A long weekend and the chance to get away…and we normally travel interstate, but this time decided to try a new country, one that neither of us had travelled to.
We set ourselves a budget of AUD2000 for airfare and accommodation in total. Food and experiences would be extra.
In the end it was a choice between New Caledonia and Vanuatu – New Caledonia won out. We booked through Expedia for the first time and settled on staying at the number two spot according to TripAdvisor – the Chateau Royal Beach Resort and Spa. This is a four star hotel which is most unusual for us. That said, as a package deal of flights and accommodation, the actual room rate was quite reasonable.
We took CFP20,500 (AUD300) in cash – not knowing if the location we were staying would be taking credit cards or preferred cash. When we had roughed it previously, cash had always been king so we were prepared.
The flight from Sydney to La Tontouta International Airport – 50 kilometres north of Noumea was shorter than it takes for the Sydney to Auckland flight. The Aircalin plane was basic in features, but adequate, almost minimalist.
When we landed, and with forewarned knowledge, we decided to use the local bus service to get us from the airport into Noumea itself. The cost per person was CFP280 (AUD3.58), instead of the standard CFP3000 (AUD38) for a shuttle bus. Although the drive took longer and had a few stops, it was not unpleasant. That said, the last stop for the bus was in the centre of town so we had to work out where the connecting bus to Anse Vata started from. Using our very basic school learnt French, we were able to hop on the Route 10 bus which deposited us on the beach road 200m from our hotel. We would never have won The Amazing Race, but we were happy to have our backpacks on and getting to our accommodation just after darkness fell.
For the first night, we dined at one of the hotel restaurants – too tired to venture out – the food was really good, although by now we were beginning to realise that New Caledonia, being a tiny island nation, was more expensive. The shared meal (one entrée, one main, one desert and two drinks) came to a total of CFP8000 (AUD102). This was confirmed the next morning when we decided to stop at a café for breakfast – the bill there was CFP3600. Again the quality of the food and coffee was generally good.
We had agreed that the first full day would be spent exploring the local area and buying our food supplies for the 4 nights / 5 days that we were in New Caledonia. After breakfast, we headed up to the supermarket for a new experience of French food shopping. Although our grocery bill came to CFP6360 (AUD81), it would have cost a lot more had we eaten out for all those meals. Luckily the hotel room had a good kitchen, although not hugely stocked.
For a comparison of general price between Noumea and your city, check out Numbeo. I have entered some of our prices received into the general database for everyone’s use.
The second night, we dined at La Bodega Del Mar – a tapas bar strutting out on a pier. It is the place to be for 20 – 40 year olds and since we don’t make the cut and were back at our hotel by 2100h, we didn’t get to see the place as packed as it is reputed to get.
As I do in Sydney, I had planned to do a long run on the Sunday so a good dinner was needed the night before. We decided dining at Le Miretti Gascon – a choice made using TripAdvisor and based upon the distance from our accommodation. Although I really enjoyed the beef skewers and vegetables, Sandra’s fish vol-au-vont was less appetising.
On the last full day, we hired a car and headed to Le Parc Provincial De La Riviere Bleue. The drive from Noumea only took 50 minutes over a clay-like mountain which only highlighted the diversity and richness of this country. Mining is one of the primary industries here, but with both erosion from tropical storms and company profits to be made, the landscape easily looked plundered.
The trip inside the national park was remarkable for several reasons – the park was only established 35 years ago and the work to develop the tracks and welcome visitors was quite impressive. In addition, we saw several Kagu – the very native and endangered bird of New Caledonia. There had been mixed reviews of the park, but this is one of the reasons why we enjoy travel – to see places, to have experiences and to appreciate what is important in other parts of the world.
Overall, the weekend was very relaxing, lots of lying next to the pool, reading, enjoying each others company and seeing another country.