Deep Into New Caledonia’s South Province

Panasonic LX100 at an effective 24mm — 1/800 sec, f/5.6, ISO 200 — map & image datanearby photos
Not the New Caledonia One Normally Finds
in the tourist books
Deep in the South Province interior.

We took a drive away from tourist areas of Nouméa, deep into the unpopulated interior. Having looked at the map of the area, I'd been thinking to rent a bicycle and ride there, but I wasn't able to find one to rent. Instead, we all took a drive there today, and I'm glad I didn't try to ride there unprepared. We went hours and hours without the slightest sign of civilization other than the road. No stores, no gas stations, no houses, no farms, no commerce or human presence of any kind except the occasional Provincial nature area (devoid of people, vending machines, etc.). It was eerie.

Not until we made a loop all the way around and approached Nouméa again did we start to find a human presence.

On a bicycle, I couldn't have carried enough water for the trip, so I'm glad I didn't try. I also appreciate all the more the abundance of drink vending machines in Japan.

In the photo above, there seems to be a particularly bright area in the dirt around the shadow of my head. The dirt seemed to be particularly reflective, so it's reflecting the sun (which is directly behind my head from the vantage of that area of the photo) back into the camera.

Oddly, when I turned around, the dirt, which appears reddish-brown when facing away from the sun, appears almost perfectly black when facing the sun. I'd never seen anything quite like it... as we passed, it morphed from black to the rich rust color seen above.

The area is apparently known for its nickle mines of yesteryear. It was beautiful and it's hard to imagine why it's not home to a thriving population, except to imagine that the economy of the nation simply can't support enough people to have bothered spilling over from the coasts into this area.

With proper planning, I'd love to ride some of the roads we drove today. Some of the mountain hills were brutal, such as this one. Maybe next time.

All 3 comments so far, oldest first...

Hi Jeffrey,

I am a long time reader of your blog. I enjoy every post of yours and, as a French, I am wondering what brought you to New Caledonia, and at the same time, I am eager to discover what you have to say about it. It looks like a not so obvious choice from a non French person 🙂

My wife just picked it as a place to visit. It’s sort of well known in Japan after a popular novel some years ago was set here. I’ll write more about the visit once I’m back… —Jeffrey

— comment by Sébastien on December 11th, 2015 at 12:50am JST (8 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

I was wondering the same as Sebastian. I’ve been to Fiji, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Tahiti (which is also French). I particularly remember Tahiti as the place where I got stuck out at sea windsurfing (I thought I actually could do it!). The wind picked up and was going in the wrong direction so I had a hell of a time getting back to the beach, which I did eventually do but was totally exhausted. Needless to say, that is the last time I ever went windsurfing.

I got my diver’s license long ago at a wonderful island resort in the Solomon Islands, ate great Indian food in Fiji, and could have gotten ambushed by ‘rascals’ in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, but was saved from that fate by staying with an expat couple in a heavily fortified home, surrounded with barbed wire (the husband worked at the telecom company).

But, never made it to New Caledonia. The diving must be good there! But, you are right, it is wise to be careful about scraping your knees on coral.

— comment by Arthur on December 14th, 2015 at 10:11am JST (8 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink

Would you mind sharing about that novel? You got me interested and I’d like to read it if available in French or English.

The book is 「天国にいちばん近い島」(“The Island Closest to Heaven”) by Katsura Morimura, from 1966. I originally said it was a “novel” but (having now heard more about it from my wife, who finished the book while we were on the trip), it’s actually a non-fiction travelogue. The book sees the situation at the time as the French coming in and steamrolling the local population, which was generally pretty laid back and nonconfrontational, to take the rich natural resources. I got the impression, though, that the book is more a human-interest story than one of politics. —Jeffrey

— comment by Sébastien on December 15th, 2015 at 3:47am JST (8 years, 7 months ago) comment permalink
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