New Caledonia: magnificent colours of Great South
We woke up early. The raindrops were quietly hitting the top layer of our tent and the air was fresh. By the time we sat down in kitchen shelter and ate our breakfast, it was pouring down with the rain.
We packed the wet tent and left Dumbea. We had about 24 hours to see as much of south Grand Terre as possible and the schedule was stretched. It became even tighter after we spent about an hour and a half stuck in a traffic jam around Noumea.
Finally, we get out of the urban area, passed Mont-Dore covered by cloud and were moving on through hilly landscape. Soon, the green colour of surrounding vegetation stepped back and patches of red soil became dominant. Compared to lush east coast this part of the island looked scorched.
Just before we reached Lac de Yaté we turned left on the road to Parc de la Rivière Bleue. It is the biggest park in New Caledonia and the main attraction in Great South. To avoid crowds it is best to start your visit early in the morning. We didn’t manage to do that but because of shoulder season, we hardly met any other people.
At the main entrance, we bought tickets and quickly headed off to Pont Perignon which was where the bus tour around the park departed from. At first, we were worried that we had been waiting at the wrong spot but after a few minutes, a bus arrived. As it was only us on the bus we had a private tour.
The bus driver tried to tell us some interesting facts about the park and its wildlife but communication was a bit complicated as our French was a bit poor and his English was even worse. But with the aid of gesticulation and body language, we learnt some stuff.
We made a couple of short stops around the park. The first location was the drowned forest which is a field of dry, bleached thin tree trunks sticking out of the ground. After the construction of Yate Dam, the water level rose up and trees got flooded. However, as we visited the park during a dry season, there were only puddles of water among trees.
We made another stop at a giant kauri tree and a bit further our guide took us for a short walk through bush and tried to look for a cagou, a symbol of New Caledonia. Although he really made an effort – he was whistling, calling and hitting the ground with a stick – we didn’t see a bird.
When we reached the end of gravel road we had about an hour to explore the surrounding before the bus would come back to pick us up. We found a lovely spot near the river. It was not hot enough to jump into the crystal clear water but along with birds singing in the bush, it created an amazing atmosphere to just sit and chill.
The trails in the park are ideal for cycling which would give us more flexibility but unfortunately, we didn’t have so much time to spend there a whole day.
When we returned back to our car, we did a bit more self-guided exploring and drove around the park. We stopped at a couple of viewpoints. The contrast of red, green and blue colours of surrounding landscape was amazing and the place really reminds us of Australia. Most of the time we were alone and hardly met any other visitors.
From the park, we carried on along the lakeside and a winding road led us to a massive concrete wall – the Yate dam. On east, we could see the ocean on the horizon. The water from the lake ran via a nice green valley which we had a better view of as we descended down to the town of Yate.
There was not much in Yate itself. It is a sleepy town. When we asked a lady at a local grocery store for directions, she struggled to find the town. After that, we rather head to our campsite.
The Les Bois Du Sud campsite was a beautiful place surrounded by bush. We’d arrived just on time to catch up with a ranger before his shift finished and he headed off. We were the only overnight guests there which was a bit scary
However, everything went well and the next day in the morning we woke up super early to hit the road back to Noumea. We had a plane to catch. Next destination – Lifou.