New Caledonia – a piece of France in the South SeasDecember 14, 2018
At the end of the day, as if that was not enough, the moon turns into a croissant. Standing up in the night sky above the Pacific and looks really like a croissant. And one remembers his French teacher and how the baked goods supposedly got his name: because it looks like a waxing moon in its first days.
Here in New Caledonia, the croissant story is instantly believed – even though there is hardly a place on earth that could be further from a Parisian bakery. As the crow flies, it is 18,000 kilometers. By air one is on the road for a whole day. And yet the archipelago is on the other side of the globe with its 280,000 inhabitants to France.
This has been the case for 165 years and does not change now. In early November, 43 percent of New Caledonia voted in favor of independence, but 57 percent voted against. Especially in the population of the Melanesian indigenous people, the Kanaken, the disappointment is great. They already had a name for the new state: Kanaky. Translated, that means human land.
Largely spared from tourism
But that’s how it stays with Nouvelle-Calédonie, New Caledonia. Or if you want to be completely correct: Nova Scotia. That’s because explorer James Cook thought he recognized the north of his British homeland at the first encounter in 1774.
In 1853 Napoleon III. take possession of the islands for France and made a convict island out of it. Today, there is little reminiscent of Scotland and nothing at all about a penal colony.
On the contrary, New Caledonia is one of those rare idylls that have been spared from tourism to some extent. In 2017, just 100,000 tourists were counted.
Outside the capital Nouméa there are hardly any larger hotels. Even there it can happen that one has the sea in one of the bays in the morning alone. Elsewhere – in the savannahs, in the rainforest, on the rocky coast or on the other islands – it is even lonelier.
That has its reasons. For continental French and other Europeans, New Caledonia is now very far away. The immediate neighbors from Australia and New Zealand – still around 2,000 kilometers away – scare the language off. The French are not the same here with English. And cheap is New Caledonia, where even with the franc is paid, also not.
“Kanake, that means human – nothing else”
Especially in Nouméa life is as expensive as in Paris. The capital is located on the largest island, Grande Terre. Traffic jams, bad air, hectic rush are rare here. Who comes too late, refers to the “heake kanake”, the “kanakische hour”, which is stretchable. The bays have names like Baie des Citrons (Zitronenbucht) or Baie des Dames (Damenbucht).
On the hills are the mansions of the rich, with the luxury SUVs on the property and not infrequently also with their own yacht. On one of the slopes, the New Caledonians have also set up their cultural center, the Center Tjibaou.
It is a building in the countryside, surmounted by 20-meter-high bar constructions, designed by the Italian star architect Renzo Piano. Today, the Center is considered the most beautiful building in the South Pacific at all. The name comes from the father of the independence movement, Jean-Marie Tjibaou, who was murdered by an extremist in the late 1980s.
Today the center is managed by his son Emmanuel. He is proud to be Kanake. “Kanake, that means human,” says the 42-year-old. “Then nothing. That’s not a matter of skin color. ”
Right next to the cultural center there is a small airport. There, the propeller engines start out on the smaller islands. Where the culture of the kayaks is more alive, the beaches even longer and the water even more blue.
You hardly believe it. Since 2008, the Coral Sea is a World Heritage Site. At 1.3 million square kilometers, the Parc Naturel de la Mer de Corail is one of the largest marine reserves in the world – and three times the size of Germany.
Ouvéa seems to be a single sandy beach
Perhaps the most beautiful island in the archipelago is Ouvéa, only 35 kilometers long, in some places less than 40 meters wide. It seems to consist of a single, almost endless and almost untouched sandy beach. Only at the Pont de Mouli, a bridge on the way to the lagoon, more than half a dozen people are in the water.
From the bridge you can watch the rays and turtles float through the water. But you can also see the contours of reef and baby sharks. This does not stop the kids from jumping off the blue railing into the water. According to official census, there are 48 different species of sharks – for humans allegedly all harmless.
4300 people are at home on Ouvéa, almost all Kanaken. They do not have much interest in sharing their island with tourists. Coma Waikata is one of the few who earn their money with it.
The 66-year-old runs a small restaurant with island cuisine. There is plenty of grilled fish, but also bounga – a local chicken specialty with sweet potatoes and bananas, moistened with coconut milk, wrapped in banana leaves and then cooked in a hole in the ground.
The island closest to paradise
Otherwise, there are exactly two hotels on the island of Ouvéa. Normally you spend the night as a foreigner in round straw huts that belong to private individuals. That means “Accueil en Tribu” (German: Reception by the tribe). In fact, life here is still organized in tribes. Those who are prepared have a “manou” as a souvenir – a piece of cloth in which a smaller banknote is wrapped.
In 2017 just 9000 tourists came to Ouvéa, almost only French. The only larger group of foreigners were Japanese. This is due to a Japanese novel from the 60s, which was also filmed: “The island that is closest to paradise”, a love story of the not very famous writer Katsura Morimura. She later took her own life.
The Japanese are also welcome guests in New Caledonia – unlike many others. Since there are direct flights from the People’s Republic, now come for the first time Chinese in larger groups. Some of them are not very good at talking, not even Koma Waikata.
The cook says bluntly: “That’s just too many for me. And they are too loud for me too. And eat too much. If we are not careful, they will eventually even eat the lagoon away. “And for obvious reasons, the people of Ouvéa want to avoid that.
Tips and information for New Caledonia
Getting there: For example, with Air France or Japan Airlines via Tokyo to Nouméa.
Accommodation: “Le Méridien Noumea Resort & Spa”, double room from 186 Euro, marriott.de; “Nouvata”, double room from 80 Euro, nouvata.nc; Ouvéa: “Hotel Paradis D’Ouvea”, double room from 230 Euro, paradisouvea.com; “Le Beaupré Ouvea”, double room from 140 Euro, hotelbeaupre.nc.
Travel time: Between October and December, the daytime temperatures are 30 degrees; in the New Caledonian winter (April and November) between 22 and 27 degrees.
Information desk: nouvellecaledonie.travel/fr
Source: Welt.de (GER)