25 August 2008 | Niue Island
We left Beveridge Reef on a quick overnight (130 miles) passage to the island of Niue. Niue is an independent island nation, in free association with New Zealand. They call it "The Rock" because it is composed of coral limestone and rises steeply out of the water to a height of 200 feet. The interior of the island is the remains of the lagoon (from when the island was an atoll) and is heavily forested.
There are tons of trails and "sea tracks" criss-crossing the island and leading to the island's numerous caves, caverns, chasms, swimming holes and lagoons. All are clearly marked so exploring the island is easy.
There is really only one anchorage, on the west side at the town of Alofi. Anchoring can be a bit problematic but there are 16 mooring balls made available to cruisers by the Niue Yacht Club for a small fee. Getting to shore is a bit of a challenge. There is a large cement wharf, but the surge makes tying up to it an unwise move (the dinghy would be continuously slammed against the concrete). Instead there is a large crane that is used by the locals to launch their fishing boats, and by cruisers to bring their dinghies up on to the wharf.
The process is simple: approach the wharf and off-load children and spouse, then grab the huge iron hook and secure your dinghy's harness to it. Get off the dinghy, scramble up the steps and direct your children to push the lever that runs the huge winch, which slowly lifts the dinghy out of the water. Meanwhile, spouse grabs the "dinghy trolley" and places it under the dinghy as children lower the winch lever so the dinghy lands on the trolley. Disconnect the massive iron hook and wheel your dinghy over to a "parking spot". Return the trolley and hook to their previous positions so they're ready for the next customer. When you want to get the dinghy back in the water simply reverse the process. Sound like a hassle? Not really. Except of course when you return at night, during a full moon and a high tide. Then the swell pounding against the wharf makes for some very exciting maneuvers. But, hey, everything good is worth some effort, right?
And Niue IS good. The island is beautiful and the people are extremely friendly and welcoming. During the time we were there, the Niueans were busy with preparations for the imminent "Pacific Island Forum", a very big deal. It's a gathering of dignitaries from nearly all the South Pacific island nations along with the Prime Ministers of Australia and New Zealand. They meet to discuss issues that affect each of their islands. The theme this year was "Climate Change".
The downside of this gathering for us (and it's all about us) is that there were no available cars or bicycles for rent. The upside was that in order to explore the island we were encouraged by the tourism office to hitchhike our way around the island. Apparently it is very acceptable and safe here. We discovered that we never had to wait very long for a ride (even though there were four of us) and we also got to meet some interesting people that we otherwise wouldn't have. The people giving us rides were so generous, they would stop for us even if it meant they had to go a bit out of their way. They would stop for us if they didn't really have room. One gal was delivering cakes, so when she stopped she asked if we would just hold them on our laps. Very nice.
We had a good time for several days exploring the island during the day and meeting up with the other cruisers in the late afternoon for stories and ice cream. But Tonga was calling...