Palmerston to Niue

Our passage from Palmerston started off in light airs – we had some fun when a weather trough came through – and we finally slowed down to arrive in Niue early on Friday morning having covered another 400 miles.

Ten miles out we radioed Niue Radio to let them know of our impending arrival and they told us to just pick up a mooring ball as the yacht club would not be manned yet. Listening in to the VHF we were very concerned to hear that Niue was under a tsunami warning from the Mexican earthquake!!! We radioed them back and asked them whether it was considered safe to approach the coast and were told yes, fine, go ahead we’ll let you know if you need to leave. Guess this is not an uncommon event then?!? So we continued to motor towards the anchorage and were worried when we counted masts as it looked like the mooring field was full – thankfully we managed to pick up the very last mooring right at the back of the fleet. Phew.

We got ourselves organised, dink off the bow and completed the paperwork. By now it was getting on for 9.30 so we headed towards the wharf as we had to meet customs at 10. Here in Niue there is nowhere to leave dink in the water – you have to winch him out and park him on the wharf. We got there but didn’t know how it all worked and were thankfully assisted by some other cruisers who had been here for a few days and had got the hang of the system. Was all a bit nerve racking and we both got a bit wet in the surging water – but at least we were ashore.

We sat in the shade and waited for customs and, within minutes, we were cleared. Woo hoo – fastest ever!!! We wandered into town and found a couple of small supermarkets, the tourist office, the Indian Restaurant, and the Niue Yacht Club. We checked into the tourist office – where they take the money for the mooring balls – and continued walking. We did have a look at the Yacht Club but there really isn’t much to say about this scruffy building attached to a backpackers hostel, so we moved quickly on.  Although we appreciate their excellent maintenance of the moorings.   We found a complimentary one-hour’s wifi signal so quickly caught up online while we ate Indian snacks – very very tasty.

Whilst on line we found out about the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma in the British Virgin Islands amongst others….. OMG we were absolutely shell shocked and concerned for friends there as it was our second home for many years prior to going cruising. A special place that we had shared with family and friends onboard charter boats and latterly Morphie. We fired off messages to people we were concerned about reaching out to try and make sure everyone is OK. But the photographs are absolutely terrible….. Heartbroken is the only word to describe how we feel.

Continuing our walk, all the time reeling from the news we had just received, we finally ended up at a cafe overlooking the bay drinking tea and eating cake with beautiful views down to the anchorage below.

Niue is one of the smallest countries and one of the largest raised coral atolls on earth and is affectionately called ‘The Rock’. It is situated 1,500 miles from the closet industrial land mass and, according to their tourist office, is one of the purest untouched environments in the world. Everyone speaks English – their official language – and a type of Maori. Although independent their history is English and they have links to New Zealand – using the New Zealand dollar as their own currency. People are incredibly friendly and everyone waved to us as we walked along. We kept an eye on the anchorage checking for changes in the sea state but knew that we would be informed in enough time to return to Morphie by the huge tsunami sirens dotted along the coast road.

Later on the tsunami warning was lifted – and relax! We returned to Morphie with fresh bread and some reasonably-priced beer from the shipping container that serves as the local liquor store. Much more realistic prices here with 12 cans selling for about £6 and apparently we get 30% off that price when we stock up using our exit papers. New Zealand dollars feel quite familiar with their plastic appearance and the Queen’s portrait on some notes.

Saturday morning the sea was weird…..we were being rolled all over the place on our mooring despite there being absolutely no wind. We looked out and everyone else was getting the same treatment. We headed to the wharf and really struggled to get ashore with the swells lifting us up about four feet at a time. I managed to grab a ladder while Richard brought dink alongside the steps – I got soaked up to my thighs just trying to rescue our bags! The locals thought that the strange motion of the ocean might have been related to the tsunami and earthquake activity in Mexico. What was really interesting too was that apparently all the whales had cleared off just before the warning was issued…..

We parked dink in his space and picked up our small Mazda hire car. Was a very nice change that they actually drive on the left – woo hoo!

We drove north first to the village of Tuapa where there was a local fête going on. We enjoyed watching the (Polynesian-style) dancers and wandered the stalls which were largely selling food and drinks. Madly this whole event had started at 6am.

We ended up with lamb curry for breakfast – having decided not to get a coconut crab killed as they looked uncomfortable enough trussed up – while we sat on the grass watching the performances.

Many members of the audience, largely family members we think, walked up to the performers and stuck money on their bodies or into their clothes, apparently to show their appreciation. We loved seeing the lady judges dressed in their village finery and clearly there had been some sort of vegetable competition earlier in the day judging by the exhibits lying around.

The island map has a number of sea tracks which are paths / hikes down to the sea where there are caves, pools and beaches. We visited Talava Arches first – a moderate to hard trek – and got lost!!!  We went down beneath an overhang of coral on what looked like a path to find ourselves facing the jungle – without a machete we were not going any further! Having been hiking for almost an hour we decided to give up and returned to the adjacent track which took us down to Matapa Chasm. This was an easy track – although probably not my definition of easy LOL – and it was worth the visit.

We then continued across the top of the island before heading down the east coast. But the road is really just a road through the jungle and there is little to be seen apart from the odd glimpse of the sea through the foliage. So we saw very little especially as most villages seemed to be on the west coast.

What we did come across was lots of abandoned homes rotting into the jungle – many in the grounds of newer homes with manicured gardens. We wandered if this was because of superstition?!? In the Bahamas this happens as they believe the spirit continues to live within the house. Possible some might also be due to cyclone damage. But it was a bit strange to drive through virtually abandoned villages….

Along the side of the road there were numerous graves – some new with lots and lots of flowers and some with little pagodas to house them – and others just disappearing into the bush as they have been long forgotten. It would appear that people are buried on their own property as there was no central cemetery.

A bit bored by the road we crossed back across to the west cost and visited the dive shop and made arrangements with them for later this week. We are particularly keen to do some cave diving as the topography here is so interesting. We then continued visiting sea tracks.

Then we stopped at the Oki Oki Mai Clifftop Cafe and Bar where we had a couple of rehydrating cold beers.  The scenery was just spectacular.

Driving back towards Alofi we were surprised to find that the road disappeared as we drove through a working quarry and thought we must have gone wrong but, no, this was still the main road. All very strange!   We did a couple more stops – still no signs of whales from the whale-watching spots – and returned to the wharf as we were now pretty worn out.

We headed back to Morphie and had an early night after a most spectacular sunset. We parked the car in town rather than on the wharf as the supply ship was due to come in on Sunday. It arrived Saturday evening and just meandered around out to sea overnight.

Sunday morning we headed back to the wharf and timed our arrival as the barge moving containers to and from the supply ship was back at the ship. But the winch wouldn’t work!!! Damn…we’ve paid for our car….and might not be able to use it. The guys on the dock felt sorry for us and fiddled with the breakers and, voila, it worked again. We did wonder if they did this deliberately to discourage cruisers from coming ashore and getting in the way…..just a thought…..

Anyway, we walked to the car and were a bit surprised to find it surrounded by red no-parking cones, which had been put out in preparation for the Sunday morning church service. Oops….we quickly drove away back towards the top of the island. We had spoken to others who said the Talava Arches were worth seeing so we decided to give it another try. Well, we found the track, we spotted where we went wrong, and went the other way – actually following an arrow that we have failed miserably to spot the day before! The path was crushed coral through the undergrowth and some large chunks and tree roots to avoid. Then we arrived at a cave-like entrance and I guess this bit is what made the track get it’s ‘hard’ status LOL. Richard took a break as he ended up carrying my bag for me…. what a nice man!   We managed to scramble through up and down and we were rewarded by these fantastic views. What an amazing place!

Leaving Talava Arches we then went to Limu Pools and enjoyed the scenery again….but decided not to get wet.

We then called it a day – decided we were sea tracked out – and headed to the bottom of the island to visit Avatiele Beach and the Washaway Cafe which is one of the few places open on a Sunday. Well the beach wasn’t really a beach….and the cafe was tucked away up the hill without even spectacular views….so our hopes of finding a beach bar suitable for bobbing remained just a dream. We decided not to stop and returned, instead, to the Scenic Matavi Resort. The hotel is a bit utilitarian in style but quite nicely done and we had a lovely fish and chip lunch in their restaurant overlooking the sea.

We returned to Alofi quite late and had a couple of beers while briefly catching up online before returning to Morphie for another quiet night in the cockpit after another stunning Niue sunset.

This morning, Monday, and we were up very early and got ashore just before the ship started to offload its first containers of the day. We headed to the petrol station – got a couple of petrol cans filled up as well as the car – and then found the lady’s house that does laundry. We dropped off a couple of loads and then to the hardware store to drop off our propane tank for filling.  We finished off by doing a quick supermarket sweep and got a few supplies. Headed back to the wharf and were surprised by the sea state – not much wind again – but quite rolly conditions. We took our life into our own hands and got back into dink and returned to Morphie. All by 11 am.

Richard has been making water and doing other boat jobs while I blogged.  Despite the rough sea conditions we have just risked it again to come ashore so that I can get this published. While I’m doing that he is off collecting the laundry and the propane bottle.  Looking forward to doing more exploring and some diving over the next few days….. We’ll probably stay in Niue until Saturday when the weather looks good for our next passage.

Bye for now