|19:03.27 S 169:55.47 W|
Wednesday, June 30, 2010 (Canadian Time)/ Thursday july 1, 2010 (Niue Time)
We knew we were so far behind the main rally that the festivities in Tonga would be finished before we arrived. Accordingly, we decided to sail to Niue, the smallest country in the world and to explore this unique island. Camomile and Mintaka shared our destination. Fortunately for them, they arrived the day before us and had the opportunity to thoroughly tour the island before the weather curtailed our visit.
Niue is one of the friendliest nations in the world. It is shaped like an inverted bowl with a rim around the edge. It is riddled with caves and it is exciting to find them and to explore. Keith from the Niue Yacht Club was our most genial host. He is a New Zealander , a retired school principal who moved to Niue 6 years ago when Sue, his wife, was offered the job of teaching High School there. He established the Yacht Club, even though he and everyone else on the island has never owned a yacht and there are no actual yachtsmen as members. Visiting yachties can acquire honorary membership. If anyone needs help or a drive to immigration and customs- Keith is there to help.
The sign says it all!
One of our first visits was to the local school (with a retired principal and a retired teacher, this was a given!) Keith wanted to show us that after Cyclone Heta almost destroyed the island a few years ago the Canadian government offered Niue funds for a pavilion outside the school so that assemblies and lunchtimes could be held in comfort. As another contribution, when the fishermen lost their boats and nets, the Canadian government and the Coast Guard sent them funds for new ones. It's nice to know your tax dollars are actually used to help others!
The signpost gives directions and distances to parts of the island where the students live. The pavilion in the background was donated by the Canadian government (note the maple leaves on the pillars).
These children are enjoying "Sausage Day" sponsored by the local police. A very popular use of the Canadian pavilion!
We had hoped to take a tour of the island the next day using the motorbikes employed by Mintaka and Camomile the day after our arrival. However, the evening before the wind shifted to the south and we counted our sleep in minutes that night. We rocked from gunwale to gunwale and up and down for hours. Sadly, we decided to check out of the country before it got worse. However, Keith agreed to give us a three-hour tour of some of the sites on the tourist itinerary before we loosed the mooring lines. What we saw was spectacular- and those were not the premier parts of the island! We will have to see the rest next time around.
Here is a brief record of our day.
Of course caverns and their related structures were the most important part of the tour. Various caves belonged to different social groups in times long past, such as those for the relious leaders, those for kings and those for local officials.
Here Sue and Valerie are admiring the stalactites in the cavern of religious leaders.
Dave is almost lost among the stalactites.
A view of the sea from inside the king's cavern. This cavern has a grotto area where the salt water from the sea meets the fresh water from springs. The place where the two waters meet creates an area of hazy visibility in the water.
One of the most spectacular spots is this one on the north shore where the local people from time immemorial have carried their outrigger canoes up the stairs to store them safely in caves, away from the rage of storms. I don't know how they manage it. The day we were there the seas were like glass because of the southerly winds and even then the waves were crashing in on the coast.
A couple of times we just HAD to stop and take a picture of the local signs. Note the fifth use of the village hall in the first photo.
Pigs are used extensively throughout the South Pacific, especially for feasts. In Niue there is a custom of holding a feast when young boys reach puberty. Up until that time their hair has never been cut. Friend and relatives invited to the haircutting feast are expected to present sizable gifts. They, in turn, expect to receive an equivalent gift at the time of their son's haircutting. However, there is now a problem. After significant events, such as cyclones, when there has been major damage to homes and businesses and there are no longer jobs, many of the people (who hold New Zealand citizenship) emigrate to New Zealand and the father never receives his equivalent gifts!
One of my favourite spots was the Pools on the northwestern coast. Here there are several saltwater pools linked by natural arches. I couldn't resist the opportunity to have a closer experience!
After an all too short visit, it was time to leave Niue- very reluctantly.
This is a photo of the dinghy parking lot ashore. There is no safe landing spot, so a crane has been set up to assist. It is necessary to motor to the steps, let the passengers stagger ashore through the surf; then the skipper attaches the hook from the crane to a 3-point harness and clambers ashore while the crew member operates the lift. Then the dinghy is placed on a trolley and wheeled to a parking spot ashore. In this picture we are lowering CHERUB into the water for the last time. Unfortunately we left the shopping bags on the steps and a surge carried them away! I guess they have gone to join the flagpole (complete with new Canadian flag and Sunbrella cover )we lost in the storm in Bora Bora! We seem to be leaving pieces of ourselves along the way!