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Lazy Sunday

We spent most of the day on the boat not doing a lot. I’ve been working my way through building up my movie library which takes time. More folks we knew showed up in the harbor ready for the regatta/rendezvous next week including Inspiration Lady who we first met in the Caribbean.

We went ashore for our evening meal at The Balcony for their Aussie BBQ. We shared our table with Ed and Cornelia from A Cappella and Kerry and Andrew from Mariposa. Later we were joined by Anne, Mike and Jenny from Callisto. Although we didn’t intend to we stayed quite late and polished off a few beers.

Snake Gully

We all headed ashore shortly after 7am. Already at the quay were the folks from Mariposa, Freezing Rain, Trim, Tanaya as well as Anna from Infinity who was celebrating her birthday by taking the dive. They’d all been told to be there by 7am whereas we’d been told 7:30am which turned out to be the correct time. Helen stayed in town to clear us out of Niue as we intend to depart Sunday.

The rest of us were all taken to the dive center in their trucks to be briefed and kitted up. We were then taken, along with the dive outfits dinghies to the sea ramp/crane a mile or so south. On the water we were taken to our first dive close to the Matavai Resort where we stopped for the first time in our rental car. The dive was fairly average. Our maximum depth was 94ft and the highlight was a lot of intricate corals not affected by the cyclone that swept through here a few years back. While on this dive we were accompanied by whale song off in the distance.

After a rest stop we dove on “Snake Gully” which turned out to be a fantastic dive. As expected there were quite a few snakes (kraits really) in and around a gullied area. The kraits are extremely poisonous but have tiny heads and are very docile. They seem unperturbed being stroked or even held. The second part of the dive was to visit a cave and an underwater canyon, both of which were superb. The cave required us to swim into a dark labyrinth reaching an end chamber full of lobsters floating around in the water. As we were in there the sun came out and shone through small gaps in the ceiling – all very cool.

Back on Dignity we treated ourselves to a full English breakfast even though it was now early afternoon. We rested up a couple of hours before Ben and I decided to explore the “Bubble Cave” to our south. We’d had directions to the cave from Jackster and had heard that there were lobsters in the cave and that they may be accessible without dive gear. As it is illegal here to hunt lobsters with scuba gear it did seem tempting (and sporting) to give it a go without.

We dinghied over to the dive mooring balls and tentatively made our way in. We were extremely cautious swimming each underwater section to each surface access. In hindsight none of the stretches were too difficult but one never wants to go beyond half way and run out of breath. It was a little more difficult carrying torches and the spear gun. Towards the back of the cave was a section we could surface in and right at the back in a narrow section were a few lobsters. They were unruffled by our presence until the first took the spear between its eyes. We left it safely on a rock before trying for others. The original cluster had dispersed and were now harder to find. Even as we hunted the swell in the area we were in was picking up. We managed to snag a second lobster before calling it quits as we were being swept in and out of the narrow areas and the sharp coral was starting to leave us a little scratched up. We tucked our torches into our swim shorts and made it back out of the cave with a lobster each.

Later we boiled these two beasties up and ate them with soy sauce and wasabi. We’ve certainly seen bigger lobsters but these were meaty and delicious. As Helen is not a big fan of lobster, Ben and I had most of them. Yum.

We spent the evening aboard Infinity where they were celebrating Anna’s birthday. Infinity is a 120ft ferro cement vessel with a rotating crew of all sorts. They work hard but it looks a lot of fun. They certainly know how to enjoy themselves. This was Helen and my first time aboard but not for Ben. We were given a tour of the boat and were welcomed into the celebrations. For a bit more info on Infinity and what they are about, here is their website.

Today, all three of us plan to dive “The Chimney” nearby and perhaps revisit the “Bubble Cave”. We’ll clean up the boat and leave for Tonga on Sunday morning. We expect it to be a two day sail arriving on Wednesday. Sounds wrong? Perhaps you can work it out.

Niue Caves & Pools

For breakfast we sampled sausages. Since we left Grenada we’ve not seen a decent pork sausage until here. A couple of days ago we bought a couple of packets but have yet to try them. I was keen to find out if they were ok or not so I fried a few up for breakfast. They weren’t the very best but they turned out pretty good and low in fat which was even better.

Overnight there had been a lot of rain and we did wonder if it would be ok to press on with our touring of the island. Realizing the weather was quite changeable we went ashore and gambled on the weather improving as it did the day before.

Our first stop was to drop off our disk drive with one of the chaps we met the day before who worked in one of the stores. He turned out to have a few movies that we didn’t have and we certainly had a few he didn’t so we’d agreed to a swap. He’d even bought a brand new external disk drive to contain what we were bringing. Next we headed down the road to drop off our empty propane tank for a fill. Then we were off touring.

Our first stop was Palaha Cave. It was a short walk from the road before we reached the cave entrance. It looked reasonably impressive but not overwhelming at first. We did see that the cave bent around to the right so we figured we may as well scramble down and take a look. What a sight that presented itself to us. The small beginning opened up into a grand cave with amazing formations of stalagmites, tites and pillars. The other end of the cave was open to the sea.

In many places in the world with higher tourist volumes a cave such as this, if it was accessible at all, would be overlaid with walkways and barriers to keep visitors away from the soft rocks. Presumable due to the low volume of tourists coming to Niue (one flight per week + yachties) we are allowed to walk around and explore unhindered. This makes caves like this a lot of fun and very interesting.

Our next stop was for a swim in Matapa Chasm further up the coast. The chasm leads almost directly out to the sea. It is fed with fresh water that mixes with the sea water. We had brought our facemasks so we could swim and look around. The fresh water entering the chasm was a little chilly. Interestingly the salt water beneath was warmer so we had the odd effect of getting warmer when we dove down. Also, the mixing of the salt and fresh water created a blurred effect when looking through our masks. Diving below into the warm water got below this mixed layer showing the water to be crystal clear.

Without having to move the car our next stop was Talava Arches. This was a bit of a hike over a rough coral path. After our experience from the previous day we decided to wear proper shoes. After about 20 minutes we came to a small entrance in a rock face. It felt a bit like one of those books/movies where one goes through a small cave into a different world. Like the previous cave we were presented with lots of colourful erosion and deposition formations. The initial cave opened into an oasis of vegetation and grandness. Facing the sea there were several large arches. Inland we had cliffs with additional caves to explore. With the tide near its full ebb a large plateau of rock had surfaced upon which we could walk. At one end of this area was a pool with a striking blue colour.

After we’d explored this area we returned to the car. My feet, unused to shoes, were now blistering so as soon as I could I switch my shoes for my flip flops. Back at the car we stopped off at a small bar for some refreshing fruit juice before moving on.

Our next stop was Avaiki Cave near to our first stop. This was another short walk and again a walk through cave. This time the highlight was an amazing still blue pool inside and underneath a large overhang. Here there were many more deposition formations formed by countless years of water dripping through the rocks overhead. There was a hard to find passage that led us round to a balcony over the pool giving us a great look down and around.

By now we were hot, exhausted and ready for another swim. Our next stop was the pools at Limu. Here we met the Mariposas. These are outdoor natural pools with caves and arches into which one can swim. Like before, they were a mixture of fresh and salt water. Unlike before there waters were calm enough to allow the layers to settle in places giving a very unique visual experience. We started at the upper pools which were quite deep in places. Helen didn’t stay too long in the pool after she learned there were snakes in the water. Ben and I had a refreshing swim here. We returned to the lower pools where we’d met Terry and Andrew and swam there too. Being shallower they didn’t seem to be a good habitat for the snakes which allowed Helen to spend more time here.

We’d been promising ourselves Fish and Chips all day so it was now back to Alofi for a late lunch. Fortunately they had some left and soon we were tucking in. There is no cod down here so the fish they use turns out to be yellow fin tuna. All very delicious.

We next checked in on John with our disk drive. He was part of the way through copying and needed a lot more time so we agreed to leave our drive with him for the evening. Next door, in the computer shop, we bumped into John and Jennifer from Ile de Grace who were troubleshooting separate connection issues with each of their laptops. Having figured out similar on our setup I was able to fix both in short time. It’s good to still feel useful from time to time.

We next picked up our propane on the way to the dive operator which ended up being further away than we remembered. We wanted to talk to them about what we could possibly do. The lady there was only able to take our names as possible for Friday or Saturday. There is a dive called snake gully which Ben and I are interested in. Helen is not.

Our last stop was Sails Bar north of town where we relaxed with a couple of beers looking out over the sea hoping to catch sight of whales. The weather closed in and started to rain after a day of pleasant weather. We’d been lucky. They had their own sausage sizzle that night but we decided not to stay as we were tired and still full of fish and chips. We made our way back to the boat and chilled out the evening.

We’ve decided to keep the car one more day as there are still some places to visit on this unique island that we don’t want to miss. It also gives us a chance to visit the morning market on Friday before handing the car back.

Two days in Niue


On Monday morning we woke to see a pod of small dolphins in front of the boat. After pulling ourselves together we dinghied ashore to check in. Niue has the most unique dinghy dock we’ve encountered so far. One pulls up along side the dock and attaches a hook from a dockside crane to a prepared bridle on the dinghy. You exit the dinghy and climb the stairs and use the nearby control to raise the dinghy out of the water, swing the crane around and then lower the dinghy onto a trolley. One then wheels the dinghy over to the dinghy park and leaves it on the ground. Leaving shore entails reversing the same process.

Our first stop was the customs office. There we met Kerry and Andrew from Mariposa, Jenny and and John from Ile de Grace as well as Anne from Infinity who was just leaving. The customs officer was friendly and welcoming which is always such a pleasure.

Our next stop was the immigration office attached to the police station. We met the same crowd as we all had the same need to check into the country. Again, all was friendly and welcoming. Soon we were done and officially in.

We carried on walking south down the road looking for the indian restaurant we’d heard about. We found it before too long. It was not spectacular but it would do. We let them know we would be there the following evening. A short walk further took us to Alofi Car Hire where we booked a car for two days starting Tuesday morning.

Back in town we first visited the yacht club and vowed to return for their full english breakfast. We dropped off our washing at the laundrette then checked out the duty free beer place. We decided to buy a few of each as samplers. We’d heard that it is cheaper to buy here at duty free prices than in Tonga.

Next we went back to the yacht club for a delicious egg, bacon, sausage, beans and toast breakfast with a beer. There we again met the Mariposas with whom we chatted for a while. Before leaving we had an ice cream each.

Next stop were the showers down by the block owned by the yacht club which we have access to as part of our mooring rental. Without a working water maker we can’t have decent showers on the boat so this was a delight.

By the time we were back on the boat it was early afternoon. The internet was now working although outgoing email was a struggle. That was eventually fixed and soon we were playing catch up on everything.

In the evening we went back ashore for the “sausage sizzle” at the Niue Yacht Club. There we met old and new friends and had a good evening.

Tuesday (Helen’s Birthday)

We were ashore by 8:30 and met at the dock to be taken back to the car hire place to complete the minimal paperwork and collect our car.

We first drove south hoping to find the fruit market. We got the wrong place and found it closed anyway. We visited the nearby Matavai resort for it’s excellent views of the coast but were too late for breakfast.

Feeling hungry we headed back north to Alofi to get something to eat. We passed the fruit market and it was closed too. We later found out that if you didn’t get there by 6am you wouldn’t get much anyway. We visited the duty free place and bought duty free beers for the next 2 months leaving them there for later pickup.

We then drove over to the SE corner of the island to visit the chasms. It must be noted that Niue is an uplifted coral atoll. The land is mainly made of coral that formed on the sea bed and has been pushed up cracking in many places forming chasms here and there.

Out first stop was Anapala chasm. From the car park it was a short forest trail followed by 99 steps down into a narrow chasm with fresh water at the bottom. The forest trail was eerie with coral formations poking up through the undergrowth almost looking like ancient ruins. The chasm was really interesting with all sorts of deposits and formations on the walls. The water at the bottom looked deep but narrow. We declined to swim to the other end.

Our next stop was the famous Togo chasm. This was a much longer through forest and then over a very rugged wind swept terrain with vast areas of sharp, spiky coral formations all around. The chasm was entered by descending a long wooden ladder into a sandy oasis. There were watery caves to explore (reminding us a little of the Baths at the BVIs). We climbed over some sharp coral rocks (in our flip flops) to reach another area. Flat sand with palm trees edged by vertical walls of compressed coral forming a canyon with a stagnant pond at the other end. It felt like a lost world.

Our third chasm, Vaikona, was listed on the map but not in our guide. We’d heard that the boys on Bubbles had enjoyed this one. Even though we’d brought shoes we explored this one in our flip flops as we’d done ok so far. This turned out a bit of a mistake. After a pleasant forest trail with the usual coral poking through for the unwary we then had to traverse a long section of sharp corally rocks. It was hard work avoiding cuts on the sharp edges everywhere. Then it became a mixture of dense overgrowth and sharp coral (you get the continuous theme of sharp edges here) which often had us ducking to get through tight spaces. We eventually got to a point where we could look down into a chasm from up above. Pushing on a little further we came to a sign mentioning a cave and to enter at our own risk due to falling rocks. We saw the path continue figuring we’d crossed an ocean at our own risk so could manage this. The path became harder still to traverse eventually opening out near the coast. We made it right up to the east coast where we were treated with an amazing sight of tremendous waves crashing against a very rugged shore. Looking out we could see the same seas we had sailed through to get here and were more than happy to be nestled in a safe bay not going anywhere.

Heading back Helen pushed on ahead keen to get away from the sharp corals which were shredding her flip flops. Ben and I explored the area around the cave sign and found the cave which was really a place where part of the ground had shifted downward leaving a 45 degree gash in the ground. We entered the darkness of the cave crouching as the headroom was pretty low. The gash worked it’s way down to the floor of the chasm we’d seen earlier. Had we been all together we may have push on to the bottom. As it was we felt we had to go and chase Helen.

Good thing we did as we got a little lost on the way back missing a turn ending up in a vast area of, guess what, sharp coral. Helen had also made the wrong turn and we found her looking for the path onwards. Had only one set of us made the wrong turn we may have got badly separated and out of touch. A good lesson learned. We eventually found the right path and were soon heading back. We met the first people/tourists all day – a bunch of young folks on vacation here from NZ. We chatted for a while before wishing them well and headed back to the car.

We made it back to town in time to pick up our beer from the duty free store. Then we picked up our washing and visitied the supermarket to provision. We then drove back to the quay, plonked the dinghy into the water and loaded it up as much we could leaving some beer in the car. We parked the car then headed back to Dignity to unload.

We had a couple of hours rest aboard Dignity before we headed back ashore for dinner. While the place was a little shabby the curries we had were excellent and filled us up. The rotis we ordered for starters were delivered after our main course. Ben and I managed to stuff ours down but Helen saved hers for later.

Back on the boat we settled down to watch a movie. During the movie we heard the sounds of a nearby whale. Looking out we could see a large creature just behind one of the nearby yachts. Hopefully we’ll get to see one in the daylight sometime soon.

The weather continues to be a bit crappy and windy. We have the car for another day and plan to visit some of the sights on the NW side of the island today. Perhaps tomorrow we’ll go diving at the sites nearby. Not sure if Helen will go as there are lots of snakes in the water – not her cup of tea.

A day of rest

That’s mostly how I’d describe the rest of Sunday. On and off naps recovering from the night before, a little reading and some internet struggling. In theory we were supposed to be able to get an internet connection by giving the yacht club a login and password. In practice it didn’t work for us nor any other vessels around. I even tried going over to Trim to try things out there but to no avail. While I was off the boat Ben went for a snorkel and saw a couple of the legendary sea snakes of Niue. On the way back from Trim I popped over to say hello to Kerri and Andrew on Mariposa. Despite the amount of sleep during the day we were all off to bed before 8.

Today we’ll be going ashore to check in and check out the island. We plan on hiring a car tomorrow – perhaps for a couple of days – to explore the chasms.