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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Niuean culture

NIUE | Monday, 9 February 2009 | Views [2583]

Fakaalofa atu (Hello in Niuean). My 10th day on Niue has passed. When I began my travels four years ago in Australia I was only there for two weeks; it was much too short. Nowadays I’m spending two weeks on Niue. This morning I woke up scratching and scratching due to mozzie bites covering my legs. Those buggers alone may be enough to keep me from coming back to Niue. Next time I come here I’ll have to bring a pair of light-coloured trousers. I had my morning Weet-Bix and then walked up to the store and got a V drink. Today I wanted to go to the Noni farm and then hopefully go to Togo Chasm and Vaikona Caves. Traffic is so light outside of Alofi and Avatele that it’s hard to do a complete circuit of the island via hitching. It was really hot this morning so it was perfect to break open a coconut and sip it. It was so full that I got two glasses of coconut water out of it. The shop wasn’t going to be open at all today so I couldn’t get my daily vanilla bean shake. Instead there was a smell of something dead, presumably a dead crab. Brian and Ira were searching high and low in the office for whatever it was. When I got back from town I packed two water bottles in my bag along with my snorkelling gear and a snack. Ira called Tom (at the Noni farm) and asked if he was coming into town today but he wasn’t because he has some employees working at the farm. I waved goodbye to Brian and Ira and then I set out on another magnificent Niuean day. There were a lot of cars going toward Alofi but none going the other way. Avi from the Israel Mart stopped but he wasn’t going all the way to Avatele. The police van stopped and they took me up to the petrol station. Then after they got their snacks they took me out toward the hospital where I’d have an easier time finding a lift (due to the fact that the road leads to Avatele). I only waited for a minute or so before a courier driver stopped to pick me up. He drove me a wee bit out of Avatele, hoping it wasn’t going to rain (otherwise all of his deliveries would be soaked in the back of his ute). The farm was still about another two-kilometre walk. When I asked a local how far away it was their dog came running after me, but she said he shouldn’t bite. Flies are absolutely everywhere on Niue! They were on me like white on rice as I was walking. It’s hard to even sit still for a few seconds without a fly buzzing around. When I got to the farm I was quickly greeted by Tom and his wife. A wasp flew around as I sat on their balcony while they ate their lunch. Tom gave me a brochure about Noni, so I’ll tell you a bit about it. The Noni fruit, grown only in tropical climates; mainly in the South Pacific Islands, Tahiti, Hawaii, and Malaysia, has been used since ancient times throughout Polynesia as a source of well-being.

Its unique collective properties combined with substantial empirical evidence and ongoing scientific research has demonstrated that there are benefits from Noni fruit in assisting with healthy skin, joint mobility, digestion, and general energy levels. Noni Tonic (or juice) helps to support the immune defences, gives support for sound sleep and stamina, and assists blood vessel integrity and normal cholesterol balance. It has a wide range of benefits and is a valuable tonic and antioxidant that supports overall well-being and health; essentially “health in one bottle.” Scientific study suggests that they main active ingredient in Noni is proxeronine, which is converted by the body into xeronine. Xeronine is a critical biochemical compound involved in a wide range of normal biochemical reactions of the human body. Under normal circumstances the liver stores and releases proxeronine. Any major stress can cause a greater demand in the body for xeronine and therefore prxeronine. The regular use of Noni juice ensures that there is ample proxeronine available to the body so immune defences are supported and to assist with cellular repair. Tom showed me around the factory. In my Lonely Planet guide, it stated that Noni juice smells and tastes like vomit. Upon entering the factory, I immediately caught the smell of it, but I hadn’t yet tasted the juice. The fruits are stored in plastic drums where they ferment for at least eight weeks before being made into the juice. Tom told me that his employees work very slowly because they’re on “island time” which means there’s no hurry. In New Zealand it’s similar although not as slow as on the island. After the tour it was my turn to try the juice. Anything that tastes as horrible as vomit would have to be super good for you! The recommended dosage is 20 ml twice a day on an empty stomach. I downed it like a shot of liquor and immediately stated that it tastes like vomit, but it’s an acquired taste, like Vegemite. Tom’s wife told me that if you drink a whole bottle in one shot that you’d have the shits for an entire day. There are bottles of Noni juice for sale at the market in town so maybe I’ll buy a bottle to take with me back to New Zealand and share at the farm. When I first saw “Noni juice” in my guide I was thinking of a deliciously fruity smoothie, but it’s far from that! When I was at Carey and Joshua’s house in Dunedin, they told me that the body is like a team, but that the tongue wants everything different to the other organs; the tongue wants everything that the heart, liver, etc. doesn’t and vice versa. After gulping down my Noni, Tom showed me around the plantation on the back of his ATV. He is from Taupo but has lived here a little over a year. Other than coming here they haven’t travelled in a great many years; Ireland and England when they were younger. Tom dropped me off at the front of the gate and told me that there isn’t much traffic at this time of day but I was still hoping that I could get out to Togo Chasm. For more than a half hour no vehicles came at all so then I was thinking that I’ll have to hitch in whatever vehicle comes first in either direction. A Tuvaluan man named Maheu picked me up. He was heading to the village of Vaiea, the next village to the west of the Noni farm. He invited me to come into his home for a meal. Maheu is a pastor who lives in Auckland. He and his wife, Peia, were speaking in Tuvaluan. “Hello” is “Taalofa.” Maheu was impressed with my knowledge of his ancestral country, such as knowing that they were once called Ellice Islands. When the food was ready we all said a prayer and then it was time to feast. We ate pancakes, corn beef soup, (very bony) fish, rice, and taro. For dessert we had a slice of custard pie. It is experiences like this that make travelling extra special! At first Maheu thought I was rich but I explained my principles to him and how money isn’t all that important and he said that I have it down straight. It makes me feel good when I get invited into someone’s home because according to Joshua’s and Steve’s philosophy, us humans are one big universal family and that we should all share and love each other like family. I’ve learned that a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. When I was done eating, Maheu told me that I could hitch on the school bus back to Alofi. When I put my boots back on and got on the bus, he and the three children watched me from window as we drove off. I really feel good after all the great experiences today! In Niue I’ve hitched on a few vehicles (police cars, motorcycles, school buses) that would otherwise be extremely difficult to hitch on in New Zealand. I took photos of the schoolchildren like I was on a National Geographic assignment (something I really hope to do someday!). When I was dropped off near the airport, a couple with their young daughter picked me up. The man is Niuean and his wife is from Brazil. Their 6-year old daughter has Down’s syndrome. Liliana (the wife) told me that she is the only special needs child in her school. I recognized that she had Down’s because my youngest sister Maelea has it. When they dropped me off at the market I got a V drink and a pack of gum and then visited Russell Kars’ daughter. Russell lived here years ago and ran a store called K-Mart (nothing to do with the big corporation). In a book I was reading it stated that you wouldn’t be in Niue long without meeting Russell, but I met his daughter because Russell now lives in Australia. When I done browsing around at the store I stopped to tell Tanya about my memorable experiences today; visiting the Noni farm, having a feast with a Tuvaluan family, and hitching on the school bus. It is going to be very hard leaving Niue! At first I really didn’t want to be here but I love it! Back at the hostel I relaxed for a bit. Brian and the other two guys went out fishing so I thought I’d walk down there. With my mask and snorkel I jumped in but the waves were so powerful that I was fearful of getting through into a rock or the wharf wall. Using a lot of upper body strength I pulled myself up using two tyres that are tied to the wharf with chains. In getting up I tore a huge hole in my bathers; it’s time to trash them as well as my laptop, backpack, jacket, tent, and all the other old junk I have. The next solid job I have I’m going to completely revamp my “travel look” because I’m tired of walking around in a heap of rags and an old pack. Matts was snorkelling a fair bit offshore; in a place that I probably wouldn’t even consider snorkelling because I’m not the most confident swimmer. Franz was fishing more than a kilometre offshore and we were a bit worried about him because the waves were crashing. Brian blew the truck horn and flickered the headlights on and off but he was still way out there. A couple of locals saw him paddling in so it seemed he was alright. This would not be the best place to get swept out to sea because a search and rescue would be all but impossible. I walked back and went online for a wee bit and then walked upstairs and made a peanut butter sandwich and a cuppa. The wireless internet out here is practically useless and I can’t even use Skype. I then tried to walk up the street to the covering that’s the market on Tuesday and Friday and tried to get online (because I’ve seen others with their laptops there) but it wasn’t working there, either. Back at the hostel Franz and Matts headed out and I wanted to go play some pool. The two of them were at the bread shop, which is where the pool tables are. The table still uses the old 50 cent coins; probably the only place/thing that still accepts them. As poor as Niue is, they should have one-, two-, and five-cent coins in circulation. The game of pool was a good one and I ended up losing. Feeling a sense of defeat (not literally) I walked back and pulled out an issue of National Geographic. Niue has the highest per capita number of politicians: one Member of Parliament to every 65 citizens. Sipping a cuppa I just relaxed, reading an article about the possibility of democracy in Tonga. When I get back to New Zealand I think I’m going to look around for a yacht heading to Vava’u later this year because I really want to go! The Pacific is a magical place! There are still many island groups to visit: Cook Islands, Samoa, Tuvalu, French Polynesia, New Caledonia, Kiribati, and many others. So far I’ve only been to three groups (well, Niue is one island). I really wanted to talk to Shirene tonight but there is no way I can call anyone out here. This is a great place for snail mail. At about 10:00 I had another cuppa and then I just relaxed as the bright moon shone outside. As I lie in bed I had on my long pants and socks because the mozzies have eaten up my legs and feet the most. Earlier I had on my Australia jacket; Franz was calling my outfit my “mosquito suit.” However it’s far too humid to consistently wear a sweatshirt so I ended up taking it off. Tomorrow I hope to finally make it to Vaikona Caves and those areas but we’ll see what unfolds…

Tags: culture, food, hitchhiking, hospitality

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