Sunday, July 27, 2008

Jewel of the Pacific

We are enjoying Niue! The clearing in formalities were so simple. The people are very friendly and genuinely happy. The population is now down to about 1500 people. After cyclone Hetta struck in 2004, several thousand residents moved to New Zealand. The devastation is still visible. Complete houses wiped off the cliffs, nothing left but a concrete pad. But they are slowly recovering.
We have joined the yacht club and obtained driver's licenses...not only very colourful but necessary as we intend to rent a car and explore the many caves, chasms, and 'sea tracks' as they call the trails leading down to the edge of the reef. The island is a large, more or less flat, lump of coral and volcanic rock. Beneath it are billions of gallons of fresh water that is pumped up for use by the population. Although a coral reef surrounds the island, there is no lagoon, just very deep water
outside the reef and a shelf up to the edge of the land. Caves have formed from the erosion in the limestone cliffs and the seas boom into them and cast spray high into the air. Small patches of sand are hidden in tiny coves at the edges.
We met Ernie who is in his eighties and came down to the wharf to show us how to operate the crane to lift our dinghy up onto the concrete pad. Then we met Jim and his wife, Mamata, who run an ice cream and beer place at the yacht club. Keith, the Commodore, drove us around and showed us the airport, the jail, the golf course and the school that was all decorated with Canadian flags. It seems the Canadians were very generous with the relief effort after the cyclone and added a section to the school
as well as supplying gear for fishermen.
The currency is NZ dollars and the prices are very refreshing after French Polynesia! Saturday we hiked down some trails to the water for exercise and Sunday we hitchhiked to a small village about 9km down the coast to the 'Washaway' cafe where we sat in the funkiest bar you can imagine with a billion dollar view of the setting sun and ate fish burgers on foccacia bread and drank Spaits NZ beer. We met Willie, the owner, who is also a mechanic and used to run the bakery but gave it to his brother.
He joked about looking up some recipes in the back of some woman's magazine and opening the restaurant. It's a wonderful place and we shared it with a handful of Australians and NZers staying at the only resort down the road and some Germans off a catamaran, plus a couple of locals.
There are humpback whales in the bay. We see them every day and they swim by our boats, sometimes quite close. They come here to have their young, maybe the same whales we saw frolicking in Banderas Bay, Mexico! And yesterday I saw the biggest turtle I've ever seen. It was swimming by the boat and stuck its huge head up to look at us. The depth sounder registers 93 feet below our keel and the bottom is clearly visible, even to the detail of rock formations and little fish swimming around. Apparently
there is no sediment from the island so the water stays clear. No sign of the little venomous sea snakes but we know they are down there!

1 comment:

julie blouin said...

hi there David and Linda
your trip sounds so exciting as well as some hard work
keep up the wonderful writing
it is lovely to visualize what you are up to
take good care
julie blouin