As we corkscrew our manner thru the rugged terrain, “The Grand South” of New Caledonia defies tries to pigeonhole it, let alone outline it.
No phrases are spoken but freelance picture journalist Ocean Patrice Belcher, of Auckland, and I need no reminding that we’ve hopped at the treadmill of an unspoiled playground. Hence, we perish any thoughts of alighting from this cardio belt until it has run its program.
“I’ll display you the cagou [flightless native bird also spelled as kagu] first, then we’re going to have lunch after which pass see the Grand Kauri,” says Axelle Battie in her seductive French accent as the owner of Toutazimut, a guided tour operator within the capital city of Noumea. We whiz beyond in a hard-hewn Land-Rover she had traded for her cutting-edge bullbar-mustachioed, branded 4wd at the historic Perignon bridge, linking adventure seekers to the Blue River National Park.
As success has on day two of the 4-day experience to southwest New Caledonia, we strike gold with a cagou nearly without delay after venturing barely 20m into the overwhelmed rainforest tune. This orange, long-legged, bluish-gray babe is aware of how to seduce cameras on nature’s catwalk.
Battie attempts to explain how moving one’s foot in an irritated bull-like fashion at the leaf litter will entice the cage nearer, but Belcher and I are all eyes and ears for the crested one most effective. Mate, it is some other stable-gold hit.
The feathered one, blissfully privy to its fame as a decades-long blanketed species and a dwelling reminder to humans of its monogamy within the hen nation, indicates off on one leg for what seems like infinite seconds. It’s a dream pose for the two-legged expert shutterbugs or even cellular phone-toting species like me before the carnivorous cagou preys at will on the creepy crawlies of the fertile wooded area floor.
It becomes a pleasant interlude from the earlier forestall to digest the enormity of embracing reforestation on the red ochre soil, deflecting severe heat from remnants of metal, nevertheless glistening inside the sun after years of voracious mining operations.
From bird looking, we exchange gears to a mountain-hugging force for approximately 25 minutes to a captivating river reserved, I’m told, for a privileged few. To the sound of gastric juices gurgling in our tummies and a flowing river, we wolf down a ham baguette sandwich. However, I face up to the temptation to wash it down with fizzy beverages or beer.
I allocate space in my stomach for the crystal-clear glide from the waterfall on the river’s opposite aspect. It begins raining, and the ladies exchange their minds approximately a dip; however, I dive into the freshwater to accomplish the project. The majestic Madeleine waterfall — a part of a 9-hour, 250km adventure — is truly a bridge too ways this time.
On the way to the “drowned woodland” for kayaking, we stop wondering what signposted kauri pine touted to be almost a thousand years vintage. Its girth at chest peak is two.7m, and it stands 40m tall, 20 of which is the trunk on my own. Belcher and I acknowledge dieback disorder retains the kauri at ransom within the upper North Island of New Zealand.
It’s one greater prevent for the day to take inside the spooky sight of the limitless bleached logs of long-dead kauri bushes at the bottom of the synthetic Yate Lake created in 1958, the aspect impact of constructing a dam, which resulted inside the demarcation of white and blue rivers inside the valley.
But it is where life nonetheless continues a rapport with dying — birds with massive wingspans eerily persist on building nests among the bare branches.
Belcher had a kayak to herself whilst I took the front seat as “Captain Battie” took rate on her double vessel. Yes, once more, I was a rookie in a kayak as we bobbed and weaved our manner across the timber for extra than 1km earlier than I started to cramp up in the inner thighs.
“You want more nutrition, K,” said a grinning Belcher, relishing every click of her camera to seize a growing older guy’s agony.
“Oh, to be thirtysomething once more,” I notion, wondering if it turned into this type of right idea for me to run 5km at five.30 that morning at the Chateau Royal inn along the picturesque Noumea waterfront.
Belcher became in her quarter, paddling lower back before us to the shore to play along with her drone, masterfully maneuvering it between the dead tree trunks but retaining enough altitude to prevent potential loss of a pricey toy.
On day one, when I played golf and Belcher had defaulted to a Deva Domain 4wd force, after a browsing ride becomes aborted because of poor swells, we went on a 30-minute ultralight plane flight to absorb the turquoise coral lagoon teeming with marine lifestyles.
My pilot, Gilbert Staes, helped soothe my jangled nerves on every other first time; however, his English turned into quite a whole lot restrained to: “No problems.”
Cap ULM Poe supervisor Fabien Perotto, a former fighter pilot, opened the cockpit hatch for Belcher to images. I concept I had spotted a dolphin, lost in translation, but it became a dugong (sea cow).
We talked through radio smartphones to the other pair in the aircraft or even juxtaposed planes to wave and take each other’s pix before taking any other trip van to Chateau Royal in Noumea.
It changed into back into tour manual Emeric Amice’s 4 wheel drive for an ATV journey to his own family assets perched on a hill with breathtaking a hundred and eighty-degree panoramic perspectives of the coast. Amice began Gecko Evasion in 2016 after graduating from university in France.
The 0.33-generation descendant of French settlers assures us he is adept at using the quad bike up and down the slender, lumpy music. Still, on an awesome day, he takes his 4 wheels to drive up to the vantage point where companies can experience a steak and French sausage BBQ lunch or elect to stay the night. Amice pitches the tent and presents them with total privateness.
The food’s wonderful, his effervescent persona infectious, and I get to play with the drone.
I spot a buzzing hornet’s nest on the way back to the 4 wheel drive before zeroing in on ripe guavas a few meters away. Amice dutifully plucks them off the branches as I assure Belcher the fowl-pecked one is nature’s stamp of approval. However, she finds the taste overseas.
My spotlight is a jetski trip on the very last day from Neuville Plaisance where Locajet guide Jeremy, after a short lesson at the dos and don’ts of ocean hooning, takes us to the Largenere Islet for snorkeling and a pre-packed picnic lunch.
I cherished jetskiing for the primary time, although I had a panic attack of types when I discovered my tight, saturated wetsuit didn’t offer me sufficient leverage for a freestyle stroke in the middle of the sea where we had parked to swim.
Jeremy and Belcher, who had hopped into his machine again after her jetski had also abandoned her, got here to my rescue.
Belcher felt the jetski trip had put her frame through the spin-dry cycle an excessive amount of in the estuary’s open currents compared with the sedate snorkeling. However, I thoroughly enjoyed cutting into the waves in the open channels after whipping off the top 1/2 of the wetsuit from under the life jacket.
It changed into returned to the lodge before a 40-minute power to Mt Koghis in which Battie took us on a non-public land trek of a waterfall. I changed into the water from the Aquatonic pool consultation on the motel, so I reluctantly gave the waterfall a miss.
In some other blow to the delicate male ego, I had slipped on a slippery tree root to land unceremoniously on my bottom at the manner down.
Hey, we are off nature’s treadmill, for now, dripping with sweat, deliriously spent, however nonetheless smiling.