Have you ever swum in water 16,000 feet deep? It is a strange feeling when you can see 150 feet below you into a pure blue abyss. Then, if you were to continue swimming deeper, you might see some tuna, then some of those ugly fish with snarled teeth that use lights to lure prey in close enough to spring their trap, and below that, maybe a giant squid and then finally the seafloor. We didn’t see anything except a pure blue.
After sailing too fast for three days, we realized we would arrive in Niue on Sunday, and would be forced to stay on our boat until customs opened on Monday. The wind was dead, and the seas were calm, so we dropped the sails and went for a swim.
We arrived early Monday only to realize that it was the queen’s birthday, so customs was closed, and after eight days at sea, we still were not allowed to set foot on land. So be it, we said, and took naps instead.
The next day, we cleared in, rented a car, and headed south down the coast of the island on a narrow, pot hole filled road. We stopped at “Buccaneer Adventure Niue Dive”, and booked two dives for Thursday. Then, we continued around the island to Togo Chasm, a hike that had a 3/3 difficulty rating from the guide book. Perfect. With the maximum elevation on the island a mere 69m, we were not particularly worried.
We arrived and started down the path in the woods. Everything is well marked in Niue, with street signs for restaurants, explanations for historical landmarks, and orange arrows on all the hiking trails. We wandered through dense jungle with jagged rocks that were formed by erosion of reefs that were pushed up from the seafloor by tectonic plate activity. The rocks were black, jagged, and porous, so we hoped neither of us would fall.
Through a clearing in the forest, we saw the ocean. The waves dramatically crashed on the shore, and we could see why Captain Cook called Niue Savage Island when he first arrived. Inhospitable is an understatement. We walked down a narrow path through jagged limestone spires. The path led to a crevice with a wooden ladder descending into a shallow pool, and an oasis on the other side with palm trees and coconuts everywhere. It was the perfect place for a bonfire, and there was evidence that someone else had the same thought.
To the left of the pool, there was an opening in the cracks of the rock. We slid through and entered a cavern with a roar of waves crashing nearby, just out of sight. My dad climbed over the rocks to another part of the cavern, closer to the sea, when a large wave flooded it and nearly knocked him off his feet. I took the safer path to the right and ended up returning to the oasis.
After thoroughly exploring the cavern, we put our shoes back on, climbed back up the wooden ladder and walked along the cliff overlooking the dramatic ocean. We looked down into the cavern we had just explored and see the force of the waves crashing against the jagged cliffs. I jumped across crevices in the rocks to various vantage points off the trail.
Eventually, we walked back to the rental car and continued our adventure around the island. My dad was driving on the left for the first time in his life, so hilariously would drift over to the right when no other cars were around or turn the windshield wipers on instead of the turn signal. We safely made it back to Alofi, the main town, and decided to save the North side of the island for another day.