Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
118Trip End Feb 18, 2007
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
So we say bye to the Anglo Saxon influenced wild capitalism of Australia, and hello to heavily French influenced New Caledonia, where job protectionism, high prices, anti-competitiveness and daily strikes, slap you in the face, the moment you step off the plane.
Our plane arrives at 10pm, but the last public bus from the airport departs at 6pm, despite the fact that only half the days flights have arrived by then. All this in the name of providing extra business to the greedy taxi drivers, who know they have you by the short and curlies, and charge a whopping 90 Euros, for the 45 minute ride into town
When we arrive at the hostel, we are confronted with another French influenced phenomenon, limited opening hours. The hostel has a really handy reception, that opens from 7am-10am and 5pm-7pm daily. Luckily, we were warned, and booked ahead, eventually discovering our key pinned up on one of the notice boards.
When we awake the next day, we have a great view from our balcony over the capital city, Noumea. As we walk through the centre ville, we realise that this isn't just a French influenced island in the Pacific, this is France recreated in the Pacific. Walking around Noumea, you'd think you were in a medium sized French seaside town, with the building styles, parks, patisseries, boulangeries, shops and restaurants, all firing French culture at you from every direction.
The height of amusement, had to be a visit to the city centre supermarket. Having Australia and New Zealand at it's doorstep and France nearly 20,000 kms away, where do you think most of the products in the supermarket would originate from? That's right, France of course
The next day, we visit some of Noumea's beaches and the unusual Tjibaou Cultural Centre, an architectural master piece, designed by famous architect Renzo Piano, and built out of wood, to represent the form of the indigenous culture's dive towers. Men dive from these towers, head first, with only vines attached to their ankles, to prevent them from crashing into the ground. Hey, the Kiwis thought they invented Bungy Jumping, didn't they! well, here they have been doing it for 1,000s of years.
On our last night in the hostel, we strike up conversation with some of the other guests, who are almost entirely comprised of French tourists, French students or workers from French companies on assignment in New Caledonia. It was really interesting talking to them about the problems which exist in this small Pacific society.
New Caledonia, politically, is a French overseas territory, the population is about 45% indigenous, 35% French and 20% other races
Our last day in New Caledonia is a Sunday. There are just 2 public buses to the Airport, a 6am and 12pm bus. Our flight is not until 8pm but we're not being ripped off again with an expensive shuttle bus. So we decide to take the 12pm bus, and spend the afternoon lying in the sun, on the grass outside the airport.
Summing up, New Caledonia, an interesting piece of France in the South Pacific, but which needs some serious reforms, to bring down the astronomical prices and to enable it to stand on it's own two feet.
Was it worth coming here? Well, the very fact that it only gets about 10 backpackers a week, as opposed to around 10,000 a week in neighbouring Fiji, means that you can certainly escape the tourist crowds. So, if you're already in the area, are prepared to put up with the inflexible opening hours and high prices, then we'd say yes!