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Niue, The Rock of Polynesia, in a Nutshell

Author: Sue
Date: 23rd September 2019
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Getting into Niue

It’s Ground Hog Day again as I start my journey to visit Niue on July 27 and finish it on July 26, back across the International Date Line. The flight from Auckland, coming from Norfolk Island is horrendously bumpy. The captain apologises profusely for most of the journey, I grip the seats of my chair and the crew are ordered to stay in their seats, as we career through the skies. We landed in pouring rain, of course.

Locate my Rav 4 hire car - no map provided. Proceed to become totally lost for an hour, undertaking what I’ve been told is a five kilometre journey. My wipers make the most appalling noise, like screeching parrots and I can’t demist the screen. Eventually,  end up at the hospital. I suppose it’s useful to know where that is - assuming I can find it again.

Meet two more bewildered tourists trying to make their way to the same place as me. Follow them. And end up back at the hospital. After stopping several residents and begging a map off one family  finally arrive at my resort, to discover I’m I’ve been allocated an apartment a mile up the road from the main building. Just as well I have a car. but it has a gorgeous view over the reef.

How Big is Niue?

Niue is one of the world's largest coral islands, at ten miles by seven miles; it’s actually a coral atoll raised by volcanic upheavals, so there are caves and chasms above and below water. so, It's known as The Rock of Polynesia, or simply The Rock (not to be confused with Jamaica.)

Niue’s highest point is only 223 feet (about 68 meters) above sea level.

Who Colonised Niue?

Niue has no recognised strategic trade significance and was not annexed by a European power until 1900, long after most other Pacific islands. It was first sighted by Captain Cook in 1774, but he was refused landing by the inhabitants, on three different attempts. He then named Niue ‘Savage Island’. Missionaries from the LMS (London Missionary Society) established Christianity in 1846. Niue chiefs took British Protectorate status in 1900, and in 1901 Niue was annexed to New Zealand.

Is Niue a Country?

Niue is a small island nation in the South Pacific Ocean. Niue has been in free association with New Zealand since 1974, (so the currency is the New Zealand Dollar) and government follows a Westminster-style rule with a 20 member assembly. The Premier is selected by the House and the Premier then selects 3 other members for Cabinet posts. So, Niue has the world’s highest per capita number of politicians, with one MP for every 65 people!

More Niueans live in New Zealand than in Niue: 1500 on Niue, 24000 in New Zealand.

Is Niue Safe to Visit?

The local literature also tells me, boasts no crime, no traffic lights, no queues and no crowds. As far as I can see this information is entirely accurate.

Facts and Factoids

  • It’s estimated that only 7,000 people speak Niuean, therefore the Niuean language is classified as a “definitely endangered language” by UNESCO
  • Although Niue is a country in free association with New Zealand and therefore uses the New Zealand Dollar, it has issued some of its own commemorative currency, including Pokemon and Star Wars coins.
  • Niue Island grows coconuts, limes, yams, tapioca, passion fruit and sweet potatoes; they also rear pigs, cattle and poultry and produce honey.
  • The prison is lodged between the bowls club and the golf course

What Do I Plan to See and Do in Niue?

Niue is famous for its diving, snorkelling and coastal scenery, so I plan to take this in, driving my hire car round the island. Niue is also known for being the world’s first country to become a Dark Sky Place or 'Dark Sky Nation'. So, star-gazing is a possibility. Or it would be, if it stopped raining. Niue is one of the least visited countries in the world, but the inhabitants plan to keep it that way. There’s talk of capping the number of visiting tourists to 15,000 a year., to make sure Niue stays a place worth visiting.

However, my main reason for visiting, is to try to swim with whales.

Getting Out of Niue

I manage to navigate safely back to the airport today, with plenty of time in hand. It’s on the same road as the New Zealand High Commission (very plush), the supermarket, the golf club, the bowling club and the rugby club.

The airport is packed with familiar Kiwi faces from around the island, including Julia and Marion  and some islanders sporting their traditional travel garb of flower garlands in their hair. There are signs up forbidding the transport of uga on the plane. Honey and coconuts are, additionally, not allowed in the cabin.

The plane is an hour late departing. The pilot sighs and explains that some of the paperwork hasn’t been filed correctly and we have to wait. Back to Australia and Melbourne now.

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