Tuesday, September 10, 2013

We love Niue!

by Aaron

Niue.  What an absolutely beautiful island!  We’ve landed on over 140 islands in the last few years, and I can safely say that Niue is my overall favorite one.  An amazing, unspoiled, South Pacific paradise that kept on surprising us day after day.  The people are welcoming and super friendly, it’s clean, you don’t have to worry about your stuff getting stolen, the officials aren’t corrupt, the check in fees are reasonable, the list goes on and on. 

It’s not easy to get to.  From the states you’d have to fly through Auckland on one of two weekly flights.  On a boat it’s going to involve some serious passages.  But I suppose the isolation contributes to its allure and is exactly why I’d call it unspoiled.  There are a few small hotels and some discerning tourists, but certainly not very many.  And it was rare that we’d see any other people when we went to visit Niue’s many, many awesome sites to see.

Niue was brought to my attention as a cruising stop a few years ago.  I was aware of it as a potential option for a stop in our westward march, but never gave it much thought in the grand scheme of our overall adventure.  I was more familiar with the islands of French Polynesia, the Cooks, Tonga, and Fiji… places where I (and probably all cruisers in the dreaming stage) became familiar with through blogs, magazines, and cruising guides.  The places that get most of the attention and press are where I pictured us meandering.  Then, friends of ours on SV Bint Al Khamseen, who were out cruising a few years ahead of us, posted about their stop there.  From that it made it on our list of places we wanted to see.

We were enjoying Rarotonga but saw our weather window and have learned to take them when they come.  And so we sailed off into the sunset bound for Niue, a 5 day sail.

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Bella Star chasing the sunset.  We made a bigger time zone change than usual on this passage, crossing the international date line and losing an entire day.  This defiling of space/time caused a slight tingling sensation when it happened.  And for our friends in the states, we now blog FROM THE FUTURE!

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The mooring field at Alofi.  The geology of Niue is one of the reasons it’s so beautiful to behold.  Unfortunately it also makes for a lack of good anchorages, but there are plenty of strong moorings to tie up to in Alofi harbor that are provided by the Niue Yacht Club.  It’s fine here most of the time when wind is out of the SE, but if it clocks around it can get pretty uncomfortable.  Fortunately we only had one night of this, but sometimes it can be bad enough to force boats to leave.  And really, the lack of a protected harbor is the only negative thing I can think of about Niue.

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The island is surrounded by a shallow reef of jagged points that makes beach landings improbable, so they’ve provided a crane that’s used to hoist dinghies up and over the wharf.  From there they can be carted over to marked dinghy parking spaces.  We loved using this thing!  The joke is we can all add “7 ton crane operator” to our resumes now.

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For a small island, there are a LOT of incredible things to see on Niue.  Niue packs in more cool coves, caves, and chasms per square mile than anywhere we’ve ever been.  Renting a car is the way to try and see it all.  We split the cost of renting a van with a couple other boats, Bravo and Mystic Moon, which was a good way to go since we could split the cost and we all wanted to get out and see the same stuff.  But to rent a car here you need a Niue drivers license.  So off to the police station we went (not in handcuffs for a change) to get the license.  Unlike every DOL experience I’ve previously had, there were no lines, no hassles, the fee was very reasonable, and the people were exceedingly nice. 

P9050092 (800x590) (2)I wonder if this will be considered legit back home?

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The cars here drive on the left with the steering wheel on the right side.  Fortunately there’s not a lot of traffic to make you nervous about practicing driving here.  Actually, there’s hardly any cars driving around at all.  I got used to it pretty quick, except the windshield wiper lever and the turn signal levers are reversed down here so we all kept turning on the windshield wipers whenever we’d come to an intersection.

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Commodore Keith from the yacht club took us all on a tour of the island, pointing out the good spots that we wouldn’t want to miss during our stay.  We also stopped at Limu Pools – just beautiful and great for snorkeling.
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We loved following the paths and exploring the place.  We would come to find out that there are a lot of ladders on Niue.

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One of our favorite places on Niue is Togo Chasm.  A winding path takes you down through jagged and razor sharp rocks.
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Nicole grabbed a shot of John, Cindi, Kathy, Adam and me making our way down to the chasm.  The views of the rock formations are endlessly fascinating and make for some very surreal scenery - very different from anything we’d seen in the South Pacific.

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Eventually, you get to the ladder that takes you into the chasm itself. 
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The chasm winds its way back some ways, with palm trees struggling to make their way out the top.

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I have to say, It was like walking around an Indiana Jones movie set! 

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At the base of the ladder is a small cave that you might miss if you’re not looking for it – crawl through that and it opens up into a bigger cave with an exit to the reef and sea that made for a great spot to watch the surf crash in.

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We were all pretty excited to be here!

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The chasm peters out to a dead end at a primordial swamp of green goo.  I’m sure a swim here would get you an interesting parasite or two.

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After a hard day of adventuring, nothing beats some cold beers at happy hour.  So off to the Sails Bar we went.  Turns out the sign is true!  We got moves that probably aren’t even legal on Niue.

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The Sails Bar has great views from the patio and a one hole golf course that’s just shy of impossible. 

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The next day had us off to another chasm, this one called Anapala.  The trail wandered through the alien looking limestone formations and then began its descent.
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Down and down we went.

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(Photo courtesy of SV Bravo) At the bottom of the chasm is crystal clear fresh water with a bottom that disappears into an abyss.  There were some strange fish swimming around.  John wondered aloud what they would have to eat down there in a lightless cave.  I wondered what was eating them.  The decision was made not to swim across, with legitimate and respectable excuses regarding wet shorts and cold water temperatures. 

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The Liku sea track takes you out through a small cave with steps down to the reef and a small beach.

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Tavala Arches was a beautiful stop with tide pools teeming with coral and fish.
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Do you like caves?  If you do then you’ll love Niue.

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I popped into just about every cave I could find.  Nicole does a decent Golem impression crawling out of a cave asking for me for her precious

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There’s a whole bunch of little beaches like this all over the island.  And you’ll have no problem finding some solitude to enjoy the tide pools.








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And where to go for a libation on a Sunday?  Well, the Washaway Café.  It’s only open on Sundays.  What’s so great about this bar?  It’s self service.  Never has an establishment trusted me to mix my own cocktails, or pour my own wine and beer.  And they probably shouldn’t, but here that’s how it works - just jot down on a pad of paper what you had and pay up when you leave.

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The ladies started out with beers but switched to wine when they realized it’s impossible to get short poured at the Washaway Café.

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Once a month, all the villages on the island get together.  There’s a bunch of different food booths, local produce, games, dancing, and various competitions.
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Giant coconut crabs were staked outside many of the booths.  These things can amputate a finger and were not particularly pleased with their situation.
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For the men, there is the spear throwing competition.
DSC_6401 (Large)The ladies have a race to see who can weave a palm frond into a basket the fastest.

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Kids from different villages put on some pretty cute dance shows.

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As remote as Niue is, somehow the song “Gangnam Style” has unfortunately made it to these shores and was enthusiastically danced to by a couple of preteens. 

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The supply ship only comes every 6 weeks so this makes for a great way to procure local produce.

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Niue is a country of only about 1300 inhabitants.  This is down from over 5000 people only 20 years ago.  The kids that are born here go off to school or find jobs in New Zealand and often choose not come back.  So there are many, many houses on the island that have been abandoned. 

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Niue is setup for tourism like it’s a giant park.  They have done an outstanding job here with the signage and hiking paths.  It’s all built and maintained to a higher standard than anywhere we’ve ever been, including the states.  And park fees are nonexistent. 

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Just about every site has toilets and showers.  Fresh water is abundant here, so no reeking chemical toilets.  These are clean and odorless, plumbed for fresh water flushing. 

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There’s also showers all over the island.  They even put out bars of soap!  Take a snorkel just about anywhere on the island and you get a nice rinse off before continuing on.  In some places they’re even lit at night.

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All the paths, with their little bridges and ladders, picnic tables and climbing ropes… all of it was perfectly clean and maintained in excellent condition, like it’s brand new.  You never had to search for a trash can.

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Every trail on the island is like walking through a botanical garden.

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The Niue Yacht Club has more members worldwide than there are people living on the island.

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With no rivers dumping sediment into the water, the snorkeling anywhere on the island is fantastic with visibility as good or better than any other place we’ve been in the Pacific.
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Thanks to Bravo for this one – heading into a cave, then you pop out the top of the reef through a chimney further in.  Totally fun!

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Chimneys can be found all over the reefs.  You can walk right up and look down into 50 feet of crystal clear water, full of fish and coral with the water gently surging up and over the reef.  It’s almost as good as snorkeling and you only get your feet wet. 

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In most places Nicole likes to buy a few locally made crafts.  Unless there’s a locally made gin, then she buys that.

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A dinghy ride down the way shows lots of pretty rock formations and a grumpy face.


Token arm shot.