As we corkscrew our way through the rugged terrain, “The Grand South” of New Caledonia defies attempts to pigeonhole it, let alone outline it.
No phrases are spoken, however freelance photojournalist Ocean Patrice Belcher of Auckland and I want no reminding that we’ve hopped on the treadmill of an unspoiled playground. Hence, we perish any thoughts of alighting from this aerobic belt till it has run its program.
“I’ll display you the cagou [flightless native bird also spelled as kagu] first, then we will have lunch and then move to see the Grand Kauri,” says Axelle Battie in her seductive French accessory because of the owner of Toutazimut, a guided excursion operator inside the capital town of Noumea. We whiz past in a rough-hewn Land-Rover she had traded for her modern bullbar-mustachioed, branded 4wd on the historical Perignon bridge, linking journey seekers to the Blue River National Park.
As good fortune has it on the day of the 4-day ride to southwest New Caledonia, we strike gold with a cagou nearly at once after venturing barely 20m into the beaten rainforest track. This orange, long-legged, bluish-gray babe is aware of how to seduce cameras on nature’s catwalk.
Battie tries to explain how shifting one’s foot in an angry bull-like fashion at the leaf litter will trap the cagou closer; however, Belcher and I are all eyes and ears for the crested one handiest. Mate, it’s any other solid-gold hit.
The feathered one, blissfully aware of its fame as a ong time-lengthy covered species and a residing reminder to humans of its monogamy within the bird state, suggests off on one leg for what seems like countless seconds. It’s a dream pose for the 2-legged professional shutterbugs or even mobile phone-toting species like me before the carnivorous cagou preys at will on the creepy crawlies of the fertile forest ground.
It turned into a pleasant interlude from the earlier forestall to digest the enormity of embracing reforestation at the red ochre soil, deflecting intense warmth from remnants of metal nonetheless glistening in the solar after years of voracious mining operations.
From chook watching, we alternate gears to a mountain-hugging pressure for approximately 25 minutes to a fascinating river reserved, I’m informed, 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, but I resist the temptation to scrub it down with fizzy drinks or beer.
I allocate an area in my stomach for the crystal-clear glide from the waterfall on the other side of the river. It starts offevolved raining, and the girls trade their minds approximately a dip, but I dive into the freshwater to perform the assignment. The majestic Madeleine waterfall — a part of a nine-hour, 250km journey — is clearly a bridge too far this time.
On the manner to the “drowned forest” for kayaking, we stop to marvel at the signposted kauri pine touted to be nearly a thousand years old. Its girth at chest height is two.7m, and it stands 40m tall; 20 of that is the trunk alone. Belcher and I renowned dieback disease is keeping the kauri at ransom inside the top North Island of New Zealand. It’s one extra forestall for the day to take in the spooky sight of the endless bleached logs of lengthy-useless kauri timber at the bottom of the artificial Yate Lake created in 1958, the side effect of building a dam, which resulted in the demarcation of white and blue rivers within the valley.
But it’s where lifestyles nevertheless maintain a rapport with demise — birds with big wingspans eerily persist on building nests some of the bare branches.
Belcher had a kayak to herself even as I took the front seat as “Captain Battie” took charge on her double vessel. Yes, again, I was a rookie in a kayak as we bobbed and weaved our manner across the timber for greater than 1km earlier than I began to cramp up in the internal thighs.
“You need greater diet, K,” said a grinning Belcher, relishing every click of her digital camera to capture a growing older man’s anguish.
“Oh, to be thirtysomething once more,” I thought, thinking if it became this type of accurate idea for me to run 5km at 5.30 that morning on the Chateau Royal hotel along the picturesque Noumea waterfront.