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Date: 20 Aug 2012 00:11:33
Title: Caves, Caverns and Chasms - part 2

On Tuesday we hired a car with our friends Chris and Lila, from Privateer. They are from California and sailed here via 8 months in Hawaii and are sailing for an indefinite period of time. They also have bikes so had done what we'd already seen on the west coast, so we were all keen to use the car to get to some of the more out of the way places.

Our first stop was at a kiwi guy called Brandon's house. He is a hydroponics farmer and grows fresh herbs, tomatoes and lettuces. There is a distinct lack of fresh fruit and veg in Niue, so word is spreading quickly around the anchorage of Brandon's hydroponics farm. It was really cool to see what he could grow - Archie has been very inspired and is planning to set up a hydroponics farm in the conservatory of our house in the UK....

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We then headed a bit further round to the east coast to Togo Chasm, which is a deep chasm surrounded on all sides by rock, with crashing waves on one side of it. There's even a few palm trees growing in the chasm. Outside we watched the surf crashing against the rocks and into the cave that fed water into the chasm.

Crazy rock formations created by rainwater erosion on the approach to Togo

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Watching the waves smash against the rocks

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Lila at the top of the ladder into Togo Chasm

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Exploring Togo

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Chris impresses us with his palm tree climbing skills!

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Vaikona Chasm was next - we had all been looking forward to this as it is supposed to be the most amazing site in Niue. In recent years it has become "guided only" due to unstable rocks and the difficulty in entering the chasm. Of course we took no notice of that - we are adventurers and we had a rope! (Plus our out of date Lonely Planet books described exactly how to enter the cave!) After a 45 minute walk through the incredible forest and coral terraces, we finally arrived at a sign by a crack in the rock about 2ft wide. Apparently this was the entrance. There were a couple of ropes already set up to help us get down - it was pretty steep and at one point we had to climb over quite a wide gap between two large rockfaces. I was glad of my rock climbing experience.

The chasm was truly breathtaking and one of the most incredible natural wonders any of us had ever seen. The surrounding walls were 30 meters high, there were giant boulders in the centre of the chasm (presumably from where the roof had fallen in thousands of years ago) and at either end of the chasm were pools of the bluest water we'd ever seen. We scrambled over the slippery boulders, and undressed and got wet. The water was freezing cold - fresh water coming from deep underground that never saw the sun tends to be that way! We'd read in the guidebook that if you swam to the end of the pool, there was an entrance to a whole underground cave system. Chris and Lila had an underwater torch so we donned our snorkelling gear and dived under, swam through under the rock wall and surfaced again in a pitch black cave. The boys explored the walls of the cave underwater, and found the next passage through into the next cave. The girls followed. It was awesome, like something from a movie. The swim through's from one cave weren't that long, but it was a bit scary swimming into the dark towards the beam of a torch, no knowing what to expect when you popped up again. After about 6 swim through's we decided to head back - it was pretty cold and we certainly didn't want to forget the way back out! We found our way back easily and shivered while we ate our lunch, then climbed back out of the chasm and back to the car. It was very memorable and certainly a highlight of Niue. The guidebook describes it as "taking communion in the bowels of the earth" which might be going a bit far, but it was a unique experience, heightening all our senses.

Lila entering Vaikona Chasm

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The dodgy bit - a leap of faith!

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Chris and Archie by the blue waters of Vaikona

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Vaikona Chasm - it really was this blue!

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Underwater swimming into the first cave

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You have been warned!

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We headed round the north of the island and made a quick stop at the supermarket for beer and snacks, before returning to Avaiki Cave (which we had visited a few days before) for a sunset beer and a bit of a campfire. It's been a while since we had a fire - we needed a toasted marshmallow fix! We lit a fire in one of the caves and stayed until the beer ran out. It was a great day, and we really enjoyed spending it with fun likeminded people.

Caves, fire, marshmallows and cold beer :-)

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