This was my second visit to New Caledonia, however, this time I was there for work and not on holidays. My first visit was for 10 days with friends and involved a lot of relaxing, walking around to take in the local sights and hiring a car to visit some areas outside of the city of Noumea.
Being there with work meant that I was able to see a different side to the island nation, one that I would not necessarily have booked for myself, however, one that I am glad I was able to experience. I arrived earlier than the rest of my group as I was the only travel agent flying in from Melbourne and as such spent the majority of the first day with my private driver and guide escorting me to various hotel inspections and helping fill in my time in between with visits to local lookouts and stories. Some of my favourites were:
- There is an island off the coast of Noumea which is connected to the mainland via a bridge. This island is home to the prison, a mental institution and the local university. One year a man broke out of prison just before Christmas. Then he reappeared in his cell after New Years. When interrogated he stated that he’d wanted to spend the holidays with his family but had returned after to serve the rest of his sentence.
- Another time the prison guards noticed a strange man in the prison exercise yard. He had a backpack on. When they asked him what was going on and he explained that he was a University student who lived on the opposite side of the prison. For the last 3 months, he’d been walking through the prison yard to get to uni and back every day to save himself half an hour of walking!
- Noumea is also home to a new hospital facility complete with Helipad. Which they had to remodel immediately after it was built as it had been designed with only stairs leading up to the hospital which as it turned out wasn’t very good for the stretchers.
While I learned many fun and interesting facts about the island and the people in the week that I was there, these three stories stood out above the rest.
Dear Crazy Cat Ladies,
If a holiday to New ‘Cat’edonia isn’t already on your bucket list you might want to reconsider. There were lots of friendly kittehs to pet and pat in every town that we visited, some were super affectionate, some were shy however all were very open to the possibility of sharing some bacon or fish from your breakfast or dinner plate.
Dear Fussy Eaters,
If you have dietary requirements and do not speak French then come prepared. One of the managers of a hotel I inspected was kind enough to write a note for me in French explaining I could not eat Dairy or Egg however as I found last year on my own independent holiday it was tricky in some places to find food. I was fortunate enough this time to have help with meals and as such only accidentally had dairy once which was manageable, last year travelling without anyone that spoke French and not knowing what restaurants could cater for me I struggled and ended up quite unwell by the end of the trip. I also found this time that our visit to the tribal area and the East Coast made things easier as they appeared to cook with oil over butter.
Dear Past Jeanette,
If you had the ability to read this before visiting New Caledonia on your own holiday last year I would say several things to you:
- Plan a visit to Kone and do the Microlight flight over the heart of Voh. You and your friends would love it plus the hotel there is beautiful!
- Visit the Spa at the Chateau Royal Hotel, it is perfect for a rainy day activity!
- The reason you could never see the restaurant at the top of the Ramada Plaza rotating is that it takes 1 hour to complete a circuit. Too slow to notice from the outside.
- You know that town you drove through twice on the way to and from Bourail: La Fou. Stop for a drink in the bar/cafe. They have a ceiling covered in caps from around the world.
- You know that road you accidentally took out of Bourail and had to stop and U-Turn, next time keep going until you reach Chez Collette and stop for a delicious home cooked meal.