Niue - The Most Beautiful Island you've never heard of!
26 August 2010 | Niue
After a calm 3-night sail from Palmerston we headed around to the west side of Niue (pronounced Nu-way) and picked up a mooring buoy next to Delos. It was great to see them after a month apart and we quickly opened one of the Heineken 5 litre mini-kegs that we had picked up for them in Tahiti and settled down to catch up! After a couple of kegs we finally headed into town to do the usual check in procedures and were very impressed with how friendly and helpful everyone was.
The following day we hired a car for the weekend and set off with Delos and Dave and Jackie from Jackster to explore some of the walks around the island. Niue is the world's smallest independent nation with a population of up to 1,800 (no one knows for sure) and an area of 259 sq km. The island is coral limestone rock that was lifted from the sea floor, rather than being a volcano and this means that there are limestone caves to explore all around the coast. We started with a quick visit to a local festival in the village of Lakepa where there were local handicrafts and aerobics (!) before heading to the NW coast and exploring the Tavala Arches - beautiful dramatic sea caves and Matapa Chasm - where kings used to swim in this deep rock chasm filled with a mix of sea and fresh water so that the temperature varies with depth. Finally we headed to the Limu Pools for a really nice swim. Basically this was a large pool almost cut-off from the sea with smooth limestone walls and looked like the most perfect swimming pool you could imagine - wow. After all this we headed back to GHOST for a mahi mahi dinner and Camembert potatoes - yum.
Sunday is a very religious day and you are banned from doing various things on Niue including scuba diving and swimming at some of the locations so instead we decided to do some of the more demanding walks on the SE coast. We started with Vaikona Chasm which was recommended by Bubbles although it states very clearly that it should only be attempted with the help of a guide! We soon found out why - the walk was over razor sharp coral pinnacles and after a quick visit to the pounding surf (having made sure it was low tide Brad and Brady stood of the cliff edge and got soaked and Brady posed for a "check out my cheeks photo") we headed down into the Vaikona Chasm itself. It was a tight squeeze into the chasm and then a tricky descent across some ropes to the edge of a beautiful blue pool. At the end of the pool the brave can swim under the rock wall into another pool cave, and then repeat again and again exploring various caves. One swim under into a pitch black cave was enough for me though! After this we headed to Togo Chasm where an oasis of palm trees and sand is completely surrounded by sheer coral cliffs with only a narrow exit to a sea cave - absolutely stunning. We finished the day off with a swim and beer on the beach and then trip to the Washaway Cafe for some yummy burgers. This place is amazing, you help yourself to beers recording what you drink in a book and then settle up at the end of the night putting your own money into the till. What an amazing system based on trust, long may it continue!
Making the most of our final morning with the car we explored the Avaiki cave which also has a stunning cave pool to explore and you can walk along the reef at low tide exploring coral pools and caves further down the coast. By now we had taken about a million photos and visited most of the caves around the island so it was clearly time to do some diving.... Most of the coral on the island was damaged by cyclone Heta in 2004 so it all looked pretty dead but the scenery made up for it. Under the boats the bottom splits into dramatic coral caverns and gulleys you can follow and we were all glad to have mooring buoys to tie to as anchoring here would be very difficult - as attested to by the number of old anchors trapped on the bottom! There were only a few fish but loads of sea snakes which are very poisonous but whose mouths are too small to bite you and a very deadly looking scorpion fish.
So all in all an exhausting few days in Niue exploring this beautiful island with its friendly and very welcoming locals. Unfortunately time was pressing so we headed off towards Tonga with Delos and ended up having a pretty brisk 2-night sail with around 25 knots of wind, albeit a bit too dead downwind to completely suit GHOST.
For more pics see: http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/bradmcmaster1/Niue2010
For Delos' blog see: http://svdelos.blogspot.com/2010/09/adventures-in-niue-by-brian.html