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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bourail and Gite du Cap

Travel date 15th August 2009
Click on any picture to see a larger version.

The road north from La Tontouta follows the west coast through small villages. After leaving the Europcar office we decided not to stop until we reached Bourail because today was the annual Foire de Bourail; roughly equivalent to our local RAS Show Day. We will be taking a little longer to see La Foa and Boulouparis on the return journey.

The smaller villages such as Moindou were hardly noticed as we passed through. That is really the first thing you realise as you leave Noumea and start driving through Grande Terre; the place seems almost empty away from Noumea. To put that in context, the entire population of New Caledonia is a little over 230,000 and over half of those people live in Noumea. The next largest city on Grande Terre, the big island, is Bourail with 4500. Over the next few days we realised that a significant number live away from the main roads in the Melanesian villages, but even so the land seems almost deserted.

We were too late at the Bourail Fair to see the rodeo acts but we really wanted to see the people rather than the acts anyway. First, of course, after a long drive we had to inspect this uniquely French institution. Unisex and pay your 50 francs in advance.

The crowd was fairly evenly mixed between those of French ancestry, many of whom would not have looked out of place in the crowd at an Australian country town Show, and those of Kanak descent. As I mentioned earlier many of the young Kanak men seemed to be followers of Bob Marley or at least admired Rastafarian garb and hairstyles.

Many of the Fair exhibits and side shows were straight out of similar shows in my childhood, but the fast food was very different and so were some of the artisans and craft displays.

There were two gambling stalls which were doing well; not surprising when you look at the wobbly "chocolate wheels" they were using.
Everything seemed expensive, something we slowly came to realise was true of all of New Caledonia.

I didn’t try the Paella, although it smelled good, but I did have a home-made ice-cream concoction that tasted of marzipan and probably sent my blood glucose levels sky high. But hey - I’m on holiday, so I‘m only testing occasionally. My excuse is that it was meant for Lorraine but she didn’t like the taste so I wasn’t going to let it go to waste.

We had a quick glance at Bourail, a hilly small town, after leaving the fair but didn’t tarry because we were a bit uncertain about finding our bungalow at the Gite du Cap.

I later reflected on what a wise decision that was. The instructions were quite clear: proceed 22 km from Bourail on the Kone road, note the Pont du Cap bridge, watch for the green sign and turn left off the highway at the top of the hill and follow that road for 8km. What wasn’t clear was that no person in their right mind would drive a tiny front-wheel-drive Peugot 107 along that particular unsealed, corrugated and poorly maintained road. The pictures don’t do credit to the steepness of some of the sections; I had to use a lot of my old driving experience for a couple of the climbs to build up momentum before hitting the slope.

The bungalow seemed almost new and was excellent and roomy, although the bed was a little lumpy. The views were superb, almost making the road experience worth-while.

We had advised in our booking email that we would not be dining at the table d’hote because of the price of XPF4500, or AU$63 - each! As we were already paying XPF8600 for the bungalow we felt that to be a bit too much. One reason we booked the bungalow was the fully equipped kitchenette; in our haste to get there we had failed to buy meat and veges, on the assumption that we would be able to buy some from our host. That turned out to be a false assumption; she had provided, in the fridge some eggs and bread for breakfast but was only interested in providing value-added food for dinner, so I had fried eggs and ham and Lorraine had a cup-a-soup.

A friendly guy who appeared to be a permanent resident, and who had acted as interpreter when we arrived, informed us a little later that there would be a fireworks display at 7:30 or 8:30 depending on when “the mother of my child” arrived. We thanked him for letting us know and sure enough, at about 7:30, there was a very brief but quite spectacular display. Just after we went to sleep, at about 9:30, there was another, much longer, much louder display. Very impressive for a small country farm; I hope the mother of his child was suitably impressed. I didn’t really mind; it was certainly better than the French TV.

Next, to the Nord-Ouest.

Cheers, Alan

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