It had been a long long journey. 19 hours to be precise. Two transfers and a lot of waiting around drinking airport coffee. But the moment the plane started to hover around a tiny patch of green, my eyes adjusted to the sight and a sigh escaped from my lips. “C’est l’aéroport,” said the portly gentleman on my right, drinking his beer. I smiled, I was finally about to land in New Caledonia!
I had never heard of Nouvelle Calédonie to be honest but when I got the chance to visit the tiny French overseas territory in the southwest Pacific Ocean in the summer of 2012, there was no way I could pass up on the opportunity now could I?
To reach New Caledonia, one has to fly into La Tontouta from Australia, the quaint little airport in Grande Terre. The runway is nestled between hills covered with every possible shade of green. As the plane landed, my heart skipped a beat. The beauty around me had captured my imagination and I was in no mood to let it slide.
I was staying in Noumea, the capital. It takes over an hour to drive there from the airport. But the long-winding journey is worth every minute. It’s so peaceful. You see a second vehicle on the road maybe every 10 minutes. The shades of green and brown change colour every second as you drive down the highway. Soft music playing in the car just adds to the romance of the idyllic drive. I was in love, at first sight.
If you stay in the heart of Noumea, wake up really early to go for a run. It’s quiet and the blue of the sea is astounding. Joggers are already out running by the boardwalk while swimmers are getting ready to jump in. The sea calls out your name and before you can think, you become one. It’s heavenly.
Now, imagine this. You’re in the Pacific on an island. What do you eat? Well, I devoured fresh prawns and squids, lobsters, scallops and salmon with relish. But surprisingly, I didn’t really find good fresh fruits you would expect.
One day I was taken to the interiors of the island. Nickel mining is one of the main sources of income in New Caledonia. You go through the dusty red roads, pass innumerable little springs and waterfalls to reach the mines. It’s a different kind of beauty there, very rustic. There’s no sound except of your own breathing. The winds sing you a song, asking you to embrace what lies before you – the majestic natural beauty.
I had to bid adieu to Noumea after three days of lazing around, swimming and eating delicious food (I worked a bit too, promise) but surprisingly, I didn’t feel sad. Instead, the warm and friendly smiles from the locals, the cheerful laughs and ‘bonjours’ are so inspiring, that somewhere in my subconscious I knew that I would go back one day. In those three days I still feel I left a part of me on that island, to search for which I would have to return.
Important tip: Currency used is French Franc. 1INR = 1.45XPF