Monday, June 01, 2009

Niue - Rock on Polynesia!

Getting There
Getting to Niue might seem difficult, but it is actually rather simple. There is one flight a week on Air New Zealand from Auckland. But what is interesting about the flight is crossing the International Date Line. When I left Auckland at around 10:00 a.m. on Sunday morning I arrived in Niue about 2:30 p.m. on Saturday afternoon. So, it is easy to get here, but rather confusing.



Getting Around
Niue has a main road that goes around the island, through small villages with spectacular views. Because of the 20-40 tourists on the island each week, there isn’t a public transport system. I found, as did my new mate Josh, the best way to get around the island is on a Suzuki motorcycle. In many parts the road is only one lane and quickly changes over to gravel, but the maximum speed limit of 60 kph, makes the uneven roads seem easy. Plus, renting a motorcycle is easy and only requires the purchase of a Niue Drivers License for $11.30 NZD. There are also car options starting at around $45.00 NZD per day. Even a few people use bikes, which are even less expensive to run.


Sunday
Christian worship services seem very important to the people of the country. There are churches in nearly every small village, and the people make the churches quite attractive. Since, I was staying in Alofi, the church bells for the local Presbyterian congregation start ringing at 9:00 a.m. a warning bell chimes at 9:30 a.m. with the service beginning at 10:00 a.m. The service I attended was full of music with most of it being conducted in the native Niuean language.

Oh, and the hats. The cute older women and even a few of the younger ones are well dressed including a hat on the top of the head. I believe that some of them may have even constructed the hat themselves.

Sunday is also a day of rest. The country does not allow swimming, fishing, or diving in the waters on Sunday. Josh and I went on a long walk around and found nothing open and the streets and roads deserted. We did find one place that allowed us to buy some much-needed water to help us through the tropical heat.

Monday
We obtained our Niue drivers license and picked up the motorcycles and headed out. We started by heading north from Alofi to the Palaha Cave near Tuapa Village. After walking down a steep hill we came across what we thought was a small cave. Further exploration revealed a rather large cave that opened up to the ocean. It was massive, stunning, and indescribable.

We continued further north to the Limu Pools for some much needed time in the water. Because Niue is a coral atoll there is very little beach space, but plenty of swimming spots. We got into the clear, blue water and had a look around. The fish were swimming around our toes and it was incredibly relaxing.

Following the pools, we headed back towards Alofi to find some food, which was some great Indian Chicken Moti, yummy and then went south. Our first stop south was near the Tamakautoga Village and the Togulu Sea Track. The old coral in this area makes for a spectacular view of the ocean as well as shallow enough for some great photos of the scenery.

We finished up the journey following the road even further south past one of the farms and to the Hakupu Village. Beyond there the road got a wee bit difficult until we found, but haven’t seen the famous Togo Chasm. We road back to Hakupu and then a short cut across the island on what I believe is the best, smoothest road in the country called the Alofi-Hakupu Road.

Tuesday

Josh and I started the day by moving north towards the Matapa Chasm and Talava Arches on the far northwest side of the island. It was an interesting place, and according to others is even better when you are there during the low tide. We arrived at the peak of high tide, but it was a beautiful spot.

On the ride back, and with a stop for lunch at our favorite Indian restaurant we made it through the Tamkautoga village, Togulu Sea Track and finally to the Avatele village. There were a few really nice spots on the way that we ere able to see some great pools in the coral as well as massive expanses of coral.

We finished the night with a dinner at the Falala La café, and takeaway fish and chips.


Wednesday
The plan on Wednesday was a trip through the middle of the country towards the Togo Chasm, one of the most popular tourist areas. The road across the country finishes in Liku and then it is a few short kilometers down to the Togo Chasm. Along the way we noticed there was a sign for Vaikona Chasm. We decided to try it out and explore this chasm we didn’t hear much about. The beginning of the walk was very nice, then the forest got thicker, almost jungle like. The heat was increasing. Then, strange structures started to rise out of the ground. In the middle of the forest was coral, in amazing shapes, sizes, and colors. Then, the trees started growing downwards, there were vines running up the sides of the coral shapes, and the most interesting tree, with the tall and wide roots was along the trail.

Then, the brush was getting thick. There were plants with splinters, large spiders, small walkways with sharp coral. By this point, we knew very few people ventured to this area, and loved it even more. Several times on the walk, I didn’t know how far we were going to make it, I was bleeding a few different places, it was hot and rainy, and it seemed like we were never going to make it. But after more bush, we arrived. The site is simply remarkable. You could see a large portion of the coast, there were heaps of chasms and the water was slamming the coast with astonishing force. I haven’t seen power like that in ages.

We didn’t end up making it to the Togo Chasm, we were so sweaty, tired, and hungry (we didn’t plan meals very well!). But, it was mind-blowing, nonetheless!

This is one of the best travel days in my life!


Thursday

Josh and I thought it would be good to finally make to the Togo Chasm. The walk was simple compared to the previous day. The leisurely walk to the chasm was nice, and well groomed. There is a clear path, ropes over the difficult parts and even a New Zealand couple on holiday.

The Togo Chasm covers most maps, brochures, and is a place highly recommended by locals and tourists. It is stunning, almost like a Peter Jackson movie. There are tall, sharp coral formations for many meters. The blue water below splash up on the coast, creating an intense scene and sound. We walked around the area a bit and came across a ladder that can be used to descend down to the ‘beach.’ There are few beaches on the island, but a bit of sand never looked so good. Deep between the pointy tops of the coral are a few palm trees, a cave or two, sea snakes and a small pond that seems to reach further in the cut. It is almost like and oasis in the middle of tall, gray and black coral.

After finished the Togo Chasm, we made our way further south to the Vaiea Village, in hope of finding the Fatiau Tuai deserted village. The ride on the motorbike was interesting, with fairly large hills for me as an inexperienced rider, but I made it safely. We never found the actual former village, but found a decent walking trail, more ocean scenes, and some large spiders and complex webs. On the way back up the trail and hill I did manage to fall off the motorcycle for the first time when I hit a rut and lost control, but I was never hurt.

When we arrived at the main road, we made our way to the Avatele Village in hopes of finding the famous Washaway Café and only real beach on the island. When we arrived the café was closed and the rained ruined any beach trek, but it was fun to see some sand.

We finished the day having a late lunch, once again at the Indian Restaurant, and went to dinner.

Friday
Both Josh and I have been rather beat, and have essentially seen the entire island so we decided to return to the Timu pools for a bit of a dip. The high tide was raging and it was difficult to swim or stand up, but the cool water was quite relaxing.

We then stopped at a few small sea walks and beaches we missed on the way out to the pools. After that we went to town to do some shopping. We had to pick up a couple of t-shirts (I never do this, but that is how cool this place is to me) and sent some postcards.

For dinner, we went out with a big group, the woman serving us was also the Acting Preimer of Niue. We pestered her to contact President Obama, but she declined. It is crazy that someone serving you dinner has the power of the government!
Interesting Niue

- Safety belts are not compulsory for cars, but helmets on motorbikes are
- Bikinis and Speedos are not allowed in public
- There is no fishing, diving, or swimming allowed on Sunday
- Niue has a television station with news two times per week, it is presented in Niuean and English (they repeat every story)
- The rugby team is good, despite the small population.
- There is wireless internet provided in the entire country, however I wouldn’t call it very reliable or fast
- There is a yacht club, but no permanent yachts
- I never once locked my room and left the keys in the motorcycle at all times, there is so little crime
- Temperatures range during the year from a high of 27C-30C and lows of 19C-23C
- There isn’t a single ATM on the island and only one bank
- There are 123km (76 miles) of paved roads
- Tipping is not encouraged
- The 1,500 Niueans on the island also have dual citizenship with New Zealand
- There are at least 20,000 Niueans living in New Zealand
- Niueans travel often, are well educated, and are very independent
- Niueans wave at almost everyone on a bike, motorbike, car, or walking when you go past
- There are two languages and nearly everyone is bilingual: Niuean and English
- Chickens are everywhere, even on the golf course
- There is one Reef Shipping boat that arrives per month. It brings everything, food, clothing, vehicles, and fuel
- Four is an important number, phone numbers are four digits, car plate registrations are four digits, and cell phones are four digits.
- According to the listing of services of the hospital, it is possible to get a circumcision for only $100.00


This has been one of the most exciting weeks of my life. While, Niue is so small and remote it provided a wonderful view of the South Pacific. Every time I think about the people who have lived on the island all of their life and struggled through devastating cyclones and economic uncertainty I am in awe of their way of life, their independence and what seems to be pure happiness.

There are heaps more photos on Facebook! Check it out.

Thank you Niue, for giving me an amazing experience I will always remember. Josh, it was great traveling with you. All the Best!
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1 comment:

Markx said...

Hi Nick,
This is one of the better reports on Niue I have read for some time. We are setting up a small modest accomodation unit in Liku and will be advertising it on a page on our website. Can we use your report on that page and there is some good info there. Fully acknowledgesd of course.
Regards
Mark
www.markcross.nu