Written at sea on Thursday, July 26th, 2018...
Here we find ourselves again, rolling down the backs of long swell, making some westward movement in the Pacific to a new people and country. Yesterday, we watched the island of Niue rapidly disappear as quick as it appeared the 10 days before. Our visit to the independent island country was a capstone to our second longest passage this year. We spent eight full days sailing from Bora Bora to Niue, with three days of heavier winds on the front end of the passage— making the entire passage somewhat exhausting. So our landfall on Niue was anticipated with great pleasure… just purely excited to be on land and not moving continuously.
Niue is a low lying island, a coral atoll uplift, covered in jungle vegetation and surrounded with a coastline of limestone caves and magnificent coral structures. There is a 64 km coastal road the encompasses the island, and off of that road lie 44 “sea tracks,” short walks or stair climbs giving access to the ocean and special chasms, beaches and fresh water caves. Niue’s landscape is incredibly unique, and their main income for the 1,100 residents who reside there is tourism. The main town/island center, Alofi, has one cement wharf, with a large public operated crane to lift and lower small fishing boats and dinghies in and out of the water. Just beyond the wharf are (currently) 13 moorings for sailboats passing through, and we were lucky enough to grab one of the last available moorings the evening we arrived.
The water in Niue was unbelievably clear— with regular 200+ feet of visibility. Our mooring ball was in 80 ft of water, and we could clearly define the coral types and shapes below our boat… even standing on the deck and looking down. So, obviously snorkeling and scuba diving were both highlights! We dove several days with Magical Niue, a small company with three Dive Instructors, and decided to complete our Rescue Scuba Diver course through the shop. The three “fun” dives we did prior to the course included some small caves, many underwater chasm structures and one very long swim-through. This time of year, Niue is just starting to see humpback whales arrive to mate and give birth, sadly we did not see any whales or even a single spout while we were around. It is still early in the season, and we are still moving onto Tonga, which supposedly an even higher density of humpbacks, but I think I have a skewed idea of healthy whale populations after being literally surrounded by humpback whales morning, noon and night for the past two summers on Mist Cove. Niue is one of the few places in the world where people can get in the water with humpbacks, as well as Vava’u, Tonga (where we’re headed now), and I told Clif, I’m not leaving Tonga until I can at least get one tiny glimpse on those beautiful large creatures underwater. We’ll see how that goes!
Another highlight in Niue was renting a van with several cruiser friends and touring some of the favorite cave/swim sites of Niue’s coastline. My personal favorite was the Avaiki Cave Bathes; saltwater bathes that were formed at medium to low tide, with over-hanging limestone roofs. Several sections of open caves created different pools to explore and enjoy. We squeezed seven of us into our rental van, and hopped in and out in our swim suits at every “sea track”— one can imagine what that poor van smelled like at the end of the day.
The people of Niue were extremely welcoming and nice. I hitched rides to the grocery store (a 2 mile walk from the wharf) without even throwing my thumb out, just kind people recognizing that I was a cruiser and probably headed in that general direction for provisioning. The grocery store had a great selection for how small the island is— obviously stocked frequently with New Zealand goods and produce. I’ve haven’t seen a larger frozen meat selection since we left the states! We were also given privileges to purchase duty free alcohol, beer and wine, all from New Zealand, so we had out first sips of cheap New Zealand beer, which I’m sure will be more of a staple this winter.
Written later, after our arrival in Vava'u...
We departed out Niue mooring on Wednesday, July 25th, and experienced a very pleasant three day passage to the Vava’u Island Group in Tonga. We spent our first night anchored in an empty anchorage on the north side of the main island, and were treated to whale songs while we snorkeled! The next day we transited into the center of the island group and were shocked at how full of life the islands felt— with new, interesting bird calls, bats, jungle insects— all these new sounds and a totally new landscape. Somewhat akin to Niue, Vava’u has the same limestone uplift, covered in thick jungle.
The check-in at the port in Vava’u instantly forced us to embrace “island time.” Nothing happens too fast here in Tonga, and we’ve heard that being fashionably late isn’t just the norm, it’s an essential part of life.
Our plans are to spend the next several weeks exploring, swimmings and sailing the Vava’u Island Group and then prepare for Clif’s Dad, Rob, to come and join us for our final week. Until then, we will try and take lots of photos, walks lots of beaches and enjoy our slooow Tonga time to the fullest.