Welcome to my personal travel journal! If you don't know me, that's OK! I hope you'll enjoy reading about some of my adventures and misadventures, and hopefully learn something new about a corner of the world.

Recent updates:
2015-10-06: Day 8 of Niue in 2011.
2015-10-05: Day 7 of Niue in 2011.
2015-09-29: Day 6 of Niue in 2011.

For list of trips, see TABLE OF CONTENTS.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Alexa came back after midnight extremely drunk and supported by friends. Apparently Sat. night is a weekly party at the rugby club! I'm glad Alexa got to catch up with her friends... and didn't get nearly this drunk again for the week. The common room was really a great place for us four to share. We had a lot of good chats on those couches over the week we were there.

There were a lot of pretty large geckos around!
The kitchen. You can see the two huge bottles of liquor I bought for the week! My plan was to share with everyone, which I did, but I was still very surprised how much of that I drank in my week here.
The common area at night. I cooked some split pea soup, cabbage, and macaroni for dinner, with the help of some curry powder from the cupboard. I'm glad Brian drove me to Swan & Son Supermarket for supplies yesterday. It was nice to relax in a nice common area after a full day of activities!
The long ride back was very enjoyable, passing through some varied landscapes of grassland, forests, and villages. There were also a few very well-maintained farms. Turns out I can show my plane ticket to purchase duty-free goods at the customs & bond store in Alofi, so Peter (the Samoan builder) drove me there to pick up some alcohol. I got a large bottle of cheap gin and a large bottle of cheap bourbon, and Peter used up my leftover quota. His truck was very "rustic," has a wooden board for a seat, and I could see the road through the floor. Since I had a large bottle of gin, Brian kindly drove around looking for tonic for me, but couldn't find any, so picked me up some lemon & lime bitters. Everyone is so nice on the island so far!
Turning back, I was soon at the junction in the road. Guess I came pretty far out of Alofi - according to the sign, it's 12km away.
I cycled to a village I thought was Toi (but wasn't) before turning back. In retrospect, I had time to continue on to Toi and do a large loop. There are many cool and amusing signs around the island. I though it was great that "piggery" was a word here! Hair cutting and ear piercing ceremonies are an important rite of passage for Niuean children. Niuean boys do not have their hair cut, and as they come of age and become teenagers, there is a ceremony where they have their hair cut for the first time. Girls have their ears pierced when they came of age.
On the lonely road between Hikutavake and Toi. It was quite pleasant to cycle around here.
There really were a lot of abandoned buildings around. Niue's population has been in decline since NZ granted all Niueans NZ citizenship and after a few major cyclones brought mass destruction to the island.
It was still pretty early after Matapa, so I decided to bike around a bit and take a different way back. As I stood by a junction looking at my map, I saw two guys drinking on their porch, so I asked them if there is anything interesting nearby. Apparently, there isn't much. One of them, when finding out I was from Canada, really wanted me to send him these "white cricket balls" he liked from there (he confirmed they are not baseballs). I really don't think I'd find them with that description, but he gave me his address to send them to if I do find them. He told me to address the package to Hon. O. Talafasi. Was he Opili Talafasi, elected to the village seat of Hikutavake (winning with total of 15 votes in the general elections)? Apparently, there was an incident where his son's house was burned down a few weeks ago by the opposition or something like that...
The Chasm. The ambience there was great, with the echo-y sounds of water and the intermittent torrent of water entering from the far end of the chasm. There was an area to sit, where I just enjoyed the ambience for a while before heading back.
I went for a snorkel here, being careful not to get too close to the unpredictably turbulent waters of the far end. The water was amazingly clear, and the cliffs continued down for maybe another 5-10m underwater. There was some coral and fish around. I wonder if it would be possible to climb up the overhanging cliffs and jump in the water!
Figure I'd take a photo of myself since there was no one around to take a photo for me. Later on, a dad and three kids did arrive here for a swim. He is visiting home (apparently his great grandfather arrived in Niue after shipwrecking on the island) from NZ, and also remarked that this was the first place he visited here where someone else was around. Niue really is an undiscovered gem in the Pacific!
The Matapa Chasm. As with many shore areas of Niue, there was a small spring flowing into the water from this end. The water in the chasm slowly ebbed up and down, while white foamy wave break were visible at the other end every once in a while.
Since I still had a good chunk of the day left, I decided to visit Matapa Chasm as well while I am here. Matapa was much closer on a better-maintained trail, and right before the chasm is a giant boulder in the way forming a tiny tunnel.
Quick video of the area. Sorry for the kind of rushed video quality, but hopefully you get the idea of the ambience. Going back, I felt extremely relieved after I exited the cave, and was glad to but some distance between the cave and I in case some monsters came out of it! I enjoyed the long walk back to the start of the trail.
Some of the coral and colourful fish in the gap between the arches.
The second arch (about , across a small channel with coral. I didn't head over since a high tide, the waves reached pretty high, and I hoped that I'd come back and explore this area together with someone else. Interestingly, I noticed that there were even stalactites on the arches. I wonder how this area was formed.
Looking back towards the cave entrance, a few meters up a steep rocky section. I'm not looking forward to going back in there by myself, especially with that huge unstable-looking rock at the top! It really feels like I'm entering a monster's lair looking back at the entrance.
Ok! I'm out of the cave, which is a relief. Outside the cave are two large arches. This is a view of the farther arch though the closer one, which was about 10m tall. I really felt small here since the features were so large - large arches, tall cliffs, and pretty big waves. I quickly stepped through the first arch so that it wouldn't drop any rocks on me!
Finding my way inside the cave near the openings to the ocean and arches. The waves were making a lot of swishing sounds in this portion of the cave.
A pool of clear water it a wet section of the cave.
Before I exit the cave, let's take a closer look at some of the cool formations.
This looks promising! There were some additional caves on the cliffs across the way, but I was too intimidated to explore them my myself. Maybe I'll get a chance to come back with someone.
There was a guide rope tied in the cave, but it wasn't sure if the rope was blocking off a part of the cave or if I was supposed to follow it. There were a few openings through which I can see the ocean waves, so I went towards that, but looked like it led to danger when I got a bit closer, so backtracked. I followed the rope down a steep section and went around it, and found a large opening to flat ground!
Although there were dark portions of the cave, there were openings that let some light in. There's some cool formations in here. THE WEIRD SOUNDS ARE GETTING LOUDER! Branches of the cave must lead to the ocean, as the deep booming, rumbling, and banging sounds were clearly of large waves breaking against the cave. They were really intimidating since I didn't know where they were coming from!
HOLY CRAP WHAT THE HECK IS THIS!? The trail leads to a hole in the rocks with a small sign. If I'm anxious about being in a forest by myself, there is no way I'm going in a dark cave by myself in a strange land! In addition, there's WEIRD SOUNDS COMING FROM THIS GAPING MAW OF A CAVE! You know what, f*** it, I've gone this far, I'm not turning back. Although this was completely unexpected, it turns out caves are the norm in Niue.
With a break in the vegetation, here is a view of the ocean to the northwest, and some vegetation-covered coral rocks. At this point, I'm getting a bit antsy about being alone in the forest is a strange land.
The trail just went on and on and on, but I pressed on. The arches have to be around here somewhere! Another interesting geography fact about Niue: the soils here are very unusual, and contain high levels of mercury and radioactivity. The composition of the soil is similar to very deep seabeds.
I better remember where to go on these minor trail branches. It was both calming and intimidating being here by myself. I really hope I don't get lost and get stuck somewhere with my flip-flops cut up.
The trail was mostly easy to follow and even had three rest areas with simple wood beam benches. I looked back every once in a while and scanned the area since I've been warned that getting lost in Niue is a huge danger. The coral rocks are extremely sharp, and people who have lost the trail have had their shoes completely cut through trying to get across the coral rocks.
Since it was still pretty early, I decided I may as well continue on to Hikutavake where the Matapa Chasm and Talava Arches are. The trailhead for both were at the same place, and since I had time, I decided to do the longer trail to Talava, so off I went into the jungles of Niue.
After a short rest and rinsing off my wound, a nice local gave me some hydrogen peroxide paste that foamed up as I applied it to my wound. It was pretty cool, but later I found out that hydrogen peroxide is no longer recommended for wounds since it promotes scarring. Turns out the person who gave me the medicine is Keith Vial, commodore of the Niue Yacht Club.
The awesome thing about this pool is that it's home to sea snakes! These sea snakes (I think they are sea kraits) are thin and only about half a metre long. They were very curious and followed people around very closely, freaking out one girl there. I got up very close to some - they were so cute with their little rounded heads and the squiggly way they swam around!
Both pools had multiple freshwater springs flowing in. You can see the water flow from one such spring near the crack on the left of this picture. This caused both a very strong and thin thermocline in the pool along with a strong salinity change - cold fresh water was on the bottom, and warm salty water on top. The water was very clear above and below this layer, but everything is strongly distorted in the boundary layer. It was a very interesting effect, like I just woke up with a lot of crap in my eyes where everything looks blurry.
About to go for a snorkel in the second pool! It seemed possible to swim through the arch as the waters there seemed pretty deep, but since it is high tide, it was a bit turbulent and the waves were pounding pretty hard just outside the arch. I didn't want to risk even more injuries so early in to my trip to Niue!
The second pool has a cool arch in it! Speaking of Niuean geography, there also appears to be a popular belief here (at least one sold to visitors) that Niue is wider on the top than the "column" of rock supporting it below. I keep envisioning what would happen if the column snapped and the island just toppled into the ocean.
A small ladder leading down to the second pool. Niue is know as the "rock of Polynesia" as its geography is nearly made up completely of uplifted coral rock, and has only a couple of small sandy beaches. It must have taken a long time for so much coral rock to form.
There were a few people around, and one of them told me that there was another pool at the end of a short rocky trail through some bushes.
Just about to go for a snorkel! While snorkelling, decided to to swim through an underwater tunnel about 5m long into a tiny pool with an opening to the surface. On the way back, I went a bit too high, and kicked the top of the cave when I tried to dive down. It resulted in a pretty deep and bloody gash on my foot.
Niue is know for some of the clearest waters in the world, since it is surrounded by very little sand, so there is nothing to cloud the water. The underwater visibility around Niue ranges from 30m to an astounding 80m. Even standing up here, I can clearly see colourful fish swimming around the pools.
My first real destination - Limu Pools, which are know for their calm waters for snorkelling during low tide. Sadly, it's currently high tide. Still snorkelable, but the waters are not as calm. This is my first glimpse of the waters around Niue - it looks amazingly blue and clear - very inviting!
It was pretty calming cycling around the island, although some villages felt a bit abandoned and eerie. On one stretch, there was an old man with crazy hair, chickens, coconuts, and an old gnarly staff who just stared at me with his mouth gaped open wide. Later I found out he was know as the Moses guy and no one really knows who he is. I tried saying hi a few times over the week, but he just stared back with his mouth open.
There were lots of abandoned buildings around everywhere, including Alofi. In Tuapa, there is a big field where a pack of dogs raced over barking and biting at the bicycle. I just kept going and shouted at them, but was quite frightening. Later I learned this always happens in Tuapa, as Alexa, Brian, and Ira immediately knew what I was talking about. The recommendation is to yell back at them and stand your ground. Some other tourists I met claimed the dogs even attached their car and bit the tires as they were driving by!
A friendly old woman helped us find Stanley, who rented bikes to us for the week. Their one-size-fits-all helmet came nowhere close to fitting my head, so I'll just have to be careful for the week. After picking up some water, I decided I'd continue cycling up north for a quick look around. The first stop of interest is Nukai Peniamina's grave about 5km north of Alofi. Peniamina brought Christianity to Niue in 1846 after being converted in Samoa.
The dock in Alofi. Only one monthly ship serves Niue, so it's a big deal when it arrives! Apparently someone forgot to order beer on the last ship so there's a beer shortage on the island. Happily, the Niueans decided that they can leave the mail off the weekly flight in to make more space for airlifting beer in! I find that hilarious, and I'm glad they made that decision.
The Falefono, the Niuean parliament. Not a big building, but looks pretty nice and modern. I'm going to guess that Niue is probably one of the easiest places to meet the head of a country!
Niue Backpackers, located in downtown Alofi. After a breakfast of toast, NZ marmite, and hazelnut spread, me and the two older ladies went for a walk to look for the bike rental place. One of their names was Marion, but sadly, I don't remember the name of the other. The Niue Yacht Club is also hosted here!