The last large district on the West Coast, Koumac is located at the junction of the Far North (Plum road) and the East Coast (Col d’Amos cross-country road, from Ouégoa). An agricultural and mining district, it has also moved into industrial fishing and is developing its tourist sector. The village is very well equipped today, particularly with the Pandop marina where all types of small craft are found for sailing, fishing, diving and visiting the very pretty islets in the region.
The Koumac caves are among the district sites not to be missed. Near the village, they offer those who venture into their galleries magnificent sites to explore. However, take care, as they are big and visitors get lost regularly, always saved by the gendarmes. Not far away, in a cliff side, a virgin nestling in the rock near grassland also seems to welcome walkers.
As for abseiling fans, they can take the Ouégoa road and explore the Notre-Dame rocks. Less effort is required to visit the Church of Saint Joan of Arc.
You should also visit the old mining village of Tiébaghi, right near the nickel mine operating today. Until the start of the 1990s, chrome was mined there and everything has been left as it stands. Each year, in September, the Koumac and the North Fair attracts many visitors, as it is an authentic bush event that horse-lovers will not want to miss. The district also has a racecourse. Each year, around the end of April and beginning of May, the spit-roasted heifer festival brings together stockbreeding professionals and inquisitive onlookers for festive events, horse races, breeding bull sales etc. A 100% bush festival!
The administrative capital of the North Province, Koné is also the starting point for the Koné-Tiwaka cross-country road that connects the West and East Coasts. A route of exceptional beauty, it winds through the mountain chain along rivers, offering rest and swimming areas, magnificent lookout points and pleasant meetings at the few tribal villages along the road.
Like Pouembout, Koné is an agricultural district with produce coming mainly from the numerous neighbouring tribes. But it also has aquaculture farms, various administrative departments and especially nickel, which employs a good part of the labour force. At the northern exit from the village lies the majestic Koniambo massif, which contains the precious ore that will supply the famous Koniambo Nickel Plant, so long awaited by the population.
From Koné, you can arrange a good number of walks and treks, on foot, on horseback or by car. These activities allow you to explore the interior and the tribal villages established there; some tours even provide an opportunity to bivouac in the mountain chain. Atéou tribal village, the highest in New Caledonia, is in this respect quite unique. As for the sea, you can picnic at Foué Beach, equipped to receive visitors.
Even if very much in a minority, there exists a solid population of European origin in Koné. Mostly they are bushmen from families settled there for several generations, going back as far as the colonisation for which Koné was one of the oldest sites. These “Caldoches”, descendants of the first settlers, are mostly stockbreeders. Among them are also descendants of the Indonesian labour force which came to work in the mines or coffee plantations at the start of the 20th century.
Touho, registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, is an important site, as the district has the only airport on the East Coast. Here you can also reach the West Coast by the Koné-Tiwaka cross-country road, constructed in the 1990s. Crossing the mountain chain and revealing magnificent scenery in the valleys and surrounding the tribal villages, it has been well laid out with rest, picnic and swimming areas. These idyllic spots are at the most beautiful places on the road; the swimming areas are exquisite, especially near the Pombeï falls, with rocks of an astonishing mauve colour.
Simply by taking this road, you can see in one hour the main types of New Caledonian scenery: starting from the narrow strip between mountain and sea of the East Coast, crossing the mountain chain via encounters with the inhabitants of the Bopope and Netchaot tribal villages, the river scenery, and the largest pine forest in the country (more than 3 000 hectares), and finally reaching the great plains of the West.
As well, Touho village has developed tourism by relying on its magnificent natural assets. You can cool down or go for a walk along Lévêque, Tianite or Thiem Beaches; try the life-saving waterholes during the hot summer heat; visit Kokingone waterfall or take an outrigger trip on the Tipindjé River; or hike up to the top of the ridges to admire the superb views over the ocean. A water sports centre also receives pleasure boats, offering a departure point for trips to the reef or the islets. The reef was registered on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2008 as part of the “North and East Coastal Area”.
The Gan Wiwaek path
This high-flying walk is close to Hienghène village. It affords fabulous vantage points between the coast and the Ouaième crests. Come along and let’s climb to heaven!
The world should be discovered as we walk, and Hienghène is no exception. While in the village’s language its name means “cry while walking”, the walk along which I am taking you will not give you this feeling. The Goa Ma Bwarhat cultural center, on the southern exit out of Hienghène, marks the starting point of the path: it climbs in the shade of the trees toward a first crest (Wé Axéjing, elevation 176 meters) then nit follows a north-easterly direction, on the clear flat mountain top, amongst the scattered paperbark trees. The view extends as far as the eye can see and the trail bumps against the foot of Gan Wiwaek steep hills (elevation 346 meters) which it bypasses on the west side. At the following intersection, the trail turns right and climbs a steep path to join a saddle. From there, climbing leftward, the path reaches a knoll (elevation 308 meters) it leads to a gorgeous panorama made up by Lindéralique rocks. The rocky colossi extend their dark, precipitous and wrinkled walls above the brown water of the lagoon which shimmers in the sun.
An outstanding vantage point
The « Poule de Hienghène » (Hienghène’s Hen), a solitary sentry, watches over the entrance to th harbor. Birds crisscross the sky in wide graceful curves. A few benches make it possible to have a pleasant rest for gazing or having a picnic on the scenic lookout. Thereafter, we have to walk down to the intersection and make a right to reach the Poule parking lot, where a car may have been parked. The descent is an easy on. By following the maintenance track for the aerials perched on the mountain’s shoulders, it affords marvelous vantage points to see the coast. This is an itinerary which is best to be early in the morning in order to be present at the birth of daylight or late in the afternoon in order to enjoy the setting sun on the Lindéralique walls.
Hienghène text by Elisabeth Auplat
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