AprĂ¨s quatre nuits Ă la mer, nous avons arriver Ă Noumea. Thatâ€™s probably completely wrong â€“
but I did manage to get bus tickets in French. If you havenâ€™t already guessed, New Caledonia is a
the signs and shop names were in French in Noumea, where we docked at 8 am after four nights
at sea. From the maritime building we walked to Coconut Square in the centre of town to
find a tourist information office. The lovely ladies at the office spoke
English and we asked how we could get to le Centre Culturel.
aliens ever invade Earth Iâ€™d imagine theyâ€™d spend their first night in le
Centre Culturel. The buildings were designed by a man called Renzo Piano and they
rise out of the New Caledonian coast like a row of gigantic shields.
serve no defensive purpose; in fact, itâ€™s sort of the Fed Square (if youâ€™re from Melbourne) of New
Caledonia: it was filled with galleries and artworks.
Honestly, the stuff inside wasnâ€™t greatly interesting. What was stunning were
the buildings themselves, and the short nature walk outside was pleasant.
walk, which winded along the shore past mangroves, would have been even more
charming without the mozzies. Neither me nor my boyfriend were taking malaria
pills! (We werenâ€™t spending any nights on land, so we thought insect repellent
enough, we didnâ€™t encounter mozzies anywhere else on the trip; not even in le
Parc Forestier, where we spent the afternoon. The park is worth a visit if
youâ€™re pressed for time and you want to see some of New Caledoniaâ€™s endemic birds. Some birds
worth seeing at the sanctuary are the Kagu (a grey, chicken-sized, carnivorous
bird that barks), the Notou (a giant pigeon at 50 cm long), the
Cloven-feathered Dove and the rare Ouvea Parakeet.
lot of New Caledoniaâ€™s
flora and fauna is rare. In fact, most of it is endemic, which means it isnâ€™t
found anywhere else. This is because New
Caledonia, unlike other Pacific islands, isnâ€™t of
volcanic origin. It used to be part of the super-continent Gondwana, which
included Australia and New Zealand.
Being an island, itâ€™s isolated, which is a great recipe for unusual, endemic
species. As if that isnâ€™t enough, New
Caledonia is made in part of ultrabasic soil, which
is toxic to most plants. But plants grow on the ultrabasic soil in here, which
makes it an even more special place.