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New Caledonia – the latest Cycling Destination?

For over ten years now, Cycling Around Sydney and Bike-it! Sydney author Bruce Ashley has been cycling and adventuring in New Caledonia. Bruce has found that “New Caledonia is a place of real diversity of cycling experiences in such a small country”.

Situated in the Western Pacific, about 1200km north east of Queensland, and about 1,500km north of New Zealand, the French overseas territory is about 2 and a half hours flight from Sydney. Just long enough to enjoy a nice lunch and short nap, before touchdown at Tontouta Airport, about 50km north of the country’s capital, Noumea.

According to intrepid cycle tourer, fly fisher and map maker Bruce Ashley, it’s a great destination for cycle touring as it is large enough to go for extended tours (the main Island Grande Terre is 400km long and 30 to 60km wide), there is a diversity of landscapes and cultures and with interesting features close enough together to see even on a day’s ride. And superb mid-winter temperatures, ideal for riding. There is plenty of varied terrain to suit tourers, MTB’ers and those out for a pleasant morning pedal. Grande Terre (surrounded by coral reefs which enclose the world’s largest lagoon), and its four outlying isles is certainly a different cycling destination than the Australian bush!

Last July, Bruce was joined by BNSW staff member Liz, Kerrie from Dungog and Ed from Christchurch for an 10-day, 400km biking adventure in a place cycle tourers are only recently starting to appreciate. From a start in the mountains on the west coast, their ride included valleys and coastal hinterland, snorkelling on the nearby reefs, and three days riding up the east coast (tailwind-assisted). Melanesian locals were super-friendly and often calling out a welcome and waving as they passed. Seems there was even a chance for a swim or two!

An exciting two–day mountain-hopping adventure got them from the lush east coast to the west coast. The route included two 500m high ranges, 23 river crossings, and forest covered mountains to the horizon. This route had not been ridden before, with the middle section a long forgotten dirt trail. But with the help of Google Earth, GPs, a couple of topo maps and a dose of traditional hands-on navigation skills, they were able to enjoy some fabulous scenery, explore a long-disused crossing, and all totally traffic-free! Bruce organised the itinerary and was tour leader, whilst local tour company Nautilus Tours provided the van and bike trailer for the transits and pickup after the 2-day mountain crossing.

Photos and reports from Bruce’s tour last year, and details of Bruce’s two upcoming tours to New Caledonia in August this year can be seen at www.bike-it.com.au

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