Jamie McLellan | March 9th, 2009
Impulsive Air New Zealand grab-a-seat flights to Nouvelle Calédonie led to a quick holiday that turned out to be very different from what we had been planning and expecting.
The first surprise was a pleasant one. I had never realised that such a tasty slice of France existed only 2 and a half hours from my New Zealand doorstep. First impressions were that Noumea seemed not too dissimilar from other Pacific Islands, except that the locals all had a taste for baguettes and cheese, and spoke with the coolest French accents.
The next surprise came in the form of a broken down ferry to the Îles des Pins, which in combination with overbooked airline flights meant we were stranded in Noumea, which disappointingly still felt like a far cry from the isolated white sand beaches we were booked to stay on.
An improvised “Plan B” involved renting a little Renault and driving as fast as possible to the nearest white sand beach. Upon the advice of the Noumea tourist office, we headed for Bourail, about 130km away from Noumea. The brochures showed white sands, turquoise water and a sweet little hotel called El Kantara.
Surprise number three was realising that El Kantara’s publicity photo must have been 20 years old. This hotel was run down and, whilst not disgusting as such, it certainly wasn’t the kind of place many would find comfortable and relaxing. To make matters worse, the beach out front wasn’t anything special either.
Still we persevered. We had coffees in the local township and in the evening drank kava in a kava bar that was the only establishment open after dark.
Having not found the elusive white sand beach, the call was made to book any flight available off the mainland. To cut a long story short, not long after booking a flight to a previously unheard of island, we found our white sand beach in the form of Plage de Poé - about 15 minutes north of Bourail. The only problem was that we now only had half and hour to enjoy it before having to jump back in the Renault and head back to Noumea to collect our tickets.
Upon arrival at the inter-island airline ticket office, we were informed that we weren’t on a flight to the island we had booked for. Instead we were going to Île des Pins, where we had originally intended to go. Still not quite sure how this happened and surprisingly we still had accommodation booked at Hôtel de Kodjeue on the island. Time was getting tight and we ended up kind-of kidnapping a very friendly local who co-piloted us to the airport.
2 days late, but having found paradise nonetheless, time on the Île des Pins was spent swimming, snorkling, and blissfully consuming sausison, Bordeaux, fromage and baguettes on the truly beautiful beaches of Kuto & Baie de Kanunéra. Phew.