Coming out shivering, fresh from the saltwater of Lifou, I said to the Melanesian man and woman at their makeshift ticket booth of a folded table and colourful umbrella, “Merci. C’est magnifique!“.
For a second of what seems like an eternity, he stared with amusement at the face of an Asian girl with snorkel and fins, dripping wet from head to toe. The place was crawling with tourists, mostly Anglo-saxon, white, polynesians and a sprinkle of Asians. French words spilling out from an Asian tourist on a remote island must be rare.
“Tu parle Français !??” He quizzed with a huge smile on his face. I love the Melanesian smile that I noticed throughout my short trip to New Caledonia and Vanuatu. Wide, genuine grin that flashes a set of white teeth. Never hesitant.
“Un peu…. a little,” I replied with a smile.
Amused, he laughed and I followed suit. I received similar reaction at a pâtisserie the day before so I could only guess that locals are glad to hear a foreigner uttering more than a few twisted syllables of bonjour and merci.
Beyond, it was a breathtaking view with no barrier between me and the Pacific Ocean of Lifou. It was clearer than turquoise, aqua, sapphire or any ocean colour that words could describe. I was in paradise. This is how I fall in love with Nouvelle Calédonie.