There’s no more comforting a thought than arriving at a sheltered anchorage after 9 days at sea. So you can imagine our dismay as we tiredly approached Niue’s picturesque Alofi Harbour… the sun setting and the wind easing behind the protection of the island’s cliffs… only to realise through the binoculars that the moored boats in the distance were rocking crazily from side to side like poorly timed pendulums. With Niue’s lack of barrier reef leaving the ocean swells free to wrap around the island, it looked like we were set to remain uncomfortably at sea even though we would be safely moored. This could explain why Niue has its own Yacht Club (to accommodate passing cruisers), but with no local members or yachts.
So with our dreams of enjoying a glass of wine that stays put on the table and a still night’s sleep in bed dashed, it soon became apparent that if we wanted a break from the continual rocking and rolling of Te Mana we were going to be spending a lot of time exploring on land.
But thankfully as it turns out, Niue is a great place to have to do just that..
The tone was set by the local customs officer who after checking us and a few other boats in (kindly on a Sunday afternoon), then drove us all in the back of his van to the local burger and beer shack by the beach. With Niue having a significant helping hand from NZ, all of a sudden we were speaking Kiwi rather than French and being asked if we’d like ‘chups bru’?
Over the next few days after bidding farewell to Gui and enjoying the comforts of firm ground and coffee shops, the anchorage became overfull with very fancy large yachts (we’d somehow found ourselves amongst the Oyster World Rally – think BMW’s of the sea) as well as the supply ship. Te Mana was definitely looking quaint and undersized. But there is a great smugness that comes with seeing expensive yachts rock just as uncomfortably as your more modest own
The whales didn’t seem fussed by the swell however, and frequently cruised around between the boats. Having your breakfast interrupted by a humpback whale exhaling through its blowhole right behind you in the cockpit is quite something!
With the climate also feeling more Kiwiesque than the lovely warmth we’d become accustomed to in French Polynesia (for the first time onboard we started reaching for long sleeves and a blanket at night – and yes I can hear the sarcastic sympathy coming from those of you currently in Aus/NZ winter), the water activities we usually can’t get enough of suddenly didn’t quite seem so enticing.
But after digging out the wetsuits I’m glad to say we did brave the ‘cold’, as the diving in Niue was amazing. With no sandy lagoon or sediment from run off (Niue really is just a big flat cake of a coral atoll that sits out of the Pacific) the visibility in the water is just stunning. And with coral shelves, rock pools, drop offs, and caves aplenty, there was no shortage of underwater worlds to explore. The absence of inquisitive sharks also seemed to make the freediving a little more relaxing than in the Tuamotus, until we realized we were swimming amongst sea snakes aplenty. Its an odd feeling seeing their strangely beautiful yet creepy black and white stripes wiggle through the water out of the corner of your eye.
We also managed to explore most of the major sites and some of the more remote walks around the (surprisingly large) island with the help of a hire car and some bikes (which made us realize just how deconditioned our legs have become). All the while feeling slightly royal with the return of friendly waving to nearly every local we passed.
Nick’s inner rock climber was also re-awoken by the number of bouldering and deep water solo options available either inside sheltered cathedral-like limestone caves or on the island’s less protected outer coral/rock faces, and he monkeyed his way around happily at any chance he got.
Somehow nearly a week on Niue flew by, and it was time to think about heading further west. So with the forecast looking good we lowered the dingy off the dock with the industrial hoist for the last time (we’ve not come across a dingy dock quite like Niue’s before) and set sail for the Kingdom of Tonga.
Just the two of us onboard again… and hopefully our newly found sea legs too.