Something that continues to surprise me is just how useful the phrases in your average phrasebook are, and how much knowing just a little bit of the language can add to the enjoyment of your trip.
One of my favourite places in the world is Kanumera Bay on the Isle of Pines in New Caledonia.
If you arrive on the island via a cruise ship or ferry, you can walk there in 10 minutes or so.
Most of the beach is exposed to the wind, but if you keep walking to the far end, you will find the Oure Tera beach resort, which is protected from the wind by the headland. There is a café right on the beach, and you can hire a kayak if you like.
If you take a snorkel and some reef shoes, you can walk into the water and snorkel above the coral reef, which is only 20 metres from the shore. It is truly amazing – like swimming in an aquarium.
My family and I were doing exactly this. We decided to stop for a break, and while we were doing so, there was a tropical deluge which lasted for half an hour. We took shelter in our small portable beach tent (the blue one in the photo at the end of this post), other passengers on our cruise ship took shelter in the beachside café and ordered lunch.
Then the rain stopped. And the dilemma became apparent. Should we make our way back to the ship before it started raining again? Or should we stay at the beach and hope that the storm clouds would clear? If only we could ask someone who was familiar with the local weather conditions.
Nearly all of our fellow cruisers decided to walk back to the ship. Then I spotted Tony, one of the resort’s staff. After exchanging pleasantries in French, I was able to ask him Il fera pleuvoir encore aujourd’hui? (Is it going to rain again today?)
He was adamant that it would not rain again, so we stayed at the beach for another hour or so, and had this little piece of paradise all to ourselves.
I managed to have quite a pleasant chat with Tony for five minutes or so, using only my phrasebook French. C’etait magnifique!