Au naturel: One of the many beaches on the Isle of Pines, a dazzling bit of the South Pacific that lives up to the brochures
Smooth sailing: New Caledonia’s turquoise waters are perfect for boating One of her passions is the island’s convict ruins. After the brief socialist experiment of the Paris Commune in 1872 was crushed by the Third Republic, many of the communards were deported to New Caledonia, where some ended up on the Isle of Pines.
By the time they were granted an amnesty in 1879 and returned to France, the convicts had built stone barracks, a convent for the redemption of the female prisoners and a water tower, and left behind several hundred gravestones. Today it’s a poignant place that has been half-reclaimed by the forest; the walls of the buildings are cracked, coconut palms lance the tumbled stones and vegetation runs riot.
Roots also organises dance troupes as part of her entertainment program but this is to be avoided at all costs, unless you are an exhibitionist. It’s a quickstep, hip-shaking dance performed by sylph-like island women who don grass skirts and coconut-cup bras for the occasion. I arrive late with my two daughters and the only seats left are in front of the dancers, one of whom is making flagrant eye contact with me. While I do my very best to blend into the grass, she marches over, beckons me on to my feet and leads the way back among the dancers.
I do not shimmy well. My hips and sense of rhythm come from Anglo-Saxons and after I tread on her bare feet for the third time, my supple friend abandons me for a more successful partner. My children are sympathetic but a parent in a state of ritual humiliation is a precious thing, and from the number of times they recollect the incident to friends and relatives, this has been a holiday to treasure. Michael Gebicki was a guest of New Caledonia Tourism.
Creative Holidays is offering seven nights for the price of five at Le Pacifique Hotel with flights to Noumea and transfers. From $1290 a person ex Brisbane; also available from other states. For travel from April to March 31, 2010. Seasonal surcharges and blackout dates apply. More: www.creativeholidays.com.