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Our family adventures on the sailing vessel Pandion cruising the Pacific.
April 03, 2012
08/03/2012, Vaitahu, Tahuata, French Polynesia

08/02/2012, Niue

It seems I'm sick again....there's a virus as well as Dengue on the island and I seem to have picked up the former. (let's hope) That means I'm laying low today loading pictures and blogging. So, one new album of pics. If the internet holds I'll add more.

And...stay tuned...Sage will start blogging soon. YAY!

08/02/2012 | Auntie Dote
Sage - I am really looking forward to hearing about the trip from your point of view! O&XOX
08/06/2012 | g'mommy
Wonderful pix, and I love this one of you. Hope passage to Tonga is smooth and swift. Love
Niue Spelunking
08/02/2012, Niue

Niue Land Exploration 7/30/2012

We've spent the last three days on land. They've been whirlwind days ending with we three completely exhausted and brain dead. And they've been AMAZING days. I've posted a bunch of pics to Facebook and I'll try to get some up on our BLOG here but it's a pain in the neck to load pictures to the BLOG. Friend me at FB (Lola Quon Rossman - there are two...pick the one with the crazy hair.) and you can see my pics. Though, I've started making many of the albums public so you may be able to just look at some. Not sure.

Monday we schlepped up to the Niue Yacht Club (they are WONDERFUL) and they let us use the phone to call the car rental place. Within 10 minutes a car picked us up, brought us to Niue Rentals and we had a car. EASY! While at the Yacht Club we also phoned some friends of one of Lorca's colleagues who live here on the Island and run the Matavai Resort. Alana and Adrian have two gorgeous and wonderful children and live in a lovely little home atop a hill here on Niue. Alana had emailed us and told us to bring our laundry and we could do it there. REALLY? OMG....dream come true. We went up and goodness what a gracious welcome to "The Rock" she gave us! We sat in the living room and chatted and got to know each other, though, I have to say...while Alana is warm and wonderful, I was distracted by the supercutecharm of her kids. She's got a 13 month old and you all know how much I love babies. Little Georgia has got to be the cutest thing I've seen in a long time. A super smart little girl, we had lots of fun naming al the things on my tattoo on my leg. Jack is 4, super articulate and one of the most considerate children I've ever met. Sage had a blast playing with him. Alana told us about their life there and gave us the inside scoop on the Island. So valuable to have local knowledge. As we were preparing to leave she insisted that we bring her our laundry and that she would do it for us. WHAT? OMG - no I KNOW we're in Paradise. I've been handwashing our stuff in salt water then giving a mediocre rinse in fresh water - just doesn't cut it. We brought our laundry back the next day and she washed it, hung it to dry in the tropical sun AND folded it. Had we done it ourselves it would have cost about a hundred dollars for all four loads or a day's work at least for me doing it by hand on shore, or about 150 gallons of water to do it on the boat in the machine. I'm not willing to give up that much water with our water maker crapped out would have been me doing it all by hand ashore. So, I was unbelievably grateful to Alana and her hospitality. She had also said, "Our door is NEVER locked - come and go as you please and use the place as you need." WOW! Sage said, "Mommy, it's so nice that there are still people like them in the world. A dying breed though, huh?" (dying breed? I hope not!!) My sage Sage.

After we left Alana on the first day with the car we headed to the North end of the island to explore. At the NorthWest end are the Talava Arches and the Matapa Chasm. To get to The Talava Arches there is a beautiful hike through the bush and over a jagged limestone path. Good shoes required!! the path was absolutely riddled with a bromeliad-like plant. There's little to no topsoil here and it amazes me how lush this island is. Several of the plants we saw were bromeliad or bromeliad like and their root structure was mixed with a superfine mesh of roots and large, presumably water-seeking appendages. Or maybe the big ones were for structure? I don't know enough about plants to really say, but it looked to me that their root structure was redundant and allowed for some decomposition and soil production. I saw several of these types of plants suspended in the crooks of trees and their root structure was like a peat basket. And it looked like someone had come along and dumped potting soil into the basket. It was crazy! Also on the path were MASSIVE vanilla orchid vines the leaves of which end in a vine whip that grabs stuff and climbs. The leaves are the vines. How crazy is that? These were the biggest vanilla orchids I've ever seen. The trail gave way to an enormous cavern that was full of stalactites and stalagmites (thank goodness there were both because I can't remember which is which...I think "mites" are the ones on the ground and 'tites" are the ones above?) The water is mineral rich and as it seeps and drips through the cavern it leaves behind various colors. In some places it looked like a painter had come through and added color to everything. There were pools of salty water - not sea water - minerally salty water - presumably CaCl? We scrambles in and out of the various interstices and eventually were deposited on a huge coral flat that led out to the ocean and a massive limestone arch. In the coral flat there was a deep fissure with sloping sides where big blennies were fiercely defending their territory. Sage and Lorca hopped in the ocean for a swim but there was good surge and I, being somewhat accident-prone decided to find a nice spot with dead coral to dip and cool off. (it had been a hot, sweaty hike.) After a nice dip we sat at the edge of the cavern and ate a really delicious lunch of french cheese, terrine de sanglier, crackers, and a little sweetie after. YUM!!! While we ate we sat and watch the shenanigans of the blennies, and watched all the juvenile fish doing their thing in the safety of the fissure. I decided that Sage needs to be a professional spelunker when she grows up. She'll of course need a good medical team (mom and dad) on hand just in case her team falls ill or suffers injury and she can write the funding into her her spelunker grant and travel the world studying caves. Good plan, eh? That is only if she doesn't choose the other path I've chosen for her which is a traveling marine biologist. Her lab would be a giant aluminum sailboat that sails to very remote places to study stuff. Once again, she'll need a medical team and boat captain all of which would be taken care of with grant money. (she just looks at us incredulously when we suggest such things so I may have to resort to playing subliminal messages at night while she sleeps.) I coulees have stayed at Talava all day with a good book but we only had a car for two days and we wanted to see other places. We hiked out and when we reached the trailhead a massive coconut was on the ground where it hadn't been previously. YAY! It looked to be the PERFECT drinking COCO. It was SO HEAVY! Lorca managed to get it open and it was FULL of the sweetest coconut water we'd ever tasted. Heaven. When we drank it all up, cracked it open and ate the sweetest young coconut flesh we've ever tasted. The tree from which it came was absolutely laden with perfect drinking nuts so Lorca found a very long stick and began the process of knocking three more down which came home with us.

After all the coconut goodness we took the other path down to the Matapa Chasm. It was a short 5 minute hike down to a really cook chasm with a deep water pool. The sea water flowed in and the mountain water flowed out. The mountain water was really cold and the sea water warm and as such they separated out into layers. The was an intense thermocline! My feet were warm but my upper body was chilly. We hung out there a while and headed back to the car knowing that there was more to see. We hopped on the road and circled the island slowly.

Cyclone Heta hit Niue hard in January 2004 and pummeled the island with Category 5 winds and 100 foot waves that came over the rim of the island and into the police station. Much of the island was destroyed, including the hospital. They've rebuilt quickly and much has been restored but many folks have left the island and their homes are abandoned. It's a little eerie to see these strings of abandoned homes and in the middle of them, a clearly thriving family home with chickens and pigs and laundry out, etc.

At the East side of the island we passed a dirt road that had a sign that said, "Cave." Uh, OK. So we drove down a kind of sketchy road and then hiked down a very bumpy limestone path that had stunning foliage weaving in an out of the limestone rocks and lots of (natural) gargoyle heads at the terminus of the rocks. SO COOL! We ended up at a steep ladder that took us down to the coral flats and boulders of the ocean and off a bit to the side was a really cool cave that would have been even more cool had we brought headlamps and ropes. There were so many caves within the cave and one deep hole that would have been really cool to drop down into with a rope. We explored in awe, particularly me, who, has never seen caves like this. As the sun had been at its descent for a few hours now and our shadows were getting long so we hiked ourselves back to the car somewhat reluctant to leave such a splendid place.

We drove back to Alofi and tried to get some ice cream on the way back but we've not figured out how the hours of places work here. Greatly disappointed and really hungry we went back to the boat and showered (we had tons of bug spray under all the dirt and spider webs etc - there's dengue on the island right now) and ate a quickly prepared dinner of salmon burgers and fresh tomatoes grown on the island. We were all completely exhausted and barely capable of functioning. None of us were talking - we just needed to get clean, eat and relax. After dinner I sat in the cockpit sipping a glass of "Lorca" petit syrah while nibbling a square of dark, french chocolate...incredibly content.

08/04/2012 | g'mommy
I'm sorry you're sick and hope it's soon over, but oh I love to read what you write. And now, yum, the pictures!
UGA! (OOONG-ah) or, Coconut Crab
08/01/2012, Suwarrow, Cook Islands

08/01/2012 | Lorca Rossman
Lola here...This juvenile coconut crab or, in Niuean Language, "UGA" pronounced, "OONG-ah" was trying very hard to be fierce with his very sharp claw. He really only succeeded in being very cute.
Banded Sea Krait #2
07/30/2012, Alofi, Niue

07/31/2012 | g'mommy
Well, they are lovely in their movement. Nice to see, was it a mama and baby?, in a seacave? Maybe there was a family of them in there. Sweet. I see you in wetsuits? Is the water colder there? Back to trusting your judgement. All things considered. Love,
08/01/2012 | Lorca Rossman
HI G'mommy, Lola here. I don't think it was a mommy and baby. Yes, the water and weather is indeed colder here. I am using that big beautiful comforter that you gave us before we left for part of the night. It gets down to the high 60s at night, which, after being in the hotter tropics for so long, seems downright cold to me! Everywhere else we've been it's mid-70s at night and somewhat humid. Unless it rains, it's pretty dry here and fairly cool. It's mostly about 80 in the day and humid but less so. The water is only about 80 and Lorca and Sage get cold really quickly. I get cold too but it doesn't bug me as much so I end up staying in longer in just a bikini and by the time I get back to the boat I'm blue with cold. But it's so worth it. The water clarity here is unbelievable. The kraits are amazing. :)
Banded Sea Krait
07/29/2012, Alofi, Niue

07/29/2012 | g'mommy
I take it back. You're Out of your Bloody Minds! Please to remember, as you tempt fate, the Aussie Alligator guy and the Ray.

Terrific that you can upload videos, though!
07/29/2012 | auntie dote
I love the video. I googled the kraits after you wrote about them. So cool!! Makes me miss my snake, who is on his summer snooze somewhere. Do be careful of the kraits on land, though.
07/30/2012 | Lola
G'mommy, it took THREE HOURS to load. BUt since we're not paying for internet by the hour, we just let it load while we're doing other stuff. I've got another loading now and I'll just keep loading videos until we leave in a week or so. Don't worry about is swimming with Kraits...they're SO DOCILE. I was a little worried it my mistake my finger for a little eel snack tho...I was very interesting in my fingers under the rock, which may not have smelled like eel...but I just wanted to be safe and not have to become well-acquainted with the medical services available on Niue. Dote, got another Krait vid loading now...stay tuned.
08/06/2012 | Neighbor Lewis
Great video guys! I am so jealous of your adventure and looking forward to hearing all the stories when you return.

Regarding the kraits, although I think you are correct that they will not bite you unless really startled, they are quite venomous. I actually reviewed a manuscript about sea krait population structure and population connectivity in New Caledonia a while back. Very cool animals.

Take care

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