Before we arrive at any port, we peruse our guidebooks to get an idea of what we are getting ourselves into. One particular sailing resource, Noonsite, provides a report on crime in an area. Andrew laughs because Noonsite will report a washcloth lost off deck as a potential theft. For Niue, Noonsite’s report on crime: “none.” Upon reaching the warf, we walk by a line of parked cars each with their windows rolled down, keys in the ignition, ladies’ purses left alone on the seats.
We arrive at Niue Yacht Club to check in and confirm our use of the mooring. Inside, we meet a smiling Polynesian face. The woman behind the counter greets us and offers us a drink from the “honesty fridge”. Take any beverage you want: sodas, juice, bubble water, beer or even wine, then put money into a little cup on the countertop. Sailors are a superstitious lot, and stealing beer from a yacht club has to top the list of affronts to the sailing fates. I note they do not offer rum, though. I have to think stealing rum is a time honored pirate tradition.
I help myself to a soda and begin making calls to various dive shops to check prices. Not only can you scuba dive here, but apparently, you can swim with whales and dolphins! What the heck, it’s Phil’s 40th Birthday so we may as well sign up for…everything. (So much for a better budget month.)
Next, we head to what must be the most scenic mini golf course in the world. Overlooking the anchorage, the cafe has tables, umbrellas, and a perfect view of the coast stretching North. Freshly made cakes line up in a glass case, looking irresistible. They offer the usual menu of coffees, smoothies, and during happy hour, beer and wine. We have heard they rent bicycles for a good weekly rate, and we need some wheels to get around. We gather up our bicycles (with helmets!) and go to pay.
“Do you have a lock for these bikes?” Andrew asks.
The woman behind the counter says: “Oh, they are attached to the bike.” Andrew and I look back at the bike. The only thing attached is a little tire pump to help us if we get a flat.
“A lock? I don’t see one.” I respond.
The woman scowls, leans her head out of the window and points at the pump.
“No, no, a lock,” I requests again. “You know, to make sure it doesn’t get stolen.”
The lady turns and asks the cafe’s owner if they have locks. The owner laughs, “oh no, we don’t do that here.” Do what? “Lock things up. It will be fine.”
Andrew and I look at each other, uncertain. “Okay,” we say. As we pedal off we laugh. “I feel like we are inside that movie, The Invention of Lying.” I say. (It’s a Ricky Gervais comedy all about the first man to tell a lie in a society of people who had never lied before.) We park our bikes under a pergola near the wharf, dangle our helmets from the handlebars and hope for the best.
Like most of Polynesia, the Niueans are a religious bunch. No swimming on Sunday, and everything shuts down for church. But, when it comes to dancing, they are ready to go. They love the club music just as much as their traditional island music. I’m not sure what the song is really called, but the lyrics talk about the singer’s “picky girlfriend.” Everywhere we go, we hear “Picky, picky, picky, picky, picky, my girlfriend’s picky, picky, picky, picky, picky!” blaring from vehicles, boomboxes by the beach or front yard patios.
When we learned of a local festival taking place, we figured we would head over and see some dancing. Grabbing our trusty bicycles (still reliably in place), we pedaled up the hill and over to a large grass “football” field. There, we found a series of tents selling food, handicrafts and juices filled with fruit chunks - is it fruit salad? Is it a beverage? It’s both. A line of women with the longest Polynesian hair we have found yet dance in the center of the square. We sit in the grass and watch the show. One by one, locals approach the dancers mid-dance and fuss with their costumes. What are they doing? Watching closer, we see that the locals are shoving money into the dancers’ tops and skirts. This is an interesting addition to the culture we have not yet experienced.
Little kids are up next, and they dance in a large group to an ultra hip club beat. A solo dancer of about eight years performs a lip sync and dance routine. More money down the shirts!
Soon, the village’s more refined ladies provide a fashion show. Yep - money down the shirts. Who knew? I would also love to know the story behind the local man donning a kilt and a traditional Polynesian floral print shirt. He must be the town paparazzi.
At the close of the fashion show, an announcer began reading names of winners of the dancing competition, the fashion show, and possibly the competition for who could grow the largest vegetables. “First Prize: A basket of Uga! (pronounced “ooonga,” the island’s giant coconut crab.) Second Prize: A box of chicken! Third Prize: $150 dollars!” The announcement is made with gusto. I guess we know where their priorities lie.
One night, the entire anchorage of sailors headed to a Niuean buffet dinner and cultural show at Jennas. This is a true family run restaurant with the first generation leading the charge, the second generation cooking, and the third generation providing the entertainment. Thick with twins, everyone seemed to have a double! The highlights of the food included taro and papaya gratin, corned beef and pepper baked in tin foil, Chinese fried egg rolls, Uga coconut cream soup, salad, and ice cream topped with island fruit. We were treated to a performance of the Nose Flute and dances that brought the story of when Captain Cook tried to land on Niue. Fierce and frightening, these islanders painted their mouths with blood red juice of some plant and scared the bejeezus out of the Good Captain. He turned away, naming it the “Savage Island.”
At the end of the night, we all had a "whale of a time" getting the dinghy parking lot cleared one by one by crane - some sailors more rummy than others, of course.
In the end, we spent twelve full days in this beautiful place, neither being threatened by bloody mouths and fierce dancing or being subject to the theft of a single wash cloth. Our bikes stayed exactly in place, and we enjoyed a very friendly welcome.