A wooden sign that says "La forêt dans la ville".
New Caledonia

Travel Journal: Noumea Part Three

The Centre Culturel Jean-Marie Tjibaou and the Parc Zoologique et Forestier are two places that I wanted to visit while I was in Nouméa. I had been recommended the former because of it’s famous architecture and had discovered the latter when I was researching places to see some of New Caledonia’s native wildlife while I was here.

The Centre Culturel Jean-Marie Tjibaou was designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano (The Shard, London; Centre Pompidou, Paris) and was established to educate people about the culture of the Kanak (the indigenous people of New Caledonia). The towering structures above the exhibition buildings were inspired by traditional Kanak huts and I think the combination of the structures, the actual huts, and the tall pine trees all add something to the landscape.

After arriving at the Cultural Centre I followed le chemin kanak, a path that is lined with various Kanak medicinal plants, accompanied with signs discussing how the plants were used as well as details of their myths and legends (in French, English, and Japanese). Next, there were a group of traditional huts, showing the differences between the huts in the north, the south, and the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia. Inside the buildings there were various exhibitions, from historic artefacts of the pacific to contemporary art. There weren’t many people around save for a few tourists like me, as there were no cruise ships in on Thursday – I believe this is where most of Nouméa’s tourists come from. When you bring about 3,000 people into a city of under 100,000, it’s definitely noticeable!

Next up was the Zoo & Forest Park! Getting there was a bit of a hassle to say the least, seeing as the bus that goes there only runs on weekends. I would definitely recommend going on the weekend if you don’t have a rental car (I kind of wish I had a rental car for some parts of this trip!). From the Cultural Centre, I bussed to the closest stop to the park and then walked up a lovely steep hill that was sans a footpath until I reached the park. I then stopped at the snack bar outside for a croque monsieur, some chips, and a well-needed pause. I actually ended up having company for lunch, as one of the park’s free-roaming peacocks decided to join me, circling me and staring intently at my hot chips.

After eating, I headed into the park where I bought my ticket and headed for the Vallée des endémiques to see some of the native creatures. These included the cagou, a flightless light blue bird that has become a symbol of New Caledonia, parrots, roussettes (flying foxes), native pigeons, birds of prey, geckos and more.

The cagou:

I loved this little grumpy guy:

As with my not-so-little lunch partner, many peacocks were allowed to roam freely throughout the park. To my delight, this included a few very bridal-looking white peacocks, which are stunning!

The park also includes a few different sentiers (paths) through forested areas, I took one called la forêt dans la ville (the forest in the city) and while there wasn’t much to photograph, it was a nice little bush walk to finish my park excursion. I would have included more wildlife shots here however many of the enclosures were made from quite tight gridwire (as you can see in my image of the grumpy bird above) and the lizards and geckos liked to hide in little corners of their enclosures that made it very hard to get a decent shot! Regardless, it was a great little wildlife park – just be prepared for a lot of walking!

That evening I also went around the corner from my AirBnB for dinner… solo! It was a little weird, and I had chickened out on the other evenings, but it wasn’t actually that bad once I talked myself into it. I got a very local dish of chorizo pizza (ha) and some nice vin rouge and took a book along. Eating dinner alone in a restaurant just seemed a lot weirder to me than breakfast or lunch, but it wasn’t so bad in the end.

Now, I’m out in a more rural location, surrounded by mountains and not a lot to do. I should probably just take the couple of days to relax before I have to go home and back to work – but I can’t shake the thought that I really wish I had a rental car so I had more freedom to go and do things! Or just stayed at the beach the whole time for more swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing. The silver lining is that my current AirBnB host speaks to me a lot in French and we spent most of the car ride here speaking (I surprised myself!)

Two more nights till I head back home, back where jeans and a jumper are still necessary and I have to work five days a week! C’est la vie!

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