New Caledonia Flag

New Caledonia Travel Guide

Thio, Grande Terre

Since 1880, Thio has been the most important mining center in New Caledonia, with one of the world's largest nickel deposits in the surrounding hills.

On arriving from Boulouparis, turn right to Thio Mission, Bota Méré Hill, and the beach. The Marist mission church dates from 1868. From the beach you can see the nickel workings on the plateau to the northwest and the port to the southeast. The ore is brought down by truck and loaded into ships bound for Nouméa and Japan for processing.

Southeast of Thio Mission, a paved road leads to Borindi with a ferry crossing a few km before the village. Moara Beach, 10 km southeast of Thio Mission, offers white sands and lots of shady picnic or camping space. It's worth driving another four km beyond Moara for the view of Baie de Port-Bouquet.

Thio village is beside the Thio River at the foot of the plateau, two and a half km northwest of Thio Mission. It's a colonial-style town, with a post office, bank, gendarmerie, and clinic. The Musée de la Mine SLN mining museum (closed Monday) is a block from the bridge.

A one-way dirt road to Canala begins nine km north of Thio, with a timetable (horaire) for traveling in each direction (check the schedule before leaving Thio). It takes about 40 minutes to cover the 14-km one-way portion over the Col de Petchécara.

Independence martyr Éloi Machoro is buried next to the church in Nakéty village, at the northwest end of this road. Machoro's tomb is in the form of a small Kanak case next to the old church. The paved road begins again at Nakéty, and continues 10 km to Canala.

Thio leapt into international prominence in late 1984, when 200 FLNKS militants under Éloi Machoro overwhelmed the gendarmerie and captured the town, holding it for almost two months in a standoff against the French army. Seven roadblocks were set up, but when the FLNKS began house-to-house searches for arms and ammunition, the French sent in snipers to eliminate Machoro. Unfortunately, the police helicopter landed in the wrong place, and the marksmen were captured by the Kanaks. In January 1985, the French decided to take no chances and sent 300 gendarmes to surround an isolated farmhouse near La Foa where Machoro and some others were meeting. Soon after, another French death squad arrived and murdered Machoro and a second man in cold blood as they stood outside the building. In retaliation, Kanaks blew up the French mines at Thio, causing US$3 million in damages..

Continue to   The Center: Around Canala   »