Thursday, June 20, 2013


After our first full night of sleep in a week, we awoke refreshed and ready to see a new place. We radioed a request for clearance, then rowed the dinghy to the wharf. Because the wharf is exposed to the open sea, no boats can be left in the water here. Conditions may change quickly. We had to hoist the dinghy out of the water using an electric crane, then move it to a parking area using a very nice trolley. Customs and quarantine agents were awaiting us, and we quickly filled in the required paperwork. The next step was to visit the Niue Yacht Club, who manage the moorings and serve as a clearinghouse of information for visiting yachts. Ira kindly answered our questions and helped us find a rental car. Our next step was unusual - we slept ashore for the rest of our stay, in a house we rented from Stafford at the Coral Gardens (the Sails Bar here is one of the nicest hangouts on the island). After hearing reports from the other cruisers who stayed on their boats, we are glad we took this unconventional route, although it was somewhat stressful leaving the boat unattended. The main attractions in Niue, besides the very friendly inhabitants, are the limestone caves and other formations, and the extraordinarily clear water. It is not unusual to have over 200-foot visibility. We pocked up a map from the visitor center and headed out in our rental car. The first thing we appreciated was the remarkable signage and other tourist infrastructure. There are toilets at every trailhead, and showers at locations where you can swim. Trailhead signs give you a clear idea of what to expect in terms of difficulty and time required. We did several of the "sea tracks" over the course of the next few days, and swam at a number of locations. I won't go into great detail, as you can easily Google such information. Suffice it to say that every hike was unique, unlike anything we had ever seen, and the swimming and snorkeling was  as good as anything I've ever experienced, and that includes the Tuamotus. Another thing we noticed was the high number of abandoned homes. We did a count along one 5 mile stretch of road, and the abandoned homes greeatly outnumbered the occupied ones. There are more than 10 Niueans living in New Zealand for every one here. The main reason is economic necessity, as there are very few ways to earn money here. Some of the homes were rendered uninhabitable by the most recent cyclone in 2004, which hit the island withi 100-foot high waves. Tuesday night we went to a traditional foods buffet, with some dancing afterward. The food was delicious and the dancers were fun to watch. Wednesday we did some more hiking and snorkeling, but there was a lot of heavy rain. We had to wait until Thursday to go diving with the small local operation. It was worth it, if only for the amazing viz and the sea snakes. There were not many fish, but there was a lot of live coral. Unfortunately, it was overcast, so the underwater colors were muted. We wish we had hit Niue during better weather. This is a beautiful place. But it has been stressful leaving the boat on a mooring in unsettled weather, and the swells are predicted to build up from the "wrong" direction (directly into the harbor). So we have cleared with Customs and will depart Friday morning. It should take us 2 days and 2 nights to reach Neiafu, Vavau, Tonga. Ther isa small chance we will alter course for Lifuka in the Haapai island group of Tonga, if wind and swell are more comfortable for us going in that direction.

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