A quick fling on the Pacific rock
Six hours - that’s all I had on the island known as the Rock of Polynesia.
When I left New Zealand, I was told six hours would be too long on the island: it is ‘‘just a rock’’ with ‘‘nothing much’’ to do, I was told.
But after a short, sweet taste of what Niue has to offer, one thing is for sure – I want to go back.
Sure, it doesn’t have the golden sandy beaches of the other tourist-swamped Pacific Islands, but there appears to be plenty to do for an adventurous person.
The island, made entirely of porous limestone with no lakes or streams, has more than a dozen caves and scenic walks to explore.
There’s nothing more enjoyable than going for a trek and having a relaxing surprise at the end, whether it be a swimming hole or a rain forest – you have to work for your reward.
My trip to Niue was for work, not pleasure. Driving from the airport to the newly-finished visitor centre, it felt like going through a perfect, spotless movie set. The difference, of course, was that it was real.
From the Crazy Uga Cafe, you can have a drink with the a view of the horizon or head down the nearby Utuko sea track to dip your feet in the crystal-clear water.
I was so tempted to dive in for a swim, only I didn’t have my togs. I had to settle with a place on a rock and watch a couple of large vibrant-blue fish go by.
With a desire to see more, I began to wander and ran into a group of friendly locals.
James Magatogia, who lived in New Zealand for more than 10 years before moving back to his homeland, was eager to praise his country. ‘‘I’ve seen the world and nothing beats Niue,’’ he said.
‘‘You can’t get this lifestyle anywhere else in the world. It’s a simplistic lifestyle with all the modern technologies.
‘‘You are not going to go anywhere else in the world, where everyone knows everyone and it’s safe.’’
Walking into the different shops, giggling women welcomed me and shared their stories.
Fish and chip shop owner Lynette Kavasi was another local who lived in New Zealand for a time. She moved back for her children.
‘‘We thought it was best to bring up our kids in this environment here in Niue,’’ she said.
Only three hours from Auckland, the main visitors on the island are Kiwis and returning Niueans.
But with a population of about 1600 people, and only one weekly Air New Zealand flight, you are pretty much guaranteed to have Niue’s attractions to yourself.
With the help of New Zealand aid funds, the Matavai Resort has been refurbished and 20 ‘‘upmarket rooms’’ have been constructed.
All the new rooms have a view of the ocean, allowing you to enjoy the sunrise in the morning.
The time to leave Niue came quickly.
I heard about opportunities to go diving or snorkelling and see curious marine life, including spinner dolphins. I learned that between July and October, the island is one of only three places in the world you can swim with whales.
It’s now August, I must contact my travel agent.
TIPS FROM THE MAYOR WHO HAS GONE TROPPO
Former Wellington Mayor Mark Blumsky has made Niue his new home. After falling in love with a local, now his wife Pauline, the High Commissioner to Niue has settled in and is set to build a new house.
He’s put together 10 reasons why Kiwis should visit:
1. When diving or snorkelling you can see for yourself why they say that the clarity of water (gin clear water) is some of the best in the world, helps with evading those colourful but harmless sea snakes.
2. Getting the whale to say "cheese" when you are 10 metrEs away underwater trying to take its picture.
3. It’s a tough daily decision, “which of those bath-warm swimming holes will I go to today.” There are more than 30 to choose from.
4. Seeing how many of the dozens of walks and swimming spots I can fit into one day.
5. Having lunch at the Matavai Resort and watching from your seat the whales and dolphins cruising past.
6. Underground exploring in the cave networks is fun, especially if you don’t bump your head on the stalagmites.
7. Swimming with the dolphins, and as my daughter says "evading their poos", while you are holding on to the side of the moving inflatable.
8. Avoiding getting your fingers nipped by a large coconut crab when out hunting those delicious ugas for your dinner.
9. Relaxing with a latte on the deck of the Crazy Uga Café, with a view uninterrupted by mankind, and a sunset designed by God .
10. Not getting grumpy, when on those very rare occasions, you bump into another tourist on one of the beautiful totally natural seasid tracks.