A Place Like No Other
Leaving Palmerston Island in our wake we pointed Gadabout west towards an island that couldn’t be more different. A windless three-day, 400-mile motor sail landed us at the island nation of Niue. For the last three months the islands that we had visited were all low atolls or volcanic islands with fringing reefs. Niue, on the other hand, is a steep island with a small, shallow reef that drops off to deep water quickly. Coming into the sheltered area on the west side of the island, we were quite close to the island’s sheer cliff walls when we picked up our mooring. The local Niue Yacht Club, which happens to have not even one yacht to its name, maintains a mooring field of 20 buoys for use by cruisers for a very reasonable price. We motored toward the island and Wags prepared to grab the mooring ball. Seeing the bottom quite clearly, he asked cautiously, “What’s the depth?” After a quick glance at the depth finder I looked over the side as I replied, “Sixty-five feet.” Wow, was this water clear!
Settled on our mooring ball we radioed the Niue officials to schedule our check-in then focused our attention on prepping the dinghy to go ashore and reviewing our plan for securing it once there. Normally this wouldn’t be something we would have to think about but the dinghy parking on Niue is like nowhere else. There is no dinghy dock nor beaches to safely land a dinghy on Niue. Instead, dinghy parking is on the high wharf. Not tied up to the wharf, actually ON the wharf. To go ashore, we pulled the dinghy astride the wharf where a large hook hangs from a gantry crane about six feet above the water. I climbed out of the dinghy, scrambled up the slippery steps onto the wharf and took my place as crane operator while Wags attached the hook to a makeshift harness he had fashioned for the dinghy.
When all was set, I took up the slack as Wags stepped onto the stairs, then hit the “UP” button and raised the dinghy above the level of the wharf. Once high enough we pulled on a large rope to swing the crane in and bring the dinghy over the pavement, at which point we lowered it onto a low metal cart that we used to reposition it to one of the open parking spaces.
Luckily the swell was small when we were working the kinks out of this procedure. In a large swell it would be treacherous at best and impossible at worst to come ashore.
With the dinghy parked we met the Customs and Immigration officials for check-in, a friendly and smooth process that took a mere ten minutes. Legal stuff complete, we walked up a short hill to see what Niue had to offer. With less than 1500 residents, Niue is a self-governing nation in free association with New Zealand. English is widely spoken, which gave us a nice change from our constant struggle to communicate in French. What we found at the top of the hill was the charming little town of Alofi with its friendly residents and even friendlier dogs.
After checking out the town square and grabbing lunch at our first Indian restaurant in months, we headed down the street to the Niue Yacht Club, the “Biggest Little Yacht Club in the World.”
Brian, the NYC manager, helped us secure a rental car for the next day then we headed back to Gadabout to catch up on our sleep.
The following morning, with no paperwork required, we picked up our rental car, a red, white and blue beauty that looked like it might have been the sum of three different cars with a few quirks and lots of interesting noises. We hit the road and quickly discovered where not to park – people bury their dead everywhere, even the side of the road!
Over the next several days we explored a myriad of sea tracks, which are hiking trails leading from the road to the sea and ending in everything from a palm-filled oasis…
…to swimming holes and rock formations…
…to amazing labyrinths of limestone caves.
Every day brought something new in Niue – fun hikes, interesting discoveries, good eats.
Had the weather and timeline permitted we would have stayed on this island for months. As it was, though, there was a weather system moving our way that forced us to cut our stay short and pack as much as possible into our mere five days.
We had to leave a few things on the table, unfortunately, including the snorkeling and diving that we wanted to do. But Niue isn’t going anywhere and we have a feeling we’ll return someday.