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Update

News on the injured person from yesterday is not encouraging. I won’t name him but it’s a chap we do know. He’s the boyfriend of a girl who works at one of the whale watching outfits here. We’ve seen him at a lot of the parties and is always energetic. He was up on the crows nest on Infinity when he fell, perhaps 30ft or so, landing on his back on the roof of the boat missing all deck hardware and other protuberances. Ben witnessed the landing as was soon alongside while helping to stabalize him while an on board doctor examined him more closely. There were clear head injuries but he was soon conscious and able to move fingers and toes. They got him ashore strapped to a surf board which was fortunate as the dock they landed on collapsed leaving the shore party in the water and the injured chap floating on the surf board. He is now currently in the hospital. There are medical staff here in Tonga but no specialists and calls have been made for additional help. It’s all very sobering.

From what I heard of the effort to get the patient ashore and my involvement with the individuals coordinating the effort I was very impressed with how they handled the very difficult situation in a less than perfect environment. The crew of Infinity deserve a lot of credit for their response to the wayward antics of one of their guests which could have been tragically worse.

Ben and I are currently ashore enjoying the free internet at the Aquarium Cafe. I have managed to upload a lot of recent photos so if you page back through the last few entries you should see some new pics. The earliest uploaded are those of Ben’s chemistry lesson.

Party time

Can’t say too much about the afternoon as I did get down to some paperwork. Always frustrating on labouriously slow internet connections but I made a fair bit of progress. Ben did some snorkeling under the boat and managed to snag a fish which he tossed back as it was not as big as the ones we have still in the freezer.

In the afternoon Ben and I went ashore to find the local distillery where we’d heard we could get some cheap rum. We did find it and after some samples bought a few bottles.

In the evening we went ashore to eat at the local Chinese. The food was again excellent and we ate perhaps a little too much as we ended up quite bloated. At 8:30 we dinghied over to Infinity as they are here in the harbour and again had a party. Helen and I stayed until 11:30 and Ben brought us back to Dignity before returning to Infinity to finish off his rum.

Around 12:30 we were woken to a call from Infinity for an ambulance to meet them ashore. We don’t know the details yet but there had been an injury, possibly spinal, and they needed assistance. The hospital wouldn’t answer their number but I managed to call one of the local restauranteurs who drove to the hospital. I did manage to confirm the injured party was not Ben and when he called later to confirm he was ok we were fully relieved. I put the person coordinating the evacuation aboard Infinity directly in touch with the local I had contacted and listened in for a little longer in case there was any other help required.

Ben returned in the early hours waking us up with his crashing around in the galley and his loud apologies. We didn’t inquire then into the specifics of the accident but it sounded serious. Hopefully the light of day will show things in a better light.

Today we’re off karting around the island. The Bamboozles are joining us and Helen has decided to come too. Should be fun.

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.

Two days in Niue

Monday

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.

Birthday Hike

I woke around 5:30am before the alarm went off. Looking up through our hatch all I could see was stars so I knew then the hike was on. Shortly before 6am we were all up. We should have got everything ready the night before but we hadn’t so we had a bit of a rush getting hold of boots and socks for the climb.

By 7 we were ashore. John from Sea Mist was there just before us and we had to wait a little bit for Hannah from Wonderland. Soon we were off. Initially the path was gentle but before long we were in the canopy and fighting our way upwards over and under branches that stretch over the path. From time to time we would find a clearing providing stunning views of the reef and islands/motus around us.

It was tiring of course but our efforts were well rewarded. About an hour in Helen and I had to stop. We have not worn shoes for a long time and our boots have been tucked away for a long time. We were getting blisters on our heels which needed attention.

At times the ascent was too steep to climb and ropes had been placed to assist us. That meant our arms were getting a thorough work out too. Some of the ropes were in places where the consequences of a fall didn’t bear too much contemplation.

In under 2 hours we reach the first peak where we rested for a short while taking in the breathtaking views around us and the sight of the narrow ridge over to the next peak. Ben and Hannah left first and the rest of us soon followed. The ridge path was narrow and tricky. The drops either side looked sheer. The vegetation formed much of the path and certainly gave us some sort of safety net should we fall.

We had no mishaps and half an hour later we were at the highest point of our hike. We were hot, sweaty and exhausted but loving the view. The higher peak to our east is too crumbly to be climbable apparently. If it was I’m not sure we’d have had the energy or time to make it. We just contented ourselves with eating our snacks and taking in the views of Bora Bora and the other islands around us. Raiatea and Taha’a were easily visible as was Maupiti.

Soon it was time to make our way down. Not quite down as we had to traverse the ridge and ascend the first peak. After that it was truly down. The ropes we climbed on the way up we abseiled down (kind of). The pressure on our heels was eased as our boots took the pressure of our descent. Shortly after descending the lower peak I had a disastrous occurrence. The glue holding the soles of my boots on had given way sometime in the last year and the pressure of descent tore of my soles. I had to tie them back on with my laces which save my feet but made walking very difficult and resulted in many more slips and falls than I would have done. Where I could I used my arms on the way down to ease the pressure on my boots but I had to keep resetting them.

We all made it down in one piece though. We parted company with John at the bottom. Hannah and Ben, having made it down ahead of us older ones had already had slushies at the snack bar the bottom. Helen and I ordered one as well as plates of salty French Fries which tasted heavenly. We then took Hannah back to Dignity and motored round to the Bora Bora Yacht Club. We had heard that the boat Infinity was having yet another party that night and as they had younger folks aboard this would end Ben’s Birthday perfectly.

Ben dinghied Hannah back to Wonderland once we’d arrived. We spent the rest of the afternoon recovering from our exertions. In the evening we dinghied back to town to the restaurant Saint James for dinner. Back on the boat Helen and I took an early night and left Ben the dinghy to go and enjoy the party. We understand he returned around 1:30.