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The Islands

November 3rd, 2015 · 4 Comments

We visited 4 islands, Isle of Pines, Mare, Lifou and the main New Caledonia island. All of the islands belong politically to New Caledonia. Each was larger than the last from the roughly 5 x 7 mile Isle of Pines to the 200 mile-long New Caledonia.

I think Isle of Pines was my favorite, unfortunately the one island that Gisele didn’t get to see since she was sick and quarantined. Though the island is small, the beaches were incredible even with 2000 cruise ship passengers infesting them. I’ve never seen a turquoise to match the colors of the ocean. I’m sure there are Caribbean islands to match, though I’ve only ever seen Barbados and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean and they don’t compare.

Tropical Beach
Lifou, very similar to beaches on the other islands.

When the cruise ships depart, the population falls to a few hundred and the beaches are mostly deserted. It would be an idyllic place to spend a week or two.

Rocky Beach

Mare and Lifou were larger versions of the Isle of Pines, with more people, roads and a little more commercialization, but the vendors were all very laid back, waiting for you to come to them rather than calling out or pushing their wares. It was nice.

Coconut Lady
This lady opened a fresh coconut with a machete, and stuck a straw in it for me to drink. Delicious!

On the big island I did a couple of excursions on my own, since none of the rest of my party wanted to join me. In the morning I took a guided Segway tour through a zoological and botanical garden near the city of Noumea. It was lots of fun, more for the Segway than the biology. The guide didn’t really know much except what she had picked up casually from working there. For example, she called a pea-hen a “female peacock”. But it was still a lot of fun and I did learn a lot. Now I am tempted to buy a Segway, but I really can’t think how I would use it except to go get the mail once a day.


In the afternoon I went on a 6 mile guided bike ride. The European guide actually knew more than the garden guide had that morning, and I learned a lot about life in New Caledonia. It is much more civilized than I had expected with about 250,000 people on the island, and 180,000 of those in the city of Noumea. She made it sound like a true paradise with low crime and a prosperous middle class. She had apparently come to visit a couple of years ago and liked it so much she had settled in.

New Caledonia was apparently part of Australia a few million years ago that broke off and moved north-east. There are similarities of plants and birds, but it’s been long enough that they have diverged evolutionarily to be quite different. I was surprised that there are around 15 species of pine, a tree that I usually associate with mountains and temperate forests rather than the tropics.

The original people of New Caledonia were Melanesian, quite different from the Polynesians of Hawaii and Tahiti. Melanesians are more closely related to the dark skinned Australian aborigines, while the Polynesians are closer to the people of south east Asia and the Philippines. In Noumea the Melanesians are now a minority, though still a plurality, with Europeans coming in second and the rest made up of Polynesians and Asians.

This typical Melanesian drove us around Mare Island in a van.

Now we are on our way back to Sydney, a 2 ½ day sail. Looking out and seeing nothing but water from horizon to horizon for two days gives me some idea of the vastness of the oceans, especially considering that we are only crossing a small corner of the south Pacific. I saw some rain storms not too far away this morning, but unfortunately we didn’t pass through any and it is clearing off now. The captain says the weather should be clear all the way home. I was looking forward to a storm at sea.

From our balcony on the way back to Sydney.

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Dale // Nov 4, 2015 at 10:42 am

    I don’t know that I would like to be in a storm at sea. Probably wouldn’t be bad in a ship the size of a shopping mall.

  • 2 Dick // Nov 4, 2015 at 11:40 am

    Interesting to visit a corner of the world where few go.

  • 3 Donna // Nov 4, 2015 at 5:02 pm

    Great recap! Glenda and I did a Segway tour a couple of years ago. It was incredibly fun! We zipped around Tempe Town Lake. That’s a great place you could go to get your miles in. I think you should buy one, and then let me borrow it.

  • 4 Donna // Nov 4, 2015 at 5:08 pm

    By the way, your experience with the tour guide who didn’t know quite as much as you did reminded me of Dale’s experience at Flaming Gorge Dam, where the guide though it would take 20 minutes or so for the electricity to get to the town.

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