Today we fell in love. Ile Des Pins, New Caledonia’s Isle of Pines, was more than either of us expected and more than we could ever have imagined. This was true paradise!
Stepping off the tender onto the pier we were greeted by native Karnak dancers, performing with such passion and vibrancy they seemed totally removed from the other cultural performers we had thus far seen.
Brick walled ruins from the infamous penal colony that had once called this island home, peeked out from behind clusters of brightly coloured flowers and wild gardens of unique plants. I had heard of the islands horrific past where in the 1870’s thousands of prisoners were held under severe conditions for often minor crimes. Remnants of this horrific past seems to faintly float around the island and yet, is more often than not overshadowed by the remarkable beauty of the place. In either respect the island is haunting.
What appealed to Martin the most was the islands picture-perfectness. Photos really can’t do the island justice. The sand on the long beaches is so fine it is almost like silky soil. The sky really was the colour “blue” in its purest form, and the sea was both warm and perfectly serene. And in the background to all of this was an unusual forest of trees.
Typical palm trees edged the beach but behind them, and towering above, are pine trees, hence the name of the island; “Isle of Pines”. But even the trees seemed to exist just a little bit differently than every other tree I have ever seen. Their trunks twisted, and branches like gnarly fingers clawing at the sky. Walking through the forest it is easy to imagine little people or fey-like beings calling it home, or on an even darker note, the lost souls of the unfortunates sent there as convicts.
After spending some time exploring there was little else for us to do but relax, and read, sunbathe and swim, retiring to the ship for lunch and then returning to do it all again. The sun shone hot, but the occasional sun-shower offered a reprieve. There is no place I can imagine that is more beautiful or touching. Ile des Pins is definitely a place we could see ourselves returning to. With all the beauty we had seen on our journey, we had finally found paradise.