Have you ever been to a place that you just can’t fault? A place that is simply perfect?
Whether it’s the sacred beauty of Notre Dame, the natural wonder of Niagara Falls, or the rolling waves of Hawaiian beaches, when travelling we come across places that sparkle like gems in our minds. For me, the most magnificent place I have ever seen was the Marmites of Dumbéa, and the memory will stay with me forever.
Earlier this year, I went to New Caledonia, a little French-governed island in the Pacific Ocean. I went to be an au pair for a French family on this beautiful island paradise. The town of Noumea itself is surrounded by harbour and beaches, and when walking through the streets you can hear modern reggae and island party music blasting from speakers or passing car windows. During my stay, I met a lovely woman who told me her niece could take me to the Marmites of Dumbéa. But, the journey wouldn’t be easy – we’d have to hike for four hours to get there and back. And New Caledonia’s tropical heat was strongest at that time of year, so we’d have to make the trek in the hot sun (you can imagine the
sweat!). But, I knew I had to go. Adventures like these are, for me, what travelling is all about!
The journey there was long and full of obstacles, which only heightened my anticipation to arrive. Firstly, I was dropped off about 20 minutes outside of Noumea, where my friend’s niece came and picked me up. Then, we had to drive north to Dumbéa for about an hour. Finally, we arrived at a small park, which was close to the Marmites. We were then told that we would have to wait for the navet (shuttle bus) to take us to the national park. We were the last ones on board the coach and it was packed full. I sat up at the front, near the driver,
who was, of course, listening to Bob Marley over the bus’ loudspeaker.
After 15 minutes on the bus, we arrived at the huge national park, wherein we would find the Marmites. The park was amazing – we were in a valley between the arms of grand, grand mountains, which were thick with bright green trees, rising up all around us.
But the journey wasn’t even half over yet – we then had to cross a river as high as our knees, precariously balancing our bags above our heads as we tried not to slip on the grey stones beneath us. This marked the start of the 2-hour trek that would lead us to the Marmites. Along the way, we crept through a thickly forested ‘short cut’ path (I felt like a true local walking through there), which turned out to take longer since it was so overgrown. Then we crossed another stony-bottomed river, and even had to rock-climb across a pathway made of large stones. The pathway of stones was only about a metre wide, so we were clinging to
the rock face while we manoeuvred across the high rock-wall, hoping that we wouldn’t land on a wobbly rock and lose our footing and break a bone. Finally, crossing a little bit more of the red dirt path, we made it! The Marmites appeared.
Nestled in between large grey stones are the Marmites (French for big cooking pot), which are big pools of fresh water that are many metres deep, and as clear as glass. Opening your eyes underneath them feels like you’re part of an underwater world; the water is so smooth and clear. There was even a beautiful running waterfall streaming into the pools. There were plenty of people jumping off the tall rocks into the pools below.
We spent hours there, feeling the cool, calming touch of the water which saved us from the heat of the walk. But that wasn’t its only effect – the water was soothing with its pristine freshness. There is something so magical and redemptive about fresh, glassy water, so that every time I went under the surface I emerged above feeling renewed. The tranquillity was only marred by the fact that there were so many people! So I simply ventured downstream,
following the flow of the current, to further pools, where I found myself blissfully alone with my friend and the majesty of the place. It was this cooling and refreshing beauty that confirmed to me that the huge trek was worth it – this is one of those places that you simply cannot fault; a beauty that will stick with me forever. The Marmites of Dumbéa is one of those special places that even though it may be years before I physically go back there, I will revisit its beauty over and over again in my mind.
I think the trip overall definitely helped to elevate my mindset, to not get caught up in small trivial problems, and to look up and see that there’s so much beauty everywhere in the world. The height of the mountains really just transports your mind to higher things, I feel. Reminds you to rise above trivial issues.
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