All sailboats visiting Palmerston- four in total (three with Bulgarians aboard)- leave at the same time and head west. The wind looks favorable to sail to Niue, some 400 NM away, at least for the first couple of days. We sail together in a group keeping in touch on the VHF radio. Buddy-boating is always great.
After two slow spinnaker days with light east winds, the GRIB files forecast a westerly change. We decide to stop in Beveridge Reef- some 120 NM before Niue, together with S/V Ostrica and S/V Aislando. We want to see this extraordinary place and it’s a good idea to wait inside Beveridge Reef for a few days until the unusual west winds turn from east again.
We arrive in Beveridge Reef in the afternoon on the third day, making sure we enter through the cut in daylight, which means pushing with the engines the last couple of hours. Just before the reef- a stronger puff of wind and our spinnaker “explodes”. It’s an old secondhand sunburned undersized spinnaker we got in an attic in Martinique for 150 EU two years ago. We used it a lot during our Pacific Ocean passage and it hearts to see it all blown to shreds. But it doesn’t hurt as much as if it was a new 10-thousand-dollar sail. Ivo will try to stitch it up, even though repairing it looks impossible to me.
S/V Aislado arrives just a few minutes after sunset, no engines used. We help them navigate the pass by following our track on the AIS, which makes it possible for them to enter the reef in the dark. S/V Aislado might be the only yacht ever who entered Beveridge Reef successfully at night, considering that the reef is not correctly marked on any marine chart. You have to find and download a drawing and waypoints available online, before sailing there. On the electronic charts Beveridge Reef is marked as a splotch two miles away from its actual position, with no pass indicated.
S/V Ostrica decided to wait the night outside the reef and entered the next morning, bringing a big mahi-mahi to share with us.
Beveridge Reef is just a reef in the middle of the ocean- a narrow circular ring of coral and rock, very similar to the atolls we have already visited. The main difference is- there isn’t any islands or land area in the atoll, no sandy beach, not a single palm tree, no birds. And not a single island in a hundred nautical miles radius. The reef is entirely underwater at high tide and at low tide the tips of its upper rocks stick out of the water. In the middle, there is a blue shallow lagoon with sandy bottom, which is an excellent anchorage, and there is only one pass on the west side to enter. The barrier reef protects the lagoon from the waves without stopping the wind and even in storms the lagoon can be a refuge for boats. If seen from the air, it looks like a turquoise flat spot surrounded by deep dark purple ocean.
For five days we are stuck in the reef waiting for east winds, snorkeling in the pass, cleaning the hulls, diving the wreck on the east side, and partying with our new friends in the evenings.
As we exit the reef heading to Niue, a big motor catamaran approaches with a National Geographic team of underwater photographers aboard. They ask for directions to enter through the cut.
Watch the short video we made about Beveridge Reef.
We arrive in Niue in the afternoon on the second day after leaving Beveridge. In the evening, we watch a big lightning storm passing south of us, heading towards the Cooks. The sound of thunders is the last thing you want to hear at sea and we are grateful we arrived on time. The anchorage in Niue is one of the least protected anchorages in the South Pacific, deep and with coral bottom. So yachts have to catch a mooring buoy for 20 dollars a day paid to the famous Niue Yacht Club, and hope for good weather and east winds.
The next morning, the Niue customs and immigration officials come and we check-in right there on the dock in the port of Alofi. This dock is the only way to land ashore in Niue. You have to haul out your dinghy- in our case the kayak- and lift it up with a special crane, otherwise the rough sea and huge tides might damage it.
No time to lose. We don’t want to spend much time and money in Niue as 20 NZ dollars per day is the most we have ever paid for a mooring. Plus, we don’t want to get stuck in bad weather in an unprotected place. We decide to hitchhike instead of renting a car for 55 NZ$ plus 19 NZ$ for a local driver’s license plus gas.
It’s a beautiful sunny day. We are right in front of the Yacht Club in Alofi, Niue’s capital, smiling, our thumbs up. A car going the opposite direction stops suddenly, makes a U-turn, and picks us up. The guy drives us across to the southeast side of the island- 13 kilometers to the village of Hakupu. It’s a narrow winding road and it takes him about 20 minutes. Sitting in the back of the car, we don’t even see his face. He is a middle-aged Polynesian man. At the end, we insist to pay for the gas- it’s a long way away from where he is going. But he refuses politely- he just wants to help us and it’s no trouble for him. “You are visitors and Niue is my home. It is only natural, and the Christian thing to do, to welcome you and help you out. “ Sometimes, a small insignificant event like this can make your day a better day. Sometimes, a nameless faceless person can have a profound effect on your entire life and change you into a better human being.
In one day, we stop a total of 11 different cars. Friendly locals give us free rides to most of the awesome places in Niue and tell us stories of the island, of hurricanes and tsunamis, of sea snakes and sharks, of wars and migrations, and other miraculous events. So this is why we fell in love with Niue. And this is why if you ask us we will tell you that Niue is one of the most beautiful places in the South Pacific with the nicest most welcoming people we have met.
Niue is an island-country of 260 square kilometers with about 1, 500 inhabitants, who are also citizens of New Zealand. It is a self-governing state in a free association with New Zealand and 90 to 95% of the Niuean people born on the island live in New Zealand.
The island’s nickname is “The Rock” as it is one big rock in the middle of the sea, with no barrier reef, no bays, no other islands around. But the word ‘Niue’ means ‘Behold the Coconut’ in the local language.
Niue is one of the world’s largest coral islands, oval in shape, and looks like a turtle floating in the sea. Its terrain consists of a central plateau rising to about 60 meters above sea level and steep limestone cliffs along the coast with many limestone caves and chasms.
From Hakupu village, we walk down the road past lonely graves and giant spider webs, through a forest of palm trees and ferns to the entrance of Togo chasm, located in the Huvalu Forest Conservation Area. Down the narrow treacherous path we reach an alien landscape of razor sharp coral pinnacles. Togo is one of few places on earth where a geological phenomenon like this occurs on such a large scale. A field of spectacular coral towers. The best part is- there is no one else but us.
Next, we get a lift back to Hakupu and to Anapala Chasm on the south-eastern shore. After a short walk through the forest we reach a cave with a small pool of fresh cold spring water, used by local people for drinking since old times- the perfect place to cool down after a hike in the tropical heat. Once again, no other tourists- we are alone.
By noon we are back in Alofi on the western side of the island, heading north to the Tavala Arches, caves, Matapa Chasm, the Limu Rock Pools and the Avaiki swimming cave pools- an exclusive bathing place for the ancient Polynesian kings of Niue.
We spent one unforgettable day in Niue visiting many of its unique caves, chasms and rock pools. We loved the quiet authentic atmosphere of the island- clean and friendly, and very well organized; the fact that there are almost no other tourists there, that all the places of interest are free and open for visitors any time. Definitely a place we would return to.
Niue Photo Gallery
Watch the short video with all the beautiful places we visited in Niue: Sailing, Hitchhiking, Caving, Swimming and Dancing in Niue
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