Noumea, New Caledonia

Departing our cabin in Noumea, we could hear rhythmic drums beating.  Walking out on deck to investigate, we found a New Caledonian group on the dock performing traditional music and dance pieces to welcome our arrival.  Unlike Easo, this city of 200,000 is well organized to handle the influx of regular cruise ships.  Immediately available at the dock, we found a money exchange, restaurants, shops and a large choice of inexpensive tours.  We decided on the “Country Tour.”   For $20 each, we were able to take a 2-hour bus trip to highlights outside the city.  In this expensive city, this was a great deal.  A cup of coffee and a croissant costs about $10.  Known for their French pastries, Alan was not going to leave the area without trying one, but didn’t think it measured up to pastries we enjoyed in France many years ago.

This is a French territory, and French is the primary language, but over 100 native dialects are
also spoken on the cluster of islands known as New Caledonia in the Coral Sea.  Noumea, the capital,
is located on the largest island.  As the second largest nickel exporter in the world, the “green gold” has been a major factor in the development of the island.  The influx of the U.S. military during WW II, also had a major impact on the formation of the infrastructure of the island.  Their massive reef is second in size to the Great Barrier Reef of Australia.  Even though there are numerous snorkeling options available, the day started with rain and clouds, so we didn’t plan a water outing. 

Once out on our tour, we visited the La Ouen Toro, an historic point of fortification, which
provides a stunning overview of Noumea and the coastline.  Then we moved on to the Church of
Immaculate Conception, built in 1874, the oldest church in Noumea.  The Kanak Cultural Center, designed by Renzo Piano, offers a combination of traditional and modern Kanak architecture, in a truly unique design.  Everything on the island is pricey.  A basic 3/2 house runs about $400-500,000.  Seeing tin shacks in the mangroves, we were shocked to learn that the destitute are allowed to build tin houses here for nothing.  So Mother Nature’s nurseries are receiving a daily onslaught of garbage and sewage, and the people have one of the worst housing situations we have seen. 

All in all, though, this island and the surrounding islands and waters were the most beautiful we have visited.

Cultural Center

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