We were fortunate enough to have a good weather window that made our stop in Niue possible. The sole anchorage around the island is on the west coast and it is only attainable in the SE trade winds. We were in a great need of a rest after the challenging 3.5 days sailing from Palmerston. We had experienced gale force winds with up to 4 metre swell.
The island of Niue is one of the world’s smallest states, but the largest block of coral. The aboriginal population was formed of fierce Maori warriors. Captain Cook’s only third attempt to land the island in 1774 was successful. Initially an English Protectorate, then under New Zealand administration, the island subsequently gained its political independence.
Niue is currently inhabited by around 1000 people, some spending part of the year in New Zealand. With strong economic ties to New Zealand, the airport in the capital of Alofi, hosts weekly flights to Auckland. In recent decades the population is becoming scarcer, as many inhabitants moved to New Zealand or Australia. This led to a significant number of abandoned properties, abandoned vehicles and many stray dogs – a pretty desolate picture… Nevertheless the natural beauty of this coral reef in the middle of the Pacific is unmatched.
The islanders are mainly Protestant. They observe with strictness the Sunday service, when all lucrative activity (including fishing) ceases. They expect the least disturbance from touristic activities on Sundays. No swimwear is tolerated around the island, unless on the beach. Whilst in the Society Islands we came across graves in people’s gardens, here there are graves everywhere by the road’ side.
The very specific relief shaped by the force of the ocean, winds and rain makes this island a very interesting stop. Raised higher from the ground that the Pacific attols, the island is home to numerous impressive caves, chasms and other interesting rock formations.
We took advantage of our short stay in Niue to do our usual exploring of the island. We were very impressed with what this small piece of land has to offer, in and out of the water. After many kilometres covered cycling, snorkelling in gin clear waters with sea snakes, and climbing amongst coral rock formations to reach nature’s hidden treasures, we stopped at the poshest hotel for a well deserved pizza and glass of rose.
On our wonderings, with sadness we heard from the locals that a few weeks back an elderly Australian couple was shipwrecked on the reef. They were saved, only with minor reef cuts, but sadly the vessel was lost. Another testament to the fact that cruisers cannot rely solely on the navigation instruments and go to sleep, especially when nearing land. It transpires that this was the ninth boat that found its unhappy ending whilst cruising the Pacific this season.
Sadly our stay in Niue was shorter than what we needed for a proper rest. Only after a few days we had to move onto Tonga in order to take advantage of a good weather window, and avoid the upcoming westerly winds. These would have made the mooring in Niue hazardous.