OK, back to my time ashore and learning more about Niue first hand.
SWISS SERENDIPITY & SYNCHRONICITY:
As wonderful as Niue certainly is, one of the best things of all was that I got to explore it with my dear friend and fellow single handed sailor Philip, who is from Zurich Switzerland on his very fast and sleek OutReemer catamaran “Blue Bie”. Philip and I first met when we both sailed into Salenas Ecuador at the same time and were waiting outside the entrance to the marina to go in. We had lunch together while waiting for some of the officials, really hit it off and have been kindred spirits and stayed in close touch with each other ever since. We went our separate ways after leaving Ecuador but found ourselves together again in Polynesia and ended up anchoring near each other in Papeete, Morea, and Bora Bora as we explored that area for a few weeks. Philip decided to go north for the hurricane season so he headed up for Hawaii while I went west to Suvarov and American Samoa and then turned south with stops at Nuku’alofa in the Kingdom of Tonga and a surreal few days (see Oct.2009 LTY blog entry) in Minerva Reef on my way to Whangarei New Zealand.
Philip and I stayed in regular contact via Skype, Twitter, Emails and our blogs, and I knew he had changed his plans from going further north in Canada to heading back to the South Pacific, but I hadn’t been able to reach him for the past month. However when I was able to get online here in Niue I got some of his automated Tweet locations and knew he was heading further south and west through Penrhyn, Fanning and Cook Islands. With my delays for repairs and weather in leaving Whangarei I figured that the serendipity and synchronicity factors were rising for us to meet up again and sure enough, on Thursday afternoon as I was out on the deck working on the boom fitting, I heard Philip’s unmistakable voice and accent on the VHF radio as he called in from off shore with his approach to Niue! Spotting Blue Bie as she rounded the south west corner I jumped into my dingy and went out to welcome him, and his crewmate Loly, to Niue. This is one of the best things about this sailing and cruising life is forming such serendipitous friendships and then synchronistically having our wakes cross as we get to share yet another anchorage and time together.
Philip has a lovely lady from Paris France, Loly, who started crewing with him in Hawaii and the three of us rented a car for the weekend and spent all of it driving around the 65km circumference and inner roads and trekking down the many small pathways down to coastal caves, pools and arches.
The short version is that with the help of a well detailed local map, Philip’s Lonely Planet book, and Loly’s expert navigating, we were able to find these all but hidden trails that led us down to some of the most amazing sights.
Below is a photo album so you can hopefully get some sense of just how magical this place is. You’ll see magnificent limestone arches carved out by the waves, freshwater pools to reward a challenging vertical climb down inside a cave, other world like coastal areas covered in jagged peaks of worn away coral, spectacular stalagmite and stalactite filled caves and just generally nothing but unique and awemazing sights.
Some of the hikes were short and easy with steps, ropes and pathways. Others were much longer and more strenuous as we barely found our way through barely discernable paths hacked through the jungle of growth including lots of overhead roots running down into the ground all around us. We needed to mark our way in with leaves and other markers in order to find our way out, but this one lead us to the underground freshwater cave that Philip and climbed down to and went swimming in to discover some of the other underwater caves below.
We spent all Saturday covering all the points around the south and eastern coasts from Alofi where we are moored and then all day Sunday doing the north and western ones. Two VERY full and fun days and I certainly slept well after each one.
Hope the pictures give you a better sense of what this was like and you may want to fire up Google Earth to fly around and see more that way. In any case do enjoy! We sure did.