|The mooring field in Alofi, Niue.|
Customs and immigration met us the next day and we cleared into Niue without any problems, adding yet another passport stamp to our growing collection. With customs cleared, we were ready to explore and started at the Niue Visitors' Centre where we were able to begin exploring Alofi.
Niue is the world's largest uplifted coral block and is nicknamed "the Rock" for obvious reasons. The entire island is a giant limestone chunk and the shoreline is inundated with caves, some of which are exposed at all times and others are only exposed at low tide. But the first thing I had to do was get myself a Niuean driver's license. Luckily, there was no driving test involved because I was a little intimidated about the possibility of having to not only remember to drive on the "wrong" side of the road, but also to negotiate a manual transmission which would have required me to shift with my left hand. When we got our rental car I was relieved to see that it was an automatic transmission, alleviating at least one of my concerns about driving in Niue.
|Traditional Niuean dancing after our Niuean Feast.|
|The coral reef off the mooring field in Alofi, Niue.|
The next day we picked up our rental car and started touring the island. The weather, however, was not very cooperative as it felt as though we were hiking in a typhoon. While in the Marquesas, Sarah of Kyanos, coined the term "swiking" which describes hiking through torrential downpours (it's actually a combination of swimming + hiking = swiking). We're still waiting to see if Merriam Webster will accept "swiking" into the English nomenclature.
Our first stop was Togo Chasm on the eastern shore of the island. The chasm is located near the shore and it's a relatively short hike through the forest to the beginning of a moon-like terrain complete with limestone pinnacles punctuated with tropical vegetation. Once you get close top the shore, there is a turnoff that leads to a ladder that goes down about 30 feet to the actual chasm. The chasm is a long, narrow track of land that looks somewhat like a beach, complete with sand and coconut trees, with towering limestone walls on either side. We explored the chasm and then headed towards the shore where we climbed through a small cave that opened up to the roaring coast. The tidal surge was immense and at one point I was standing on a limestone block watching the waves crash through an opening in the cave. The only problem was that I misjudged the force of the wave and before I knew it, the wave had raced through the cave and threatened to sweep me away! I quickly looked around me and noticed that there were no hand holds to be found so I hunkered down, expecting the worst. The wave reached me and with a considerable amount of surge, swept past my feet, about half way up my shins (see video above). I turned to look at Richard who was quietly motioning for me to return to the safety of the cave entrance...good advice.
We trekked back to the rental car and headed along the coastal road to our next stop, hoping to find a place to have lunch. At this point it was still raining hard. We arrived at the Tavala Arches and waited in the car for the rain to subside, but this never happened. So we ate our lunch in the car and decided to call it a day and return the next day to visit the natural arches, caves, and snorkeling pools.
|The Tavala Arches at low tide on the northwest coast of Niue.|
|Crystal clear waters in Niue.|
Our next stop were the Limu Pools which are pools of various size cut into the limestone reef with caves that you could swim into and surface on the other side and channels cut into the reef. We spent quite a bit of time here snorkeling and again saw sea snakes, still poisonous, as well as a wide variety of fish.
|Richard and me at the Limu Pools.|
One of the interesting aspects of visiting Niue is how you "land" your dinghy at the dinghy wharf. The dinghy wharf is a concrete structure that is about 15 feet above sea level. Once you arrive at the dinghy wharf, you attach a crane hook to your dinghy via a bridle. There are a set of stairs that you climb and a control box to operate the crane. Once the dinghy is lifted from the water, you swing the crane over the wharf, lower the dinghy, and use the "dinghy spatula" to move your dinghy into a parking space on the wharf. I have to admit that I liked this method of parking the dinghy as you didn't have to worry about incoming or outgoing tides that could either float your dinghy in several feet of water or strand it "miles" from shore. I have added 7-ton crane operator to my resume as I am sure that this newly acquired skill will open numerous employment opportunities should I decide to pursue this line of work in the future.
|The crane at the dinghy wharf.|
On our last day in Niue, we met up with friends at the Washaway Cafe on the southern tip of the island for an "honor system" happy hour. Our friends Heidi and Joe from s/v Huck were there and it was great to catch up with them and make plans to meet up down the road.
We really liked Niue and wished we could have spent a bit more time there but again, the weather looked favorable to make the passage to Tonga so we had to take it. So after a couple of beers at the Washaway Cafe, we piled 6 people into the rental and headed back to our boats where Calico Jack and Osprey each prepped our boats for the passage to Tonga.