Day 137: Call That A Waterfall?

Fri. 28th December 2012

No contender with IguassuOn studying the brochure from the tourist information office on walks in New Caledonia, it states that detailed leaflets are available. So I head back to the info office again but with specific questions. This time I come back armed with leaflets of the places I have planned we visit today. Having previously researched day trips from Noumea I had a hit list of places to see. The day tours were 20,000 CFP each and there was no way we were going to pay £130 each even if it was a chauffeur driven 4 x 4. Our little Citroen C1 cost £100 for three days but lacked the ooomph of the big 4 x 4 cars which kept overtaking us, and also struggled on the bumpy dirt tracks.

More crossing riversWe head back out the same way as we went yesterday as there is still lots to see in that direction. As we had not had a coffee before we left the apartment, we divert through a place called Plum to get Dave his caffeine fix. This place may seem very French but the villages do not have have those little local cafes which the locals frequent and sit outside passing the time of day. The coast road we are following is a bit of a rat run and the white van drivers are the same here as in the UK – all mad!

The long and windy roadThe road heads inland and we climb up to all of 300 metres and drive along the plateau on the top of the hills. There are stunning views for miles across the terrain of bright red soil dotted with green trees and shrubs, as we are crossing the southern peninsular of the island we catch glimpses of the sea in the distance. The clouds are lurking on the top of the hills and it feels like there is rain in the air which we ignore.

Path along the coastOne of the main places on the itinerary is Prony so we leave the tarmacked road and head 3km down a dusty dirt track.  Dave has no idea what I have lined up for us and so is surprised to find we are heading for a walk along the coast to an old penal colony used from 1867 to 1911.

Having read the billboard at the start of the walk we find the paths are well signposted and easier to follow now we know what all the signs mean – it would have helped to have known this yesterday! Having said that there were too many signs which contradicted each other so we landed up doing the walk backwards! First up was a very rocky little path by the waters edge to the first (sorry last) stop.

Torture minus feet restraints!There is little remaining of the prison but there are graphic pictures of the torture used, which was not at all pleasant, having half tried one of them for about 30 seconds. My excuse was the rope was not long enough for me to get my feet in the stocks! The convicts were put to work in timber yard as the desire for cedar wood in Noumea increased. The footpath on the walk back to the car park passed the graves for convicts, which appeared to be unmarked and the graves for the penal colony guards which were marked by large shells. At the start of the walk raindrops began to fall so we left the lunch in the car, however the rain did not materialise so we regretted this decision as we passed picnic tables by the sea shore.

Deserted landscape going on for milesAs the next stop of the much advertised Madeleine waterfalls was not far, we pressed on to have lunch there. Bizarrely no picnics are allowed and we were directed down the road to a camp cum picnic site. After paying a fee of 400 CFP each we eventually found a parking space and an empty picnic table. The locals appeared to park up their 4 x 4 and set up camp around each picnic table draping it with towels, picnic baskets and canoes and spend the day there, if not the night too. All we wanted was to eat our meagre baguette and pate (still no red wine – only orange juice). Once fed we surveyed the river but without our swimming kit were unable to jump in.

Big and small spidersTherefore, we headed back to the waterfall and luckily did not have to pay again but were allowed to go see the waterfall. The area was a well maintained conservation area full of local plants and trees. It is surprising how little wildlife we see, there are no ducks only a few tiny sparrow like birds (again more homework required to identify them). The only breathing specimen we see is an enormous spider with a normal sized one. As for the falls themselves, we have been well spoilt with Iguassu and even Afareaitu falls on Moorea, these are….pathetic is a bit harsh but petit is a politer description. We wonder why we have driven this far to see them, even before our travels I think we would have been disappointed.

Yate DamOur last stop is to see the dam which created Lac du Yate. As this is heading away from Noumea and the map shows at least 3km on dirt tracks we content with view from a distance. After two long days in our little C1 we retraced our steps from yesterday and headed home.

We are still hunting Dave’s lost moneybelt with a small amount of dollars hidden in it but fear it may have been left in the Ramada. Whilst, they have been very helpful they have been unable to find it. Still as this is our last night in Noumea and we have the car we decide to drive to the next bay and sample one of the restaurants there. The coastal road is busy at night but we successfully navigate our way there and surprisingly find a parking space. It was a pleasant meal where Dave reminisces life living in Strasbourg as a boy with a meal of saussison and choucrout, I stick to good old burger and chips washed down with the local beer, well it is rude not to in the 3 Brassiere chain’s only restaurant in Noumea.

Sunset over Le Roof and Anse Vata bayWe return to the hotel content and prepare to leave the Pacific Island portion of our travels and start on our travels around Australasia. It will be good to be in a country where they speak English (almost!)

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