Saturday, May 30, 2015

Tiki Touring Around New Caledonia

30 May 2015

For those new to our blog, we first heard the term "Tiki touring" in New Zealand.  A friendly woman explained that Tiki was the first man (in Maori legend), and he wandered the world looking for the first woman, as well as a land to call home.  So he wandered here and there, without a plan, just trying to go everywhere to find a woman and a home.  Thus the term Tiki touring has come to mean travelling without much of a plan or direction - travelling to enjoy the journey.

So yes, we are Tiki touring around New Caledonia.

As you can see, the scenery is gorgeous!  Very lush and green, with some tropical trees and flowers, but also evergreens, and maybe some eucalyptus or gum trees.  Huge hills, pretty close to mountain sized, run along the center of the island, with flatter areas along the coasts.

This map shows where New Caledonia is located, sort of between Australia and New Zealand.  Scientists theorize that Australia, NZ, and New Caledonia were once part of a giant continent, Gondwana, that eventually split up and became the separate continents and nations.  (Africa and South America are often included as part of Gondwana.  There's also the theory that it became part of Pangaea, which split to make most of the northern hemisphere continents.)  

 At any rate, there are similarities in Australian, New Caledonian, and New Zealand soil, rock, fossils, plant life, that support this theory.   

We don't know, we were just struck by the ways that the scenery reminded us of areas of New Zealand.  And being an island nation populated by Polynesian people and then European settlers, there are some cultural similarities as well.   

So - we spent our first twelve days here in Nouméa (pronounced NEW-may-a).  We enjoyed the city time as well as the beach area near our hotel, and especially appreciated the French food.  But this is a huge island, some 6000 square miles, so we headed off Tiki touring.   
We decided to head to Bouluparis, which is far enough out of the capital to be country.  (I think this is pronounced boo-loo-pa-REE - that's how it sounds when people here say it.)  We drove north (which is really northwest-ish, since the island is diagonal to latitude and longitude lines), through flat farmland surrounded by incredible hills.  Some are really conical, and look like volcanoes just waiting to erupt.  Other mountains look like piles of crushed and rumpled green velvet, separating the east and west coasts of Grande Terre.  
And of course the sky was bright blue, the sun shining, and puffy white clouds added artistic contrast.   

Yes, New Caledonians drive on the right.  Australians and New Zealanders drive on the left.  One suspects New Caledonia, being French, has insisted on doing things the French way.  Including importing cars from places farther away than their neighbors, who have the steering wheel on the wrong side of the car.

Once we made it past the airport, which is about 45 minutes outside Noumea, we figured we should look into finding a place for the night.  We consulted our handy dandy accommodations guide from the tourism center, and found a few possibilities.  Stopped at a gas station and shop for a bathroom and drink break.  I asked the woman at the counter if there was a phone, explained that we were travelling around, and that we needed to call for a hotel.  (It isn't quite that smooth in my French, but more halting and possibly not exactly grammatically correct.  But the gist of it is there.)  She called our first choice place, asked if anyone spoke English, and handed me the phone.  I got the information (availability and price), talked it over with Richard, made the reservation, and got direction.  Well, gas station lady (who later told me her name was Anita) thought we should check the hotel in town, because she didn't know anything about the B&B that we just booked.  So we called, she had me talk to the person, and the price was essentially the same, but without breakfast.  Plus it would be a big hotel, not a friendly B&B.  I thanked Anita for her help, she wanted to know where we were from, if we just arrived, how long we're travelling - all that.  Then she proceeded to tell me my French is very good.  I laughed and thanked her, because I know I take English words, give it a French pronunciation, and pretend I have it right.  (It only works about 50% of the time, but it gives me more vocabulary than I remember.  Really, reservation is "reh-ser-va-see-OHN" and Anita knew exactly what I meant!  Cracked me up.)

Anyway, off we went with rather vague directions - turn left at the sign for Port Ouenghi (yeah, pronounced WEN-ghee).  Turn left at the plage (beach) sign.  Turn left just before the beach.  Uh, what?

It worked - we found a delightful house with a French hostess, fortunately being visited by friends who are fluent in English because our hostess isn't.  But we have a comfortable room, an incredible view, a friendly dog, and speedy wifi.  What more does one need?

Oh, well, a neighbor whose property and house looks freshly painted by Andrew Wyeth.  The mangroves right below the lawn.  An orange flower that just had to blow into my photo.  Scenic farms and mountains just begging to be photographed.

Then sunset, when colors intensified and the almost full moon popped out.

We headed in to town for dinner, but cafés were closed by then (6 PM).  The grocery shops were open - we decided on Chez Henri, which was bigger than Chez Camille.  Dinner was a baguette, brie, and an apple.  (Richard had pate de foie gras on his baguette.)  Really, we're in a town that closes up by 6 PM, but they have pate, brie, baguettes in the mini market.  Oh, and Anita had croissants in her shop by the gas station.  I guess when there are French people, there is French food.

The stars are currently unbelievable.  Seriously, take all the metaphors and similes you've ever heard about starry skies and diamonds on velvet and points of light, put them together, multiply them by about 100, and that's the current night sky.  It's alive with stars.

Perfect spot for our first night of Tiki touring New Caledonia!

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