After an afternoon high on emotions on Sunday 17 September, students boarded the GCC bus for a once in a lifetime trip to New Caledonia. Excitement was running high once at the airport. Things got real once we crossed the Brisbane International Departure arch.
On their first day, students discovered the breakfast buffet; a mixture of pastries, baguettes, fresh fruits and local dishes. Yum! Students went straight to French lesson after filling up their bellies.The highlight of the day was our visit to College Champagnat. A short bus ride brought us to the college and we were soon greeted by a cohort of excited yet overly charming students. We were divided into two groups; one went to Maths and French class and the other went to History and English. What a complete immersion experience that was! Students got to have their lunch at the school canteen with their buddies and lots of other curious local students.
Lunch break was a wonderful time to learn new games and tricks. GCC students mixed well with local students and took the opportunity to burn energy. The afternoon was filled with cultural presentation and gift exchange. It was sad to leave but everyone created wonderful memories to cherish for a long time.
Day two began with another sumptuous smorgasbord breakfast in the hotel Nouvata. Followed by our second language lesson with Frank. You may think this sounds like a tedious part of the day, however, the lesson was made interesting and fun with quirky French phrases, learning about New Caledonia’s geography, people groups and some interesting foods.
The group then travelled by public bus to ‘centre ville’ where they first enjoyed the markets – purchasing a few gifts, ate a pastry treat and some students also purchased a freshly made crêpe. A few blocks walk and we found ourselves in ‘La Place de Cocotiers’ – the town square which was resplendent with a fountain and statue. After a little more ‘lêche vitrine’ (window shopping) students purchased their own lunch items. In the afternoon, we walked to the next bay – Bay de Citron where we went on a scavenger hunt and then had loads of fun jumping off the pontoon in the bay.
We had no idea what to expect on the third day, but after an early breakfast we headed off first on a bus to the port and then a boat to: L’Ile d’Amadee. The boat trip in itself was beautiful. We were serenaded on (and off the boat) with traditional music and then glided over calm seas arriving at an island that was beyond our expectations. Students began with some snorkelling just offshore and a little later they went on a glass bottomed boat tour. Lunch came around quickly and was a sumptuous feast followed by traditional dancing and music. The girls joined the dancers and Vinny Porfiri made his own debut. We climbed the many many steps of the lighthouse to the top platform and looked out over an expansive island. The boys managed to work out how to cut open some coconuts (with some tips from Mrs Beattie). A few more snorkelling forays with many green turtle sightings, sea cucumbers and Nemo’s pacific cousin.
The following day, we had our last language lesson and then went for another trip into Centre Ville -courtesy of the Noumea public bus service. A few souvenirs were purchased at the city markets and then off to the local supermarket to pick up the makings for a picnic lunch. Practicing French language skills, the students had to ask for particular deli items and also to make their final purchases. The Tchou Tchou train ride was not only interesting, learning about the history and facts about Noumea but it was also a lot of fun seeing the sites and touring around in a train!
On day six, we hopped on a bus to Tjibao Cultural Centre, a world-class architecturally-designed building that not only holds many cultural artefacts of great interest but also has a display of the various traditional huts and chieftain dwellings – as well an amazing outlook over a bay. We returned for lunch and then took a short walk to the Aquarium viewing beautiful displays of corals and tropical sea life.
So many beautiful days in Nouméa! Day seven was no exception. We walked along the shoreline to reach the speedboat transfer to the Ile aux Canards (Duck Island). The glass bottom boat gave a preview of what was to be expected to our now expert snorkelers on our way to the island! We spent most of the day discovering the island and snorkelling from buoy to buoy to see amazing corals. Students had the remainder of the afternoon to finish their shopping around the hotel complex and enjoy one last ice cream.
Dinner was organised at the local Rumba Restaurant. Everyone enjoyed what we thought was going to be our last meal with the Toowoomba Grammar students. Little did we know that our return plans were going to change dramatically! A layover in Auckland, New Zealand was added to our travel itinerary.
We returned home – sun-soaked but not sunburnt and great memories.