Sun. May 19th, 2024

By Samuel Strait – April 16, 2024

Looking out of an airplane window at 36,000 feet, Niue does not appear to be much more than a tiny green dot in the middle of nowhere.  Even closer as we prepare to land, the dot doesn’t get much bigger.  It certainly brings home the sheer isolation of the island 1600 miles from Auckland and over 250 miles from the nearest land at American Samoa.  On the ground it’s “plane day” and many of the locals turn out to watch the Air New Zealand Airbus A320 land on Nuie’s 5,000 foot long single runway.  Wondering why that can’t happen at Crescent City’s airport? 

The twice a week flight, dry season, and only a single flight, wet season, is quickly sent through customs and immigration as passengers on the return flight to Auckland wait in the departure lounge just through a glass wall.  Luggage begins to appear and my host is waiting.  Turns out the couple renting the other cottage is there as well.  Rental cars await, as there is no public transportation, parked just beyond the terminal exit.  Randle, my host says I have the green car, payment for the rental is to be made at “Crazy Uga” sometime in the next couple of days.  It’s an “Island kind of thing”, after all where’s a person supposed to go?  The entire constabulary is on hand, good time to rob the island’s only bank?  Then again where are you going to go?

Fifteen minutes later, I’m at the Breeze, a pair of beautifully done up cottages perched on the cliff’s edge looking out over the vast reaches of the blue Pacific Ocean.  Niue hasn’t much of a shore line and only a few access points to the reef at the water’s edge.  Mostly cliffs eighty to ninety feet tall that earned the moniker “Savage Island” when Captain Cook came calling in 1774.  My bags to unpack, a quick jaunt through Uga territory to my private viewing deck, and then into Alofi the Island’s capital for some groceries and dinner.

For the last two weeks I’ve spent most of my time checking out Niue’s chasms, microscopic beaches, and sea tracks to breathtaking view points.  Must not forget the island’s officialdom, got my Niue drivers license, good for a year, paid for my rental at Crazy Uga and had lunch.  Niue has all the basics and not much more.  A stripped down version of the Cook Islands with even fewer choices.  

The locals are very friendly, wave at you when driving by, and drop everything to be helpful if you have a question or need some help.  It is refreshing to go somewhere and not see everyone hovering over a cell phone.  Actual face to face conversations break out where ever you go. The roads are coming on to their biannual refresher, getting ready for most of Nuie’s dry season tourist avalanche.  10,000 to 15,000 visitors per year.  Our local “brain trusts” could learn a few things as to what is important in a place that depends on tourist dollars during the season.

When I left Crescent City most people who asked had never heard of Niue and what would I do there for a whole month.  I can’t say I have had much to worry about in the two weeks since I landed.  Sites to see, sunsets, and star filled skies, for a start, local activities most days and evenings.  The Washaway for Sundays, on church and family day.  Charter fishing, scuba diving in the clearest of ocean waters, biking trails in the plantation country, and chasm crawling and bathing in the freshwater pools once used by the island’s royalty.  Then there’s always “Island time” where your favorite watering hole is closed when it is supposed to be open, an attitude many in the States would have a hard time with.  Yet,  what can compare to plane day and the monthly boat day anywhere else.

Well that’s it for now, time for a swim, a nap, dinner, and a glorious evening sunset.  The weather is great by the way, somewhere in the eighties, rains only at night, and sunny during the day.  What a life.

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