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.