New to Niue

Mon 22 Sep 2014 19:12
Wow. Wow wow wow. 


We hired a car and went exploring with Et Voila. At the first place we went to (Avaiki caves) we were astounded by the beauty and blown away by the landscape: caves filled with fantastically contorted forms, pillared and vaulted like cathedrals, with galleries and stairways that you could scramble up (and slip down) to get to the higher levels, where you looked out over crystal clear blue pools, leading to a coral pavement out to the reef. The bar was set pretty high, we thought, Niue would have to work hard to live up to this at the other sites around the coast.


But Niue managed it. Each site we visited was just as astounding, but in a different way each time. For example, Limu Pools was the most interesting snorkelling we'd had for a long time. Not because of the fish - of which there were plenty, local variations on the usual customers, but because we were traversing a network of pools, fissures and gullies across the coral platform. Sometimes we had to suck in our bellies to get over the coral to the next one, sometimes we had to follow narrow clefts or go under arches until it opened up into a deep pool again. So beautiful and such fun. I got quite lost now and again, just following my nose underwater, popping up to check where the others were and guessing where we'd come in.

Rock pools with a difference...

The other amazing and fascinating thing was the water clarity. Yes, you know Niue is famous for it's crystal clear water, because the rain water is filtered through the coral so doesn't wash any particles down, but we got to see it in action. It had rained heavily overnight and as we got in the water we were surprised by two things: firstly, it was cold, well, to be exact, the top foot of water was cold and secondly, it was hard to see through, all swirly and splodgy - I wondered if my mask was dirty. But we soon discovered that if you duck dived down below the top layer it was crystal clear as usual. You could actually see the thermocline, I could raise my hands and see exactly where my fingers would feel the cold layer. If we got cold we just stood up for a while so our bodies were in the nice warm water and if there was something we wanted to see clearly we just duck dived down for a while.

But what was going on? Hot water rises, doesn't it? The warm water should be on the surface. The top layer was cold fresh water from the overnight rain that had filtered through the rocks down to the pools. Fresh water being less dense than sea water meant it floated on the top as if flowed out to sea. Such a strange phenomenon to swim in!

The woodlands looked a mixture between someone's rockery and some kind of Star Trek set - we were walking around the eroded remains of coral heads, just like the ones we were used to swimming around, but with plants on!

Near the North of the island we trekked through the woodland to the entrance to another cave network. This led us down to the coast and through to a series of gigantic arches, 

Two of the Talava arches then looking through to one on the coral platform. Durdle Door eat your heart out!

We thought again that we'd seen all the surprises that the island could throw at us; we'd got the gist of it now: amazing caves, coral bommies in the woods, wonderful pools.. but the East coast had us stunned again. The East coast is the windward coast so has most of the erosion. As you climb up out of the bowl that was the lagoon to look down at was the original coral reef it looks like nothing you've ever seen before:


A plain of incredibly tortuous spikes, twenty feet high. The original inhabitants of this island were quite war like. In fact there were two tribes, one in the North one in the South that were always fighting. I dread to think what heinous plans they thought up for disposing of prisoners when they had this landscape to play with. On second thoughts, they probably just ate them.

On the last picture above you can see a gully in the spikes with the tops of palm trees showing. You can also see a wave sploshing up above the height of the cliff. That's where the blow hole is, which leads to a tunnel worn through the rocks and on to a gully,  filled with sand. Coconuts had got washed up in there and started growing, hence the palm trees. A long wooden ladder gave us access and we climbed down then along the tunnel until we were actually inside the blow hole - scary! A circular cavern with a hole in the top and the waves pounding in. If the surf had been high that day the gully would have been flooded, we'd not have been able to go in at all.

Looking down into the gully, the good and sturdy ladder, then Wanda and Theo coming through into the tunnel.

Looking out through the entrance of the blow hole.

So this place is stunning. And so different from the islands we've been to. It's amazing what a bit of plate tectonics and a few thousand years can do to an atoll. As you can see from the pictures, the scenery was astounding, but just as delightful were the trees and plants and butterflies as we walked along the trails. I particularly enjoyed the little lizards, flashing metallic green and copper, darting out of our way. I kept on trying to take a photo, getting picture after picture of 'where-the-lizard-was' until Theo took pity on me and took this snap. Why wouldn't they stay still for me?!