“Pic N’ga… A random spot 262 meter above the ocean on a tiny island I’ve never heard of is TOTALLY a destination for my trip.” – Me
Some time in 2015/2016 I was sitting with a huge printout of the map of the world in front of me and Google Maps open on my computer. I was looking for places that would become “must sees”.
Initially I was planning to “see some of the Pacific”… Pretty vague, I know, but a lot of my trip was just that in the beginning stages of planning: Very vague. I found out that I wanted to island hop a bit – this turned into island hopping a lot – which again turned into wanting to island hop from New Zealand to Chile, and ALL the islands quickly turned into “must sees”.
I googled New Caledonia, the closest island to New Zealand, and went on maps to see images other travellers had uploaded. I remember seeing a 360 degree image from the top of the highest point of this absolutely tiny island south of main New Caledonia: The Isle of Pines. It was just a 262 meter “peak”, but the views were insane and I felt small just looking at the picture on my laptop.
I remember so well thinking “I want to feel what it’s like to stand right there and look out at the Pacific Ocean surrounding me…” And I did.
On Day 1004, Wednesday November 24th I boarded the Betico ferry leaving New Caledonia capital starting the 2 hr 15 min trip to the Isle of Pines (l’île des Pins).
The weather wasn’t the best when I was there, and by “not the best” I mean the sun wasn’t shining insanely all the time like you’re used to seeing in every video from the paradise isles of the Pacific. But I didn’t mind, it made it a bit better to go hiking to be honest, it was hot, but no insanely so and the humidity was perfectly fine so I was very happy with how the trip turned out, it’s just the pictures that didn’t turn out perfect 😉
I was walking around the island after being let off the ferry just wandering and enjoying the beaches, palm trees, kids running around, the few tourists I could spot at the very few hotels…
WANDERING AROUND & PRISON RUINS
I found the old ruins of the prison they used to have here, it used to be a French penal colony. Naturally I explored it a bit, took some photos… Tried to imagine what it was like. But this was one of the times I noticed I felt a bit lethargic… I wasn’t feeling the adventure as much anymore. I didn’t care. I felt… nothing much really.
“The French took possession of the island in 1853 at which time the native Kunies opted for the Catholic religion. In 1872 the island became a French penal colony, home to 3,000 political deportees from the Paris Commune.
The ruins of a penal colony can be seen in the village of Ouro in the west of the island. The water tower of Ouro which was built by prisoners in 1874/75 and renovated in 2005 is still used. At the cemetery Cimetière des Déportés near Ouro is a pyramid-shaped memorial and the graves of 300 deportees who died between 1872 and 1880.”
Pic N’ga is the highest point on New Caledonia’s Isle of Pines at 262m. It’s a pretty easy hike, about hour up and 30 mins back down with a very leisurely tempo, but use good hiking shoes, not flip flops or anything. (There’s always that guy)…
I was completely knackered after getting back down, but I think that must have been because of dehydration because the hike is NOT that hard.
While I was walking towards the start of the trail a guy in a car pulled up and asked if I was doing the hike. I said “yes, I think so…” wondering who this guy was and why he wanted to know where I was going. (He seemed harmless, by all means, I just didn’t get why he asked).
Turned out Arnaud from France was visiting and wanted to do the hike, but I’m guessing he didn’t want to do it alone because he said goodbye and drove off, I continued towards the trail start and by the time I got there he had already driven back past me and parked, ready to go. I was taken aback a bit, but I said ok and said I’d follow him (I was definitely staying behind this guy, just in case. Might sound paranoid, but as a single female precautions of all kinds have become second nature to me already and they stayed pretty consistent considering I was travelling by myself).
Of course, I had nothing to worry about. Arnaud was the perfect hiking partner AND I got to practice my French with him. We had a great trip up to the top, enjoying the views as we went and taking photos for each other.
At the very top there is a cross with a thick pole. It’s too new to be and old religious monument, I think it’s placed there by visitors, but I’m not 100 % sure. It was filled with scarves, necklaces, bracelets and other trinkets people put there to mark the occasion of them reaching this spot. I took my elephant bracelet off and just like I did while visiting the Killing Fields in Cambodia I fond a spot for it fastened to a scarf. My trinket to mark my passing by and enjoying the experience. I was here.
At the top the view was breathtaking. I took so many photos it was almost embarrassing, but I didn’t want to risk forgetting any of it. Even with the sun not really cooperating the sight was marvelous, it was a bit windy though… My videos pretty much destroy the speaker if played with any volume *lol*
I also saw, carved into the rock in the ground writing that said something along the lines of: “(…)uvenir pour Deane Joseph de Tahiti. Le 24 Juin 1945” but I am unable to find out what this means.
When we got back down Arnaud was going to see the natural pools on the other side of the island, but I had my heart set on a small “souvenir shop village” that I had read about where locals made various trinkets and sold. I was hoping to find something for my Christmas tree, maybe a fridge magnet, a locally made piece of clothing, something to remember this place by. But first, Arnaud drove me to where our roads parted, where we exchanged e-mails and said our goodbyes. I was pretty hot at this point and my feet were tired so I made a small pit stop at one of the resorts/hotels. bought an extremely expensive Coca Cola and gulped it down watching the waves.
Another memory: Four boys ran past me at the beach, three older (maybe 6-7) and one tiny one (maybe 3 yrs old), and one of the older ones said “Bonjour” to me and this tiny one was sprinting to catch up to the older ones and while he flew past me he belted out “booojoooor” the way toddlers do. Hahaha, he was so cute, oh my god ❤ ;-D
I found the souvenir shops and got a sarong, a couple of fridge magnets, some cards and a Christmas bauble(!!) It was kitchy af, but I don’t care. It was made of glass with some fake pine cones and pine branches inside. Perfect for remembering this part of the trip.
In one of the shops I also met someone not so local, although she had lived on the Isle of Pines for years and spoke fluent French. Hillary Roots was from New Zealand, and we discovered our mutual English language after talking French for a few minutes. She wrote a book with stories from New Caledonia, I bought one and got her to sign it before heading back to the ferry terminal and back to Noumea.
UPDATE ON THE BAUBLEMANIA: Unfortunately the glass broke during my travels, but I saved the contents specifically with replacing the bauble in mind. Back in Norway I got a plastic one I could open and put stuff in, so my Christmas Tree now has the Isle of Pines memory firmly in place ❤