Nouméa, New Caledonia, 08.12.2019
Our final full day in New Caledonia was to be one of rest. Mum left in the early hours, bound for Sydney and a few more days in the sun before heading back to the UK. She returned the car (which was in perfect condition) and due to its perfect condition, wasn’t charged any extra money for repairs or anything because no repairs were necessary due to the perfect condition of the car. Got it?
Despite putting on a brave face, Jane was still suffering some mobility issues and her ankle had been left feeling very achey after a few long days of walking, swimming and snorkelling. With no transport, we were forced to put our French-speaking abilities to the test. We called a taxi company and Jane gave it her best effort, but sadly we were left without an easy route to the beach.
We took a slow stroll to a bus stop, which was typically closed. After our relatively short walk (5 mins) Jane wasn't really able to go any further so we then resorted to trying to flag down a taxi on the main road and inexplicably succeeded!
The relaxing began once we made it to Baie Des Citrons (Lemon Bay) as we chilled on the beach for a while before Jane decided it was time for a swim. At this point, we have the routine down. I put my flip flops on, carry Jane into the ocean like she’s a small child, run back to our stuff with my flip flops, then join her in the sea. It’s inelegant but effective!
We broke for lunch and tasty cocktails at our new favourite bar, (and handily, the closest establishment), Barca. When we eventually wrapped up the day by watching the beautiful sunset over the pristine bay, we had decided that we rather liked Nouméa. For all of its complications, it really is a stunning place!
The following morning, we started our journey home. We had booked a return shuttle with our previous driver, Manu, so we lugged our stuff outside at 8:15 am to wait for him. After twenty minutes, I started to worry. Jane doesn’t generally worry, so after forty minutes, she started to worry just a little. She sent me back into the flat to try and call Manu from the landline, but in my quickly increasing state of panic I couldn’t quite get into the flat...
After five more minutes, we needed a new plan. By this stage, Jane wasn’t really able to go anywhere as her ankle was very sore and the ground all around the flat was particularly hilly. Stressful doesn’t cut it.
After some discussion, we decided that I should go to the nearest establishment (a bank just around the corner) to try and call a cab. Jane would follow at a suitable pace and meet me and our luggage there for the taxi. Dragging our suitcase behind me, I sprinted to the bank to ask them to call us a cab.
Happily, they obliged and when Jane completed her hobble, I reassured her that a taxi was on the way and that “the bank lady” thinks we’ll still make it on time. We waited for the taxi and after ten minutes, I started to worry again.
After some pacing and screaming about how ridiculous Nouméa is for having no public transport and no accurate websites explaining anything, I decided to try to hail another taxi. This holiday was relaxing for a bit but it was also being somewhat undone by this morning. More alarmingly, Jane was also pretty sure things weren’t going to work in our favour by this point, which was unnerving to say the least!
Now over an hour behind schedule, the cab we booked (I think) showed up, and a rather flustered Frenchman explained to us that there was a “blockade” in town preventing cars from travelling across the city. Perhaps Manu hadn’t ditched us after all!
We explained the urgency of the situation to the taxi driver (our flight was due to leave at 11:15 am and it was already 9:45 am!) but I’m not sure he took it in. He hardly made an effort to calm us down, driving painfully slowly (well under the speed limit), whilst yelling down the phone at a friend (?) for the whole journey. At one point he even got out of the car, which he left running at a set of lights, whilst he went to go and talk to his fellow taxi driver before sprinting back to the car as the lights changed. As we neared the airport, with precisely one hour to go, he pulled over again, this time motioning for me to get out and take a look at the tire. The tire was fine, I think. To be honest, at this point I would have lied and just risked the rest of the journey on the bare wheel if it meant we might make a flight out of this damn place. How a mood can change!
Amazingly, we made it to the airport alive. Even more amazingly, we made it to the airport with enough time to catch the flight. We were very fortunate that Nouméa has one tiny terminal so a speedy check-in and zip through security saw us make it on time for boarding. Exhausted, and extremely grateful we wouldn’t be stuck any longer in this mad country, we laughed it off and fell asleep on the flight home.