Driving through the tropical French paradise of New Caledonia
A road trip sur le Caillou requires more than just a knowledge of road rules to ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.
To help you have a happy and safe holiday, I’ve put together some tips.
Sharing the roads in the French territory
A rapidly growing region with mining as its major industry, New Caledonians are familiar with having to share their roads with a high proportion of heavy vehicles. It’s common to be stuck behind a slow-moving truck towing an enormous trailer with a bulldozer on top – through winding hills! Patience is definitely required.
The abundance of heavy vehicles on the roads leads to road works – to repair a litany of nids de poule, or potholes. In addition, the roads to many beaches are gravelled and heavily rutted. Drive slowly and if you’re hiring a car, a 4X4 vehicle will provide a more comfortable ride.
Don’t forget that the north is la brousse, or the outback, so you might see horses, cattle or tractors on the road! It’s all part of the le petit territoire français experience..
A heavy toll for the little French caillou
In 2013, 36 New Caledonians were killed on the roads, substantially down from years previously. Despite the drop, this is proportionally high – more than three times the rate of that in my home state of Victoria, Australia.
The common causes of accidents here are speed, alcohol and seatbelts not being used. Despite media campaigns highlighting each of these dangers, les gendarmes express concern that the impact is not as strong as they would like.
Many traditional-style roadside tributes are testament to the lives lost: an eerie reminder to take care.
Plan your trip in tropical France
When nature calls as you’re cruising tropical France, you will discover the lack of public conveniences. Quelle horreur! Having been ‘caught out’ a few times, I have some advice.
Ensure you pack toilet paper should a discreet stop on a dirt side road be necessary. Also make use of restrooms at any cafes you stop at – it just might avoid a dirt road detour!
Prepack your snacks! New Caledonia observes the French midday ‘sieste’ with most shops closed for lunch. Many service stations and boulangeries have premade baguette sandwiches for the morning trade. Also, fast food outlets don’t exist outside greater Noumea and like many parts of Europe, ‘takeaway’ coffee is unusual.
Essentially, New Caledonia is no different to any other region of the world in terms of the challenge to keep yourself safe on the road. Common sense always applies.
But most importantly, this little piece of French paradise is a glorious place to visit: rich in natural wonders, French and indigenous culture and welcoming people. So plan your trip, start your engine and bonne route!
Do you have any vital tips for keeping yourself safe on the road abroad? Share in the comments below!All images by Rachelle Burgoyne.