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.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wow, what a ridiculously full day! Time to relax back at the hostel, in the company of many geckos.
The moon is just a sliver in the sky, but crisp and clearly visible in the clean air and lack of light pollution for hundreds of kilometres around. I made the same pasta dinner as last night, with the addition of a tin of mackerel in tomato sauce I picked up at the store, which dominated the flavour.
We walked back to the cove and the car after the sunset. The bakery in Alofi was open pretty late, so we picked up a loaf of coconut bread that Alexa recommended. It was great - thick, flavourful, with lots of coconut! Leaving the bread out overnight didn't seem to cause any problems, but later the next day, the entire loaf was thoroughly permeated with thousands of tiny ants! How did they burrow to the centre of the bread so quickly?
These azure potholes filled with coral, fish, and other marine life seem to be all over Niue.
A serene night is settling in on Niue.
The last glimpse of the sun for the day. I always watch for the green flash!
I always love watching the sun set over the ocean. No matter how many times I see it, it always stops me in my tracks.
The final moments of the day.
The coast in the dusk.
The sun setting over the rocky reef. At lower tide, many calm pools form. From what I can tell, this is typical all around Niue.
With the sun almost gone, the cliffs are no longer glowing. Here's a view of some of the coral in the area.
The cave is such a calming experience at sunset, with the soft light and sounds of the ocean leaking in through the openings.
The ocean as seen through another of the cave's openings.
The sunset as seen from one of the cave openings.
It was really cozy in here. I imagined what it would be like to weather a storm inside (if the waves don't wash the cave out). There is also a large chunk missing from the roof of the cave, but there is no evidence of broken rocks below. Did the waves carry the rubble away? How did this cave and the hole form?
The cave was much bigger inside than it looked! There were perfectly still tidal pools inside, and the echoing sounds of the ocean.
Heading in to the cave. The tallest entrance was pretty low, and we had to duck to get inside it.
One last view of the beautiful coastline before we head into the cave and the sun disappears.
After walking north across the reef, we reached what looked to be a sea cave with multiple openings. I eventually had to put on my reef shoes due to a lot of burrowing sea urchins in the rock here.
View of the coastline softly glowing in the warm sunset.
The light from the setting sun made the cliffs glow softly all around us. It felt like a warm embrace of light.
More of those pretty glowing waves.
The combination of the low sun and the extremely clear water resulted in a display of glassy translucent waves that I have never seen anywhere else.
View out to the reef from the cove. It was just before sunset when we arrived.
On our way back to Alofi, we stopped at Hio Sea Track near Tuapa. It's a beautiful cove accessed via some wooden steps built along the cliffs.
After a nice swim and snorkel, we left the pool as it fell into shadow, as if it were closing for the day. I wonder if there is activity in the pool at night, and if this would be a good place to watch the stars emerge in the dusk.
Much of the reef in the pool was supposedly destroyed by Cyclone Heta a decade ago, and I did see signs of damage when snorkelling. I wonder how beautiful it must have been before. You can see a beautiful angelfish above the urchin is this picture. They always remind me of Finding Nemo.
I always love watching large oceanic birds soaring high overhead. I wonder what kind of birds these are, and where they are headed.
The gently shimmering effects reminded me of some typical tropical-themed screen savers. In this video, you can also see the freshwater spring gushing into the pool.
The second pool with the arch is still a bit choppy as the tide wasn't low enough to disconnect this pool from the waves, but it was still serene and beautiful in the warm light of the lowering sun.
Video and sounds of the first pool. It was very calm and serene being there by ourselves in the evening sun.
I don't think I even need to go snorkelling here - it's like watching an aquarium!
Parts of the pool was so still it was like a mirror, and so clear you can see perfectly clearly to the bottom.
As it is low tide now, the pool is mostly cut off from the ocean waves, and is much calmer than when I first visited it. The clarity of the water is really noticeable when the water is still. This is definitely some of the clearest natural water I have ever seen.
We decided to stop for a swim at Limu Pools in the warming late afternoon sun.
Driving back across to the west side of the island, we noticed many gravestones everywhere. I've noticed this in other parts of Polynesia as well - apparently some use them like survey markers to mark property boundaries. The Toi village hall had another one of those amusing signs - advertising "WOMENS GOSSIP." Well, that sold me! I should stop by and see what the women are gossiping about!
This landscape is typical for the Niuean coastline. You can see the general shape of Niue here - the island is roughly made of two plateaus. The central plateau, rising about 60m above the ocean (the highest point of Niue is a small hill in the north, reaching 69m above sea level), is ringed by a narrow plateau a bit lower. Steep coral cliffs are between the plateaus and the ocean. Plenty of jagged razer-sharp coral rocks jut out all around the island, in what I proclaim to be the worst place for a baby to learn to walk. You can get cut up pretty badly if you  fall anywhere on the island!
The exposed leafy portion of the trail.
Another view of the little depression in the coral rocks that make up this area. May be a nice place to camp out at night!
 This mound had tree roots growing over it and water dripping on it. Although it looked slimy, it felt like a smooth layer or rock. I wonder if the tree roots are still alive, preserved in rock in this way, and how did the roots not crack out of the thin layer of what appeared to be rock as they were growing.
Another view of the natural window down to the ocean.
Other portions of the cave wall appeared to be made up of large chunks of coral compressed together. Looking at the rocks up close, some of the smaller patterns of coral are surprisingly well preserved. There were some stories about evil spirits in this cave, and some rumours that people were living in it. Maybe the stories are related?
large portions of the cave were covered by a thick layer of yellow jelly-like material, which we called "jelly stalactites." What are they made of? Some kind of slime mould?
View of the shoreline to the north. Note the little puff of water mist from the peninsula - we wondered if there was a cool blowhole in the forest there, but were not able to find any trace of it. Ira and Brian also didn't seem to know of any blowholes there. Looking at satellite pictures after the trip, it looks like there may be a channel cut in the rock that concentrates the waves to form puffs of water. It would have been cool to see up close.
View of the coastline through one of the caves. I guess the two thick branches are to prevent people from falling out of the cave? I wonder how sturdy they are.
There were two caves opposite of each other here. In the middle, we were surrounded on all sides by tall coral rocks. It felt quite cozy here! The quality of the video is pretty poor, but just wanted to show you how surrounded by rocks this place is!
After following an overgrown and somewhat hidden trail to the left after coming up the ladder,  we found the caves!
Going back up the ladder. The ladder, although rocking a bit as you climb, felt pretty solid and stable.
Oh! That looks like a cave right above us!
The last ladder leading to the ocean. There was some large boulders and fishing equipment strewn around here. But where's the cave?
We continued our drive north and ended up at Ulupaka Cave in Motu. The Kololi girls brought lunch - we should have thought of that! The hike to Ulupaka Cave was immediately interesting with a varied landscape. The terrain was steep and rocky, with some exposed sections covered in foliage. There were also crude but stable ladders for the steeper sections of the trail.
On the walk back, Alexa collected some of these bright red seeds. She told me that they are edible and will prepare some for us to try. These bright red seeds were pretty common in the Niuean forests, and I remembered seeing our taxi driver in Savai'i with something similar, which I was curious about. She called it something like "poumere," but I can't find the proper name for it. However, in searching online, I've identified this as adenanthera pavonina. The brilliance of these seeds have led to them being used for jewellery in some parts of the world.
OK, leaving the beach for reals now. The arch feels like a magical portal to a different world.
The girls collected a bunch of pretty shells here. They are tempting, but I have a no-souvenir policy for my trips. Maybe I should have collected some for me mom though, she loves the ocean.