show them in a way that they’re completely oblivious to what I’m doing!

      Did you submit your comment in a different way this time? I had to approve it when normally your words just waltz straight onto my pages for the world to see.

      • Dave says:

        Yes, WordPress has started not accepting comments using my regular email address because it’s ‘associated with’ a WordPress account I started once and then (thought I’d) deleted. So I have to use my backup email address that’s obviously dodgier, even though I haven’t spammed all my friends and associates with this one yet.

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