Niue – an island in the South Pacific between Tonga, Samoa and the Cook Islands
The coast of Niue near the Avaiki CaveAfter three and a half hours flight from Auckland you reach “The Rock”, as the one-island state Niue is also called by the Polynesians. This name is easy to understand on your first explorations. In principle, the island is a huge coral stick that rises up to 50 meters out of the ocean. With its all around steep and fissured coast, into which the high waves of the ocean thunder, Niue seems enormous and impressive. At first the island does not fit into the cliché of a South Sea paradise. One looks for beaches here in vain. Even the access to the sea is only possible in some places and not always easy.
An approx. 60 km long asphalted bumper road leads around the island. Since there is no public transport, an own car is indispensable to explore the island. The locals are by the way not as usual on other islands with 100cc scooters (motorcycles) on the way, but almost exclusively with the car. Large off-road vehicles or pickup trucks are often seen.
When driving around and over Niue, one almost always moves at a height between 20 and 50 metres above the ocean. In principle, one is on a high plateau. Only in very few places, a road leads to a boat ramp directly to the water. On foot, one gets down to the reef via so-called Sea Tracks. Some are easy ways, others lead through caves to some incredibly beautiful bathing places. The access behind our motel was a bit adventurous.
Niue is about three times as big as Rarotonga (Cook Islands) and with about 1500 inhabitants it is anything but overpopulated. In fact, the population is shrinking due to emigration. On Niue one sees many empty or even completely overgrown houses.
The storms that rage in the South Pacific during the rainy season also contribute to this. If they hit an island, the effects are devastating. Cyclone Heta, a stage 5 hurricane, hit the capital Alofi on 1.1.2004 and caused severe damage. Private and public buildings and facilities can only be gradually rebuilt (presumably by a limited labour force).
Agriculture, at least on a large scale, is obviously not very common on Niue. The smaller plantations in the interior of the island are mostly family businesses that sell their produce twice a week very early in the morning. In the supermarket one does not get to buy the delicious tropical fruits. Consequently, one feeds on frozen food, muesli or canned food. And not only as a tourist! Unfortunately, there is not much culinary going on on Niue. In the few restaurants, selected dishes are served at selected times.
The coral reef becomes accessible at low tide
(usually has to be booked in advance), even at the Matavai Resort, the island’s flagship hotel. Some takeaway stalls offer greasy fish and chips. An exception is the Crazy Uga Cafe and the Washaway Bar, where you can enjoy delicious Panini Melts to your stomach between muesli and cupnoodles.
Niue is economically connected to New Zealand, the currency is the New Zealand Dollar (NZ$). There is probably little money earned from tourism on the island. During our visit it was estimated between 20 and 30 holidaymakers. There is a commercial fishing boat and a small fish factory. Consequently Niue is probably completely sponsored.
Once a month a freighter comes to supply the island (food, fuel, cars,…). Currently (November 2005) a 737 lands on Friday morning at Hanan International Airport – Niue Island – airport every four weeks a freighter, once a week a plane – that’s it!
For the locals, life on Niue is actually similar to ours: they work at our usual times; at home or in the cafe you sit at your notebook. On Niue there is in many places (free) internet access via WLAN.
There is no crime here. The friendliness and helpfulness of the locals together with the fantastic nature make for an incomparably beautiful South Sea experience!