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New Caledonia Travel Guide

Hienghène's Brooding Hen
Araucaria columnaris before
Hienghène's Brooding Hen.

Hienghène and the North

The scenery around the small town of Hienghène (pronounced "yang-GAIN"), 376 km from Nouméa, is unquestionably the finest in New Caledonia. Hienghène is also a symbol of the Kanak struggle against foreign domination. A hundred years ago Kanaks under Bouarate fought French colonialism here; in December 1984, 10 unarmed Kanaks on their way home from a political meeting were ambushed and murdered just up the river by French settlers.

At Tiouandé, 30 km northwest of Touho on the way to Hienghène, is a rocky crag known as Napoleon's hat next to the road. The entrance to the Koulnoué Village is 5.5 km farther along, and beyond that you see high limestone cliffs on the right with a salt lake at their base. Five km beyond the resort is a narrow one-km coral road leading to the huge Lindéralique Cave (grotte), on the far side of the cliffs.

A kilometer closer to Hienghène at the top of the pass is a turnoff to the viewpoint (point de vue)—one of the most beautiful spots on the island. From here, you'll see huge isolated rocks named Sphinx (150 meters high) and Brooding Hen (60 meters high) guarding the mouth of Hienghène Bay. The town itself is on a rocky spur at the mouth of the river. Across the bay are nestled the tiny white buildings of Waré Mission, with the high coastal mountains behind. Four fine coral islets are seen offshore. From town the Brooding Hen looks more like the Towers of Notre Dame, its other name.

As you come into Hienghène, between the viewpoint and the bridge is the Centre Culturel Goa Ma Bwarhat, which should be visited for its mixture of modern and traditional architecture. The exhibition room displays traditional doorjambs, war clubs, spears, tools, pottery, baskets, and indigenous currency. Authentic handicrafts are sold here, and the center also contains an impressive library. Outside are two large cases with an open-air theater between.

For a sweeping view, hike up to the TV tower on Pwihâ Duét (499 meters). Take the Wérap road upriver from the bridge. After 1.5 km, the jeep track to the summit cuts straight up the hill to the left from a bend of the river.

Hitchhikers will find that very little traffic circulates between Hienghène and Pouébo and 10-hour waits in the hot sun are not unusual.

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