Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Course 259 degrees

We are headed to Tonga from Niue – a 250 nautical mile voyage. We departed the rolly mooring field of Niue on our way to Tonga at 0700 on Tuesday morning, September 4. We had waffled about when to leave over the last few days as there is this icky (that's a meteorological term) weather out there – but it was hard to say where and when it would hit exactly. There is some type of convergent zone coming up from New Zealand and it is supposed to cross Tonga / Niue area around Thursday. We didn't want to be sitting in the open of Niue and as the days passed as we were looking for our opportunity to leave – the weather forecast seemed to constantly change. We couldn't leave until Monday as we had not cleared out on Friday and so we would have to wait until Monday. We decided to clear out Monday for a Tuesday departure and take the opportunity to do some snorkeling in Niue on Monday.

Our stay in Niue was great – with the exception of the anchorage. The mooring balls are very sturdy and well-maintained and you do feel secure on them...but the anchorage itself is wide open and the swells do roll in. There were three nights here that were quite uncomfortable for sleeping (or even just being aboard). Luckily, we spent most days ashore exploring – but when aboard – it was hard to get anything done and sleep was almost non-existent on a few nights.

On Saturday morning, we went to one of the villages "Show Day." This is a big event on the island. Each of the 14 villages has a "Show Day" once a year. And the name is perfect for what it is. This is the Niue version of a county fair – where people showcase their handicrafts, vegetables and fruit and show off their talents and sell all kinds of food.

You have to get there early (everything on this island seems to start and end early) – so we left the boat at 0615 and got the dinghy to shore and lifted and headed to the road. The village was about 9 kilometers away so we thought we'd hitchhike. We got picked up by the first car passing who was also headed to the village. He had bought ice to keep the coconuts cold for one of the food booths.

We got there and it was already pretty crowded with people in line for the food booths. Now this isn't breakfast food – it is enormous platters of barbecue, coconut crabs, roti sandwiches, ice cream and cake and all kinds of treats. Some people were selling these giant platters of food for $40 – enough to feed a family!

One area was getting piled high with stalks of bananas, bundles and baskets filled with taro, baskets of eggs, fish, giant clams, chives, papayas...and all types of fruits and vegetables. These are judged and then sold. There was a trailer with two pigs in a cage – we figured they were also going to be judged. But when we asked later "which pig came in first?" we were told that they weren't being judged – they were the first and second prizes in a raffle! When we saw the raffle tickets being sold and asked about the prize and we were told pig, fish, and some other stuff – we thought it was plates of cooked food not a real live pig!

The handicrafts were mostly woven baskets and hats (a Niuen traditional art) and a few hand carved cricket bats as well as some floral arrangements. After many speeches by everyone from the country's prime minister to representatives of the women's group. men's group and youth group - the performances began. Lots of technical issues (even raising the village flag took a long time with some knot re-tying required) caused many delays, but soon a group of girls were dancing, followed by a group of young boys dancing. There is a weird tradition though – as the performances are going on – people from the crowd go to the stage and stick money in the kids clothes (now Michael has seen this type of action before but the women were older and more skantily clad!) There was also a big basket in front of the stage where some folks would put their cash. It was a windy day and at times, there was money flying through the air. The kids would just keep dancing. We asked about it and it is just a tradition and the kids get to keep the money that is given directly to them (mostly from family members) and the money in the basket is split amongst the whole group.

We enjoyed our day at the show and got a ride back from another friendly Niuean.

On Monday, we did our clearing out with immigration and then customs. Customs comes and picks you up in their truck to take you to their office. It was all relatively easy and cost $68 total. We then went for a snorkel to a place called the Limu Pools. We hitchhiked there and a nice old lady picked us up and took us halfway and then some New Zealand tourists took us the rest of the way. The pools are the clearest water we've seen. There is a mix if fresh and salt water – so there is this interesting blurring effect. There are multiple "pools" and the place is really lovely. They have picnic tables, benches, good steps and a cover for shade in the area as well as restrooms and showers. They really do a nice job in Niue at their sights.

We were hoping to see sea snakes – Michael saw one. They are quite venomous but not very aggressive. We enjoyed our water time here – not a ton of fish, but beautiful water, caves, arches and crystal clear water.

We hitched back – but there was less traffic so we walked a bit and then got a ride from a nice lady. Her son was the customs' guy who cleared us in. On an island – everyone is related to everyone!

We got back to the boat and got it ready for passage putting the dinghy up and tying everything down.

Now we are heading to our next country – Tonga.

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