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New Caledonia Travel Guide

Yaté, Grande Terre

Excellent views of Grande Terre's grandiose, empty interior are obtained from Col de Mouirange (260 meters), eight km down the Yaté road from the Plum turnoff. The access road to Parc Provincial de la Riviére Bleue is just before Yaté Lake, another 13 km northeast of the pass. This 9,045-hectare reserve harbors many endemic plant and animal species, including the endangered cagou. The park entry kiosk is 2.5 km off the main road, and camping is free. On rainy days, the park may close if there's a chance of flooding. From near the turnoff to the park, a piste rouge (red dirt track) leads two km southeast to Le Bois du Sud where you can also camp free.

The road to Yaté winds 30 km along the south shore of Yaté Lake, with the deep blue waters of this 48-square-km reservoir juxtaposed against Grande Terre's bright red soil. A piste rouge to the Chutes de la Madeleine is 17 km east of the provincial park access road. The falls are 11 km south of the lake. The Plaine des Lacs here is noted for its fascinating variety of drought-resistant, flowering shrubs. The dirt road ends at Prony Bay.

On the left, six km east of the Chutes de la Madeleine road, is a two-km side road to the giant hydroelectric dam that holds back Yaté Lake. Erected in 1959, the Barrage de Yaté is 61 meters high and 641 meters long, and produces about 270 million kilowatt-hours a year (a quarter of the territorial requirements). An old road accessible only on foot continues past the dam and seven km down to the Yaté Generating Station in Yaté village, passing a beautiful, high waterfall on the way.

Back on the main highway, you climb over the final pass and descend to the northeast coast, where everything becomes green again. At the bottom of the pass is Yaté Bridge and a three-way junction. The road to the left leads two km to the Unia Bridge, then another two km straight ahead to Yaté village.

Across Yaté Bridge, the paved road continues south to Goro, with a three-km stretch of dusty piste four km before Wadiana Falls. The Yaté area, 81 km east of Nouméa, is a popular weekend resort for Nouméa people, and several Kanak gîtes accommodate visitors. The bus route from Nouméa ends at Touaourou Mission, founded in 1888, 6.5 km southeast of Yaté Bridge. Hitching is easiest on the weekend.

The coastal plain is narrow here, and the alternate views of inlets, mountains, and sea are fine. At the southern tip of Grande Terre, about 22 km from Yaté Bridge, is Goro village. Wadiana Falls is visible from the road a kilometer beyond Goro. You can swim in a clear pool at the base of the falls, 20 meters from road (use a mask to see the fish), and climb to the top of the falls for the view across to the Isle of Pines and all the intermediate reefs (beware of loose rocks). The pavement ends nearby. In the 1930s, Indonesian laborers built an iron and chrome mine on the plateau above Goro. A pair of giant rusting cantilever loaders, which once fed ore from conveyors directly into waiting ships, are beside the main road less than two km beyond the falls.

Wadiana Falls at Goro
The adventuresome can bushwack their way up the side of Wadiana Falls at Goro.

In 2005 construction began on the massive Vale Inco nickel smelter west of Goro, processing ore from a huge open cut mine on the Plaine des Lacs. Nickel and cobalt are delivered by conveyor to an L-shaped wharf on Prony Bay. This is one of the largest facilities of its kind in the world.