During the August holidays, two teachers, Mr Laurence and Mrs Reeks, took 16 French students to New Caledonia.
New Caledonia is a cigar shaped island about 400 km long and 60 km wide, situated apporximately 1,500 km from the east coast of Australia, on the same latitude as Townsville. It has a population of 115,000 people, made up of Melanesians, Europeans, Polynesians and many other races. 60,000 of these people live in Noumea, the capital.
Monsieur Laurence and his students left Sydney on 2 September aboard the U.T.A. flight 514 (French International Airline). Two and a half hours later we landed at Tontouta Airport. The first thing we noticed was that the island was very mountainous. This highlighted the fact that the islands produce from its nickel mines is responsible for 99% of the economy, whereas tourism is only responsible for 1%.
During our visit to Noumea we stayed at the Residence Hotel, situated about three miles from the centre of the city and about 300 metres from one of the well-known beaches. We stayed in Noumea five days. During this time we mingled with the population trying to speak the language and getting to know the country. We were a bit timid at first but by the time we left Noumea we were spaking fairly fluent French.
On Sunday 4 September, the group dined at the Hotel Noumea while listening to varieties of music and singing in both English and French. Then after the meal we were entertained by a spectacular display of native dancing, using large knives,swords, axes and even flaming batons!
Then on Monday 5, we took a cruise by boat to Amelee Island, a small coral and sand island off the coast of New Caledonia. The attraction of the island is not only the swiming and sunbaking, but the lighthouse there which is the tallest in the southern hemisphere. From the top of it you can get a fantastic view of the island and surrounding reefs.
Also, during our stay we went and sat in on classes at a New Caledonian High School and visited a bakery in Noumea to watch the making of French loaves.
On Wednesday 7 we caught a bus to Bourail, the second largest city in New Caledonia. We stayed in a hotel called El Kantara for three days. The motel itself is about 5 miles outside of Bourail and only 200 metres from a surfing beach. There we enjoyed a great variety of outdoor activities such as body-surfing, swiming, sight-seeing, beachcombing, rock climbing and just simply lazing around on the beach. Im sure I speak for everyone when I say that the meals at Bourail were absolutely magnificent; we all probably regained the pounds we lost in Noumea.
It was a sad day when we finally realised that after a week of this holiday paradise it was time to return home. The thought of this caused a few of the girls to shed a slight tear, but we were all happy when we finally stepped into Sydneys Kingsford Smith Airport, two and a half hours after leaving from Tontouta Airport
Geoff Rodwell & David Horne.
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