We managed to escape for the long
weekend with Brad and Kat and hired the world's smallest 4WD, a Suzuki Jimny...
Packing the boot was a skilled affair so that we could squeeze all the bags,
a keg of beer, food and the essential snorkelling kit, we hit the road
for a 1200km+ adventure. Of course the chicks got the back seats so Sammy and
Kat spent 3 days squeezed into the back between bags, snorkel gear and seemed to
be constantly attacked from behind by smelly neoprene wetsuit boots,
fins and bog roll.
Our plan was to head up north to a
place called Hienghene and stay in a traditional 'Gite' in a tribal village (ie:
a palm frond hut - the chick's idea naturally) but by 5 pm we still
had another 100km of offroad 4WD-ing to go. This was mostly due to the
backseat navigators who took us 100's of km over the twistiest of mountain
roads through nickel mine territory with huge potholes and landscape
like the moon! The thought of heading up into the mountains in the fast
approaching dark to try to find some tribal village didn't really
appeal, especially to the boys who were driving and keenly looking for a 4
Seasons to spend the night. Luckily we drove past a 'Gite' on the side of the
road and French Mike (Mike's alter-ego usually only appears after a few beers
but has been seen more and more frequently here due to necessity. And his French
seems to be improving....) went in to see if they had any rooms available.
Luckily or unluckily for Brad and Kat there was only 1 room left but it could
sleep 4 of us (3 in beds, 1 on a mattress on the floor... a card game of
shit-head was the decider on that one - Cheers Brad!). The prospect of drinking
a few beers by the sea was far more appealing than more driving and hoping
for another accommodation option.
Next day just up the road we
discovered Hienghene; a very cool place, with stunning surrounding
cliffs and well worth the drive. It is famous for the 'Poule Couveuse'
(Brooding Hen), a rock formation that really does look like
We found a great little campsite by
the sea where we could hire 2 man tents. It was a really friendly
campsite and they went out of their way to may us welcome. They also run a
dive shop from here but unfortunately we didn't have the time to explore the
We hired some Kayaks, headed along
the beach and down a river inlet from where we explored the base around the
Linderalique rocks. They are spectacular towering black limestone
rocks with very jagged edges and needle points. After a nice little
workout kayaking we returned to the campsite for probably our last real
campfire cooking before Oz.
Having run out of red wine, we
persuaded Sammy (as her French is so good!) to start harassing all the other
campers in her best French if she could buy a bottle of red from
them... mission failed!!!
An early start, we headed north to
follow the top road around the island and head back down the West side. A
stunning drive along the a pretty wild coast, lots of waterfalls and tropical
vegetation with great viewpoints to the outer reef. Being high up in the
mountains gives an amazing vantage point where you can see just how far the reef
stretches, it's the second largest reef area in the world after the
GBR. What with "Rally Mike" behind the wheel and singing along to 'Kevin
Bloody Wilson' the journey didn't seem to take that long despite being in
the Jimny from 8am to 7pm.
Our final stop before Noumea was
at 'La Coeur de Voh'. If any of you have the coffee table book 'Earth from
Above' this is the image on the front cover. It is a natural perfect heart
shape amongst the mangrove swamp. Of course, like in Tahiti there were
absolutely no direction signs to one of their most famous tourist
attractions. After stopping a number of times to get directions we took Jimmy on
another adventure up a mountain side. This was proper 4WD-ing and probably not
the place for a tiny hire car full of adults! The drops were quite precipitous
and the little Suzuki performed perfectly, not even grounding out once on the
jagged rocks we were driving across. It took us ages to see it
and Kat was keen to keep climbing higher in Jimmy. We had to open a
gate revealing even worse trail conditions (a few hikers gave us very strange
looks!) then finally we made it to the official viewpoint... well done
We were all quite sad that
the weekend was over after many laughs, beers and adventure it felt like a
Sunday night heading back to the big smoke after a great weekend
Let's hope we can have some more
'Jimmy' adventures with Brad and Kat in Oz...