“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” -Henry Miller

A few months ago I’d never heard of Niue and our guidebook only bothered to give it a few pages of note. It’s the world’s smallest independent nation and “the rock” of Polynesia, whatever that means. So I wasn’t really expecting much. It’s a difficult place for sailors to go because of unprotected anchorage. If the westerly winds start to blow, you often need to take off. After days sailing here I really didn’t want to have to leave right away. It did hold out and we were lucky, because Niue was great. It had really interesting geology being formed from limestone and there were caves riddled throughout the island.

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We rented a car for four days and on my 33rd birthday we checked out some caves, went for a snorkel or two, had a picnic on the beach (treated ourselves to a big salad, olives and oranges) and Ez bought me ice cream. It was such a nice birthday! When I woke the Swedes sang happy birthday to me (in Swedish) and gave me a gift that they knew I’d love (a bag of chips). Later they gave me the night off from cooking and we all ate the chocolate cake I’d baked myself (I finally put my cake decorating classes to use).

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Sailing in the first day we saw whales along the coast. Niue is known for having humpbacks and one night their song woke us up below in our cabin! There are only three places you can swim with humpbacks and Niue and Tonga are two of them. This activity was not really in our budget but I sold a kidney and we did it anyway. Of course the morning before and after the tour we saw whales near our anchorage. Guess how many we saw on our tour? Nada, nothing, zilch. We did see some dolphins and sea snakes while snorkeling at least.

Other days we visited an old abandoned village, walked a bunch of sea treks, stopped to watch rugby, visited some chasm, rock arches, a funny sculpture garden made of junk, a couple markets, more snorkeling and more caves.

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We also made some new friends, Duncan and Jess. They came over for dinner one night and another night had us all over. It’s interesting meeting other sailors and seeing what their style of sailing is. They use some of the old school methods that Ez and I are interested in learning and they had some interesting experiences. We were very happy to meet them.

Its hard to recap Niue because I feel like so much happened while we were there. We spent about a week and I still felt rushed trying to see everything in this beautiful gem of an island. The new Zealand government is trying to promote tourism in the country so maybe we will all hear more about it in the future.

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“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” –St. Augustine

The Cook Islands were high up on our list of places we wanted to visit and one of the reasons we decided to sail across the Pacific. We would be spending a week in Aitutaki which we heard was “the next Bora Bora.” Besides being absolutely beautiful, thankfully this did not seem to be true and I hope in the future that it’s able retain its charm and culture.

We seemed to be hitting all the islands at the perfect time for festivals. Aitutaki was no different, it was their week of Independence. A solid week of singing, dancing, parades and plentiful food. (There was a woman who sold the most amazing looking cake. Each night I would go to her stand and wait patiently in line for a slice of perfection, and each night she sold her last piece to the person in front if me. I was so disappointed the last night I thought I would cry.) There was a good turnout at all the events and it was fun watching the older generation take pride in the youth carrying on their culture and customs. Watching the dancing made me feel a little melancholy. I wished I were Polynesian and could wear a grass skirt and beautiful feathers too.

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For such a small island population there were a disproportionate amount of churches, they take their faith seriously. Forget about doing anything on Sunday (there’s not much to do anyway) because everyone goes to church and hangs out with family. All over the island you see signs protesting flights to the island on Sundays. We visited a church that we’d read had really great singing and the congregation wears white the first Sunday of the month. We didn’t understand the service (it was spoken in Maori) but the singing was incredible. Their voices were so loud, haunting is the only way to describe it. Ezra laughs when I say this, but its true. We were invited to watch the singing competition later that night and thought why not. It was a lively event and we got to chat with some guys from the winning choir. On our walk back to the boat everyone who drove by yelled “goodnight, goodnight” to us.

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They were the friendliest people and so relaxed. The guy in immigration came aboard to clear Happy and stayed to chat awhile. He told us they take pride in their island and their friendliness. The people in the capital Raro (Rarotanga) are too stressed out, there’s too much traffic and people aren’t nice. Rarotanga has about 13,000 people and is also a beautiful island in the South Pacific. How stressed out can they be? But this tells you how special Aitutaki is.

One day we rented a scooter and circled the island. I managed to forget what we were doing and put my foot down as we were rounding a corner- almost ripping off my toe in the process. This is why Ez doesn’t take me on his motorcycle I’m sure). We saw the old spiritual houses or Maraes, picked mangos and papayas (Ezra scolded me when I went for one at a Marae. Did I want to piss off any lost spirits still wandering about? Why take chances, fair enough.), treated ourselves to a coffee and splashed in a beautiful lagoon. Another day we drove the dingy out to Maina and Honeymoon islands. (We heard maybe we weren’t suppose to go out into the lagoon unless on a tour. This was not clear though so we took our chances, although it made me a bit nervous, ever the rebel that I am. Ha ha.) Two small perfect little islands that are surrounded by what I think rivals the most beautiful water in the world (or at least what I’ve been lucky to see).

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There weren’t many sailors here because the passage through the reef was narrow and shallow and therefore more difficult to navigate. While I like the sailing community its was nice to be the only boat around, and to meet people where sailing was not the main topic of conversation all the time. It was a wonderful week and we hope to come back to the Cooks someday and do more exploring. Maybe even check out the stressed out island of Raro.

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“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” -C.S. Lewis

It was just a couple days sailing to the Society islands which is what most people think of when they hear French Polynesia. We arrived in Tahiti just in time for the Heiva festival, a week long event of singing, dancing and all sorts of interesting competitions. We saw coconut opening, javelin throwing and stone lifting. We went to Pape’ete to walk around, looked at Tahitian pearls and checked out Pointe Venus which is where Captain Cook went to trace the path of Venus across the sun’s surface. We ate a lot (and I mean a lot) of baguettes and enjoyed using free WiFi at a cafe (which is almost unheard of in the South Pacific).

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From there is was just a couple hour sail to Mo’orea. We were planning to stay only a few days but the winds were strong so we stayed a week until it was safe to head out. Mo’orea was my favorite of the Society islands. We went to a botanical garden and tried fresh jam, walked to a beautiful lookout over the bay, picked fruit off trees (we did this everywhere actually – when we found grapefruit I was practically making love to it while I ate. It would have been embarrassing watching myself) and ate more baguette (we were missing bread… and fruit and vegetables and nuts and tofu. Please anything but more oatmeal, white pasta and canned crap. Maybe the life of a sailor is not for me). One night we stayed up too late and I must have been worn down because I got a pretty bad cold (see above to what I’d been eating). But it was a great place to recover. Ez went for runs and we crashed the Hilton and used their Wifi. We had a lot of trip planning to do, plus Ezra’s parents were meeting us in Fiji and we needed to coordinate with them.

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One night we saw a ring around the moon. We called it a “moonbow.” Later we found out it’s ice crystals that you can sometimes see around a full moon. We wondered if we’d ever see this again. It looked unreal.

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By the time the winds had died down we were behind schedule and had to cut out most of our time in Bora Bora. We did get to check out the town and spent a day walking around. The lagoon was beautiful and while I would have liked more time here, I was actually glad we had traded it for more time in Mo’orea. It seemed more old school French Polynesia to me and I got a better feel for the culture. Bora Bora seemed more of a playground for high end tourists, not that there’s anything wrong with that, its just not what I’m after when I travel (I am also broke and would probably be ushered out of a high end resort. At this point showering was not a common occurrence). I didn’t get much time to explore the island though so I could be wrong. The water was beautiful nonetheless.

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We spent six weeks all in all in French Polynesia and I feel like we really got to see and experience a wide array of islands and met many friendly people. This is a place we will probably never come back to and am grateful for the length of time we got spend here.