Why on earth then did you travel to the other side of the planet, of all places? I hear you ask.
Well, I’m glad you asked that question. I admit that it is not entirely without justification, and I have had some time to prepare my answer.
Let me start off by telling you that this is already my second visit to New Caledonia, or Kanaky, as the local Melanesians prefer to call it. Five and a half years ago, in June 2014, I had the opportunity to attend a training course in Nouméa, the capital of New Caledonia. The course aimed at youth workers and other people working in the field of youth exchanges and international co-operation. I remember to this day certain shortcomings of the programme itself, but the event as a whole was just wonderful. I met some great people, from the archipelago as well as from other European countries, I got an insight into the cultural diversity of NC (including a day and a half with a Kanak tribe at Port-Boquet), I had a great extra five days exploring Grande Terre (the main island) and its wildlife after the course. And all this made me want to come back one day!
The official language of Nouvelle-Calédonie is French. Apart from that, a great variety of other languages is used as well, e.g. various forms of Kanak, but also languages which different immigrants from other parts of the world brought with them in the course of the past 150 years. No English is spoken in public, though, and that is another great plus from my point of view. I have been struggling for years now to reach a decent level with my knowledge of French, and I am much hoping that this trip will do the job!
As I am writing this, I am sitting in shorts and t-shirt on a small campground (Refuge de Farino) beside a little river. The sun is just coming up over the exotic trees around me (sunset was already at 5 am, now it’s three hours later), and there is birdsong everywhere. And not much else. So yes, okay, I admit it: this is also about me simply having a great time. It’s about not having a particular schedule for the day, about bird watching, photography, meeting interesting people, making new friends, taking photos (there’s quite a few of them on my laptop already), you name it!
This is only my fourth day here, and I have already had so many interesting impressions and encounters. It’s hard to imagine what it will feel like after five and a half weeks on Grande Terre and the other islands! My advice to you: stay tuned if you want to find out.