giovedì 15 ottobre 2015

Uziwaonboard Discovering Niue Island

Learning the geography of the Pacific is a new discovery everyday. Islands just grow on our charts like mushrooms in the woods. We left Mopelia on a non-wind condition and motored for two days in direction of Palmerston. The most southern island of the Cook archipelago, where apparently a man saw his dream place and brought there 3 wives and had dozens of kids. For the ones who sail west, it's a nice stop over, that can be chosen also after Suvarov, another island a few miles north. Also that one has a nice story of a man that decided to live there alone and wrote a book that inspired lots of sailors to arrive there.

It was only after 24h navigation that we realized we couldn't make it. The wind started to blow over 30kts and even if LJ was proceeding between 12 and 14, the feeling was to be into a washing machine. The girls on board were doing well though the noise of the sea, the drop of temperature and the waves that were making navigation quite tricky. We tried to push hard the boat but approaching the island at night was not on our plan so, we rapidly set up a new route and calculated that with this kind of weather maybe we could push LJ over his record of miles made in 24h. So we headed directly to Niue with full sails in bad weather. LJ was pushed really hard and we were staying all the time close to the pilot to correct in case of stronger wind. At the end we made it on time. 255Nm in 24h, the record of the boat. Welcome to LJ at Niue, one of the smallest countries of the world and at the same time the biggest coral block in the world. Even if it's independent, Niue has very close bounds with New Zealand: for example their currency is the NZ dollar. All the crew was extremely happy to be on a buoy after being bumped by the agitated sea and the consequent big stress. The first inhabitant of the island to welcomes us was a big sea snake, than the dolphins and apparently we also had few whales close our boat by the sunset. Although we didn't even realize it because we were already asleep.

After a mighty night of sweet dreams we filled our empty and needing stomachs with a rich breakfast: Alice and Mme Nicole were so hungry that they decided it was omelet time!! We all definitely needed a good meal after a 5 days and 5 nights of bumpy navigation. With our belly full of good stuff and the smile on our faces we went to discover this totally unknown island and what we found is another little corner of paradise. People smiling and slowing down to say hello even from their cars (that they drive on the right, God save the Queen!), green and variegate vegetation, one fantastic supermarket with local and western products (TWININGS!!), gorgeous natural caves and pools and even a fancy Indian restaurant!

Meeting people from the Pacific Islands makes you really feel like something in western countries went really wrong. We eventually find ourselves once again amazed and astonished at the same time, because here people are not scared of you and you can feel safe as never before. But there is more than a safety issue here: people have different needs than in Europe, or we can better say that they have needs that can be satisfied completely and that's it. I feel like we are trapped in a vicious circuit after which we have always more needs that create further needs. So we never reach a total satisfaction. Here life has different rhythms and, above all, totally different priorities. We are honored to learn and happy to share what we discover.

It's only after the sunset of our second day in Niue that we have finally the chance to meet the “sacred” treasure of this place: the humpback whales of Niue. Every year they come from the cold Antarctica and go to the warmer waters of Mexico, French Polynesia, Cook Islands,Tonga to breed and raise their calf. Here in Niue these mysterious mammals are not only respected, but also jealously protected. They came really close to the boats in the wharf, we could hear their blows when they came up to breathe. In the middle of the night I woke Alice up and together we were pleased to hear them singing! This was a very good signal for us, because when we woke up in the morning here they are!!! Two blows on the horizon but not far from the boat and two big tails diving in the water. With no hesitation, all the 4 of us jumped on the dinghy and went to meet these gorgeous creatures. We still didn't know that what we were doing was totally unlawful and the risk was a 5000 dollars fine or 18 months of imprisonment!! It seems crazy, but it's the LAW!!! In Niue you are not allowed to do whale watching activities without a licensed operator. So we took advantage of our ignorance and, following our exploding enthusiasm, Alice and I took the kayak and paddled towards the whales after lunch. All day long they stayed in the bay right in front of the boats and jumped, played, breached, made so many things to show off that even Hugo, the Niue diver instructor, was astonished and didn't believe his own eyes! We lived the most exciting day of Niue whale season! So far so good! Our enthusiasm cannot find limits. Mme decides to make me an early birthday present and gives me a whale swimming day trip, but it's a very risky and hazardous one. The Niue Dive Center asks 150 for an interaction with humpbacks, but if they don't show up or if there's a mother with a calf you cannot jump in the water and swim with them and the center doesn't refund a cent of what you pay. So, of course, we take the risk and on a chilly, cloudy morning we leave the bay with Hugo and his beautiful girlfriend Maria and go to sniff some whales. After one our with no signs of them, even our enthusiasm dropped a little bit., but at least we got to know very nice and interesting people. Right when we were starting making a hot chocolate to warm our bodies, here they are! Very close to our boat, 2 blows indicated their position. We got a bit closer (not too much, it's the law) and only when the instructors were in the water we could gently slip inside as well. The adrenaline was powerful and I swam faster than the instructors. Suddenly something happened: the young male we were all staring at in front of us turned around and, like a curious dog, came straight to us as if he really wanted to see what these creatures were. Everybody pulled back, even the instructors were disoriented and told us to go back to the boat. But our little new friend was just curious and was already taking his path far from us. Everybody was so excited! The second time we can jump in the water we meet two big adult females and it's so wonderful to see them play around, flip upside down and dive together that it seemed still a dream. After few good shot with the whales, we still have time to snorkel on a well protected reef and spot even some sea snake, a group of barracuda and a very curious turtle.

So I really have to thank Mme Nicole for the perfect birthday present that I'll surely never forget. Before to get back on board, I felt my beautiful girlfriend staring at me with the chicken killer look, so took her to eat a lamb curry with a coke to celebrate the day!!!

What else could we ask to this place?