This blog on New Caledonia is for those of you who ever wondered what life on a tiny island in the South Pacific might be like. Tired of bracing winter winds, the stress of an inner city or simply dreaming of a life change? This is a blog about what happens when, in the words of Yogi Berra, "you come to a fork in the road, [and] take it".

31 December 2006

Maré: The Second Largest Loyalty Island

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

We began our tour of the Loyalty Islands in Maré (pictured above) on 15 December. We stayed three days and nights in a little village called Cengeite (a coastal village in the southwest). The second largest Loyalty Island, Maré is only 42 km (26 miles) long and 16-33 km (10-20 miles) wide.

From the start, we were impressed by Maré's wildness. I love the west of Ireland and Brittany for their unspoiled beauty. And I used to think that Ile des Pins was cut off from the rest of the world. We found Maré to be even more remote.

There are no signs indicating where you are or how to get to various sites. There are few cars, a handful of tiny hole-in-the-wall grocery stores, a few gas stations, a medical centre (but no hospital), a pharmacy, one bank (where the ATM is located inside - and thus only available the few hours the bank is open) and two post offices. There are some 6 900 people of mainly Melanesian heritage (less than 2% of the population is of European ancestry). They make up some 20 tribes who speak one tribal language (Nengone) along with French.

Despite its wildness and its remoteness, we found plenty to do on the island - tales of which are soon to come...

Ororé lu ("See you tomorrow" in Nengone).

29 December 2006

The Loyalty Islands: A Must See

We're back from our 11-day tour of the Loyalty Islands with the best of news. You must absolutely see them. If ever you get the chance to get to New Caledonia, you really must try to see Maré, Lifou and Ouvéa - in addition to Ile des Pins. We spent 3-5 days on each island and I'll spend the next few posts telling you all about our adventures and sharing Laurent's and Sophie's fabulous photos.

As a teaser, Maré is the wildest, most desolate (and thus the most charming) of the three. Ouvéa is truly a paradise (the photo above was taken in Ouvéa). And Lifou is unmatched for its tropical fish and coral. I thought "Grande Terre" (the main island of New Caledonia) was stunning. The Loyalty Islands win, hands down.

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

13 December 2006

Gone Snorkellin'

We're off for a tour of the Loyalty Islands, a group of islands 100 km off the eastern coast of New Caledonia. For ten days, we'll be snorkelling in Maré, Ouvéa and Lifou. We'll also be visiting the islands' many caves and water holes, eating fresh seafood and enjoying the silky flour-like sand on Ouvéa's 25 km stretch of beach. Rumoured to be the "island closest to paradise", we'll take plenty of photos of Ouvéa to share with you upon our return. Happy Christmas to one and all!

11 December 2006

Christmas Trees of the South Pacific

Photos by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

These photos were taken just down our street the other day. Such is the weather here in Nouméa in December. And these fabulous red trees are in bloom at this time of year: they are everywhere! I think of them as the Christmas trees of the South Pacific - but they are called "flamboyants". I am yet to find the English-language name. I'd be grateful if anyone knows ...

And while we are at it, we'd like to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! To all our family and friends, to all our faithful readers, may this holiday season be chockful of warmth, laughter, fun and love (lots of it)! Gros bisous - Julie, Laurent, Sophie and Pablo

08 December 2006

Some Good News: Sophie and Pablo

Tired of the cold, the snow or grey, rainy days? Tired of news of coups d'états, French elections, the war in Iraq and the irreversible effects of global warming? Stressed out with Christmas preparations and deadlines, bad health news or too much fatigue at the end of the year? Well, we have some GOOD news: all is well in New Caledonia and our little family on this little island.

Pablo turned eight months old yesterday. He is crawling all over the place and pulling himself up and trying to walk everywhere. He sports four teeth and is eating yummy food. Personal favourites include carrots and rice, pear and yogurt. He loves to move, move, move and climb all over (and undress) Sophie. He also loves to visit the garden with Papa and go for walks to the sea with Mom.

Sophie has finished school for the year, but has a big exam on Monday and Tuesday. It will determine if she gets into high school (of course she will!). She has to score at least 13 points. No problem! She is also going to driving school and has already had a test run. She did great! She will also be going to New Zealand on an exchange programme just after Christmas. She is getting very excited! Shopping, shopping, shopping ...

And what with Christmas on the way, life is really rather happy in our little corner of the world. Here's wishing all of you a huge big helping of happiness and gratefulness for all the good news you have in your lives as well!

06 December 2006

Fiji: Prime Minister Deposed in Military Coup

Fiji's military overthrew the government yesterday following a year-long power struggle between Military Commander Frank Bainimarama and Prime Minister Qarase. Bainimarama had long threatened to topple Prime Minister Qarase's government, which won a second five-year term in May, calling it corrupt and too soft on those behind Fiji's last coup in 2000. Today, the Prime Minister was flown out of the capital to safety.

The fourth coup in 20 years, Fiji is likely to face international sanctions. The United States has also temporarily suspended $2.5 million in aid and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has condemned the takeover.

We've been following all of this news pretty closely for the last week and had been hoping a coup would be avoided. Last night we learned that the coup was underway. Is that why Pablo slept so poorly, I wonder? Alas. Let's hope for a speedy and long-lasting resolution for Fiji.

For more news on this topic, see Google News, which provides the news as it is released from a number of sources.

04 December 2006

Hienghene's Fantastic Rock Formations

One of the highlights of our trip up to Hienghene was the famous rock formations. "Le Poulet" is the most well known. Our guide explained that they are all "calcaire" - which I assume to mean calcium deposits.

Some are the size of people, some the size of houses, some the size of mountains. My favourite is pictured here. Can you tell what it is?

Photo by Laurent Guiader, 2006.

01 December 2006

World's Greatest Blog on New Caledonia

If you are interested in New Caledonia in any way, shape or form, I heartily recommend "5 minutes en Nouvelle-Calédonie", a French-language blog that contains the most beautiful photos of our fair island, videos, podcasts, free screensavers (as pictured above) and electronic postcards. The blog aims to give you a daily five-minute dose of life in New Caledonia - from the sun, the bright skies, the amazing blues to the breathtaking views. For my French readers, this will be a haven for you. For my English readers, do go take a look at all the photos and videos and postcards. Truly wonderful stuff! Bravo to the team behind "5 Minutes in New Caledonia".