Hi Chris,Sarah,Ev,Dean,Jo,Gran and Pa and All,
The water is again crystal clear and we have no trouble seeing the bottom
which is about 20 metres below.There is no beach to speak of but plenty of
rocks and all the information I have read dictates that if the breeze swings
to the west and is a bit menacing you leave.So Alofi is being visited with a
healthy amount of trepidation,particularly after the dramatic rescue of a
yacht just 8 days previous.
A lone Polish/American sailor left it too late to leave the anchorage he was
staying at and I believe lost one anchor.He was held literally by a few
threads left on the rope of his second anchor where it had chaffed through
at the boat,when 3 large Zodiacs came to his aid,from the National
Geographic Cruise Ship (that just happened to be in Port,) responding to his
distress calls.There was not substantial damage to the boat,he lost his
windvane as the stern had hit the rocks by this stage and some other
damage.It doesn't get any closer.He apparently caused the locals a great
deal of anxiety as their fishing fleet is on the other side of the island
and could not have got there in time.Not a popular character in town with
the officials,I guess they don't want there already suspect Port of Call
having it's name further tarnished.
As hinted at in the last story the Alofi dock is an interesting and at times
challenging procedure.We went in the Dinghy to meet a very laid back customs
official whom had walked down from his office,about 500 mts away.He guided
us to the stairs at the shore end of the dock where the waves were surging
in and looked decidedly uninviting.We thought better of this and clambered
up the very large tires along the side of the dock,but it enabled us to get
to shore without getting wet.
The customs official was Maori so I decided to distract him with the latest
result in the rugby where NZ had beaten Aussie.This tactic seemed to work
well and completely distracted him from the official side of his job so our
clearance was plain sailing so to speak,and if it was possible even more
relaxed.So to date no search of the vessel and all that Bacardi is still in
Alofi is the main town on the island and has a total of about twenty shops
that are generally very basic.The population is officially 1200 to 1400
which has something to do with the amount of aid they receive,but the actual
figure is around 800.
We headed off down to the police station to fill out our immigration forms
and were dealt with by a very large lady that took a full sixty seconds to
interpret the simplest of questions and yes her English was fluent-I suspect
it is a lifestyle impediment.We also did meet a very pleasant Niue policeman
(NZ) that tried to get us to immigrate and promised not to book us if we
hired a car.He later saw us wandering on the road and gave us a lift down to
the car rental place,very hospitable.And that was our impression of all the
people here.They all say hello,nearly all waved from their cars and all that
we spoke to were very friendly.Definitely the most pleasant people we have
run into so far,-worth the visit just to meet the people.Probably the most
impressionable experience (positive)of the trip.
We went and saw a local Rugby match the next day,which was at a surprisingly
good standard-particularly in the heat they were playing in.
We had been warned about a change in the weather the next day,so were in a
dilemma as to what to do as it did not seem that it was going to be too
bad-all a result of a low down NZ way heading in our direction.
We came ashore the following morning Sunday 16/7 and were approached by a
fellow that was some sort of consultant for the Niue gov.He noticed we had
come off the dinghy so wanted to know if we had been to Beveridge Reef and
wanted to know all about it,so invited us for a cup of coffee.
We spent a very interesting hour or so with this fellow who is a geological
engineer,amongst other things I suspect.He lives in NZ and was hear to study
the effects of the storm about to come through,though he felt it would by
pass Niue.The last bad storm to go through some years ago saw on some parts
of the island waves in excess of 30 metres coming over the cliffs onto the
land and destroyed quite a lot of houses.
We also discovered that there is a very large deposit of uranium on the
island which is under study by an Australian co just listed on the stock
He also told us that for every 20 births on the island there is only one
male!Something to do with chemical poisoning,I gather from the uranium.So it
was a very informative interlude,but now it was time to get out of Niue
rather reluctantly,but with the approaching weather it was the safest
We returned to the dinghy wharf (and everything else wharf) to find the NW
had blown in quite a slop and was going to make our departure a little more
challenging.The procedure was to lower the dinghy back into the water by
crane,as we had to crane the dinghy out on arrival to avoid damage against
the dock from the swell.
We lowered the dinghy in ok but to now get in it between waves was going to
prove a bit tricky.Nothing really else to do but go for it,which I did and
of course the much needed and greatly appreciated shower we all had that
morning took a bath in salt water.we all eventually got into the dinghy by
whatever means we could,but not without a drenching.Only as it turns out in
just a nick of time as just as we were leaving to head for Tonga The Niue
Yacht club called to say the dock was closed due to surge from the waves.
We left Niue for Tonga about 1.00pm into a fresh NW which very quickly died
out and was the start of the most frustrating and slowest trip we have had
to date.The wind which was very little was from everywhere but mainly dead
ahead and caused us to travel an extra 50nm.The only decent breeze we
finally got was just as we were heading for Vava'u and we had to slow down
to avoid getting in at night.We arrived anyway at just after midnight and
had to sit off the northern end of the island and wait until dawn before we
could proceed in.
The morning of Wednesday 19th/7 we headed into Neiafu,the main town in
Vava'u, a day late but certainly worth the wait.The entance into this island
group was by far the most impressive,with small islands dotte dere and there
through the vast waterways making it a paradise for anyone that enjoys life
on or in the water.We had originally allocated 10 days to spend in Tonga and
it was obviously going to be seriously inadequate,not to mention that
because of all the lost time along the way it was now witteled down to 4
full days plus a day for arrival and a day for departure.What an
injustice!This meant we could not do the middle group or southern which is
the main group.I shall have to come back!
Upon arriving at the main entrance to the waterway that leads to the port of
Neiafu you are surrounded by very small and large islands everywhere,the
occassional beach,limestone caves and very few dwellings.Most of the scenery
is uninhabited and the odd dwelling here and there just adds to the picture.
It took us the best part of two hours to motor down to the port where we
caught up with a NZ delivery skipper that left Nuie 6 hours before us and
like us complained about the terrible trip he had.He proved to be a valuable
source of information for our forth coming crossing to Fiji,which way to go
and more particularly which way not to go and also lent me a chart to
copy,as we did not have one of the actual crossing.
We eventually slipped into the bay where Neiafu is located which is a
terrific expanse of water surrounded by high tropical mountains.We
obviously had come to the right place as there were cruising yachts moored
and anchored everywhere,not to mention the moorings charter yachts.So we
were not alone unlike Niue,but most seem to spend their time on their boats
so we did not get to meet many of the other crew,thus the town apart from
the locals stayed pretty quite.
The thing that stood out here was that most of the businesses were owned by
Aussies,NZs,Yanks or Pommies,particularly if it was related to water or
restaurants.They were everywhere and the tourists seemed to be either
Aussies or NZs.It seemed that the country (at this end anyway) did not
belong to the locals.
The town itself was relatively small,old and not with modern times, except
the proverbial banks.
Ther was not a great deal to do here like islands of the Pacific and one of
the locals was not even able to advise us of the local tourist haunts.So it
was a case of simplt admiring the scenery and again soaking up the ambience
of a tropical paradise with just the right amount of sunshine and just the
right temperature.(Almost sounds like an ad for Qld.)
We hit the pavement,the local fresh produce market,the local restaurant
owned by an Aussie (Typically called the Vava'u Yacht Club,but bears no
relationship to what we call yacht clubs,)(overpriced and over-rated) and
the local internet/cafe.After doing this circuit a few times and battling
with the local customs and immigration who were either at lunch,about to go
to lunch,were not there anyway or were suffering from tropical/lifestyle
syndrome,it was time to move to a different bay and contemplate.
Saturday,afternoon 22/7 we relocated to a very small village in the western
extremities of the island not far from the entrance we had already come
through.The weather seemed to be closing in from the NW so we anchored off a
beach next to a small village and spent a very quite night struggling with
our proposed departure in the morning.We had some very heavy rain overnight
which was the heaviest and most consistent since I had left home,so for me
it made a pleasant change,though it did cool things down.
The morning was clearing,so we were all up early to get the dinghy,now half
full of water,on board and regretably head off for Tonga.
We set course for Late isl about 40 nm off the coast of Vava'u and received
a pleasant farewell over the radio from our NZ skipper friend wishing us a
safe journey to Fiji.He had had some bad luck as he was heading down to the
middle isl group when his water pump blew up and had to return to Neiafu.
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