I was having a chat with one of the parents at Playgroup before our trip to New Caledonia when he asked me ‘so is the hotel child friendly?’ I thought to myself, what do you mean? Not wanting to sound like I truly had no idea what I was getting myself in to. The truth was I was scared to find out if it wasn’t child friendly. We had a massive trip ahead of us and playing it cool a little kept the anxiety at bay, slightly. Trust me I seriously went in to overdrive in preparation for the flight (busy bag queen right here) and packing but I needed to let go a little, mostly for my own sanity.
Running off energy before the flight
The answer was NO the hotel was not child friendly. Firstly there was no room service and the hotel restaurant was decommissioned due to a downturn in tourism which left us with our Tuna tartare at 9PM as we arrived later than expected. Not the best start, we made up for it with a traditional French breakfast the next morning but I was worried the hurdles were going to keep coming at us for the proceeding two weeks. We had one room with a kitchenette and it was nice enough but no room for romance and well we could barely have the TV on as it was keeping the toddler awake. One of the days my husband went out and left the two of us to nap. The cleaner had left the plastic dish rack on the stove and I’m not sure if it was me or the little one but it was turned on and let’s just say we had the fire alarm going off and management at our door. I was beside myself that something tragic could have happened and well, it put things in to perspective, the rest of the holiday could only be better.
No glamour shots on this island!
So there we were in our stinky hotel room with a child that slept for a solid 2.5hrs right in the middle of the day, no child minding service or room service and zero chance of romance. We had to get out of the town, Noumea was totally different to what I was expecting. After visiting Vanuatu a few years prior and loving the laid back atmosphere there I was expecting the same in Noumea. The pictures led me down the garden path a little but I was up for an adventure.
The activity bag followed us everywhere
We went to the travel agent and unfortunately hit their closing period of 12-1pm, everything closes at lunchtime. We took advantage of this break and had a sneaky beer while little miss was asleep in the pram. Oh yes, we managed to get her napping on the run. I was watching the clock a little as I wanted to get all the booking for the next 10 days done while she was still asleep, she read my mind, clock strikes one and she is awake. We get in to the travel agent and quickly realise we have a language barrier. It was in that moment that I had my AH HA! Moment, oh yes that’s right, I am a Mum now I should pre book these things so that I know everything is going to be O.K. I should have known from the look in people’s eyes when I told them before we left that ‘oh no! We are only booking the first three days’ that I should have been more organised. They knew, damn them, but sometimes we have to learn for ourselves.
No more photo’s!!!!
Five seconds later after all of these thoughts ran through my mind another travel agent walks through the door. Oh, she said, you don’t speak French, come over to me. Sigh of relief. She booked everything for us to spend the remainder of the holiday touring the whole of New Caledonia, right to the top. I was beyond excited as this was the adventure I was after. Next step I needed to book a car. Note to self, next time book a car from the airport then you have the independence to explore. It’s a different kind of adventure with a child.
Sightseeing in Noumea
Without a navigator for the car, thanks Dan, we get convoyed to our first stop in Bourail by a lovely local. From the bustling Noumea we were now in paradise, amazing. Dubbed as an eco- resort with lush green foliage and rolling mountains surrounding we had a sigh of relief as we came up the driveway of the Betikure Parc Lodge. Here was the holiday we were after. Matisse enjoyed playing with the owners dog’s mostly by yelling ‘puppy’ at the top of her lungs and as soon as any interest was given she ran screaming. Bourail itself was quiet, we hit a public holiday so there wasn’t much on while we were there but the beaches were the bluest of blue. We had great fun playing and walking along the sand until the rain hit. Just like that, it hit us and we ran. Baby in arms we sprinted to the car, sand all over us we jumped in and that was it. Beach over until next time.
Saramea Couldn’t have been more beautiful
Kone’ was more inland and a much more established town, it had traffic lights after all. Dan was super excited about his plane ride organised for the next day and we managed to score a bit of a date night. A restaurant right at the front door of our hotel room. Wine and a buffet what more could we ask for, I was so full I couldn’t stomach another drink after dinner. The next morning Dan comes back to the hotel full of beans, he had just flown a plane and couldn’t contain his excitement, he had a bird’s eye view of the ‘Heart of Vu’ and he got to fly a PLANE! By his French only speaking co-pilot who claimed he was an instructor. I was completely jealous but fear had stopped me going and I wanted Matisse to have at least one parent in case something went wrong. I regretted letting that stop me but I think I would have crapped my pants if I went up in that very small plane.
Another day, another Dan flying a plane!
Pool at our door, restaurant just to the left of it
We hit the road for Plage de Poingam and that full stomach turned out to be a dodgy one, we had a few stops where I had to talk to the nature. Thankfully it was all upwards, I don’t think I could have coped with the alternative as it was a long windy drive ahead of us.
Relais de Poingam, a basic camp right on the beach with traditional huts and outdoor bathrooms. No Wi-Fi, no Television no air con but it had a pool. Even with all of our sickness, Dan too, this was such a highlight in the context that it made us stop and see what was right in front of us. Thankfully it wasn’t the dangerously positioned coconut trees right at our front door, we did google death by coconut at one stage in our trip. It was the nothingness, the beautiful adventures down the beach with our bodyguard, Roger, the local dog who slept on the job. We were safe and at peace, even when we tried to walk to the other island with a child on one hip. Yes the water became a little dangerous and being that it was Mother’s Day and I had previously felt utterly rubbish it was so nice to have a bit of fun. The women who run the camp work tirelessly to ensure their visitors have a comfortable stay within a traditional environment. Even with their meat heavy nightly feast they provided us with delicious fresh produce that never left us hungry.
We managed to keep her laughing
Our drive to Hienghene took us from complete relaxation to absolute terror. Thin winding roads through the mountains with speeding trucks, poor Dan had to seriously concentrate to keep us all safe. We almost had a head on with a bus as it came careering around the bend on to our side of the road. This was all after our little detour of four hours and getting bogged in the middle of no-where with no phone reception, mud, dirt and awful heat. Why I said yes to explore the road that not even Google knew, I’m not sure. We survived. Why we tried to drive through the mud a second time at a different angle and then proceed to get bogged again, I’m dumbfounded. After getting out of the mud we then realised we had to turn back to the camp as we had forgotten some important medication. The day was draining, beyond belief but the hotel we stayed at was beautiful. It had beer, a pool looking out to the beach and hamsters running around the garden. The most expensive pizza possible and an early night, we were happy to get moving to our next stop.
The rest of our trip was mostly uneventful, we wished that we had spent more time at Poindimie. Our last day there took us on a boat to Aqualagoon which provided an eco-tour and walk across the island it was all in French and partially interpreted by another tourist. We went snorkelling and Matisse had a little friend to stare at as we all hung out on the white sands, anything that didn’t involve winding roads we were happy.
Our last days were spent at another traditional camp in Sarramea, just as lovely as the other but we were spent. It was time for this little family to head home. We were blessed by a lovely big nap from Matisse on the plane. I couldn’t watch anymore Frozen or Big Hero Six but had been forever thankful during our desperately sick days to have it as a distraction.
Lessons learnt? The activity bag is a great idea and stop stressing, bad things will probably happen but you will always bounce back. With our first overseas holiday done it is on to planning the next one. We’re thinking about staying local and tackling Central Australia. Have you had any holiday mishaps travelling with your family? It is amazing to think that we are only at the start of our holidaying journey, I can’t wait to create more memories, even if they are a little scary.