Many parts of New Caledonia are just about as classicly ‘paradisical’ as it can get going by typical western conception. The landscapes, the sea and the weather allow an incredible lifestyle if you so choose. Phenomenal diving, snorkelling and fishing are provided by the barrier reef that encloses Grand Terre (the main island) in the world’s largest lagoon. Consistent trade winds keep the climate moderate and provides for the thousands of kite surfers that visit. Sailing, trekking, horse-riding, canyoning and four wheel driving are other popular activities. Yet if you travel enough you come to realise that -as a local poet once said of New Caledonia- ‘paradise exists nowhere but in man’s imagination’. The society here is just as engulfed in problems as any other. National identity, racism, immigration, economic development, mining, a continuing clash of civilisations (Melanesian and European) are key areas of conflict. Sound familiar? It does for just about any place I can think of in one way or another.
These are themes I’d like to explore with photography here, yet an understanding of local issues has only just started to crystalise for me, and my visa is about to expire! So today I’m posting a postcard perfect picture of paradise I took that was published in last week’s ‘New Caledonia Weekly’, the only English language magazine here. I don’t believe the photo is deceitful of reality, I believe New Caledonia is in fact paradise, a natural paradise, but not a human one. The text that accompanied the photo in the magazine is below.
“It was the second of January and we were still recovering from new year’s eve on the idyllic Isle of Pines. We arranged to be taken on a voyage by pirogue (a traditional outrigger canoe). It poured rain early in the morning, leaving us with a dim prognostic for the voyage. Fortunately the rain eased off, but a thick blanket of cloud meant the incredible Baie d’Upi did not quite lend itself to photography. That was at least until we were dropped off at our destination and the sky cleared, revealing all the glorious colours the Isle Pines is renowned for. I was able to snap this postcard perfect memory just as our noble captain, Theodore, prepared to return to Baie St Joseph. As for us, we turned to the forest and set out for the elusive Piscine Naturelle.”
Thanks for reading, next week I’m off to Vanuatu for a couple of weeks and then back to Australia to arrange a visa. Plenty of good posts coming up including some landscapes here and some shots from the soccer World Cup Trophy Tour that I covered on Tuesday.