Janice was still “under the weather,” but I got up early since tender service started at 7 AM and only ran ’til 1:30 PM. John also stayed aboard.
Niue is a coral uplift island, unlike all the islands we have encountered so far, which are volcanic. It is the (or at least one of the) largest coral islands in the world and is about 100 square miles in area. It is very lush, but the shoreline is craggy, 30-50 foot high bluffs. Geographically, it is part of the Cook Islands, but politically Niue is internally sovereign in free association with New Zealand, which means that NZ manages it’s international affairs and it uses NZ currency.
I took an early tender in. Once you scale the coast, Niue is relatively flat, the highest point being closer to 200 feet than the 2000 of recent islands. It is a tropical rain forest with no discernible dry season and average high temperatures in the high-70′s to low-80′s year around. But I was struck by how warm and humid it was as early as 9 AM. I walked a ways up and down the main street along the coast. I followed a couple of paths down valleys worn into the limestone to the shore. The rock formations and tide pools were amazing. Of course, I’ll post some pictures when I get the chance.
I also wandered up one of the side roads. I was struck by how quiet it was compared to the main road. But I was also struck by how much friendlier the locals were. On the main road, drivers just pass the tourists by without a glance. On the side road, every driver acknowledged me with at least a small wave of their hand, which I returned.
One of the remarkable things about this island nation is that it is the first country that is a free wireless hotspot and every school-age child is given a laptop computer. Now when hundreds of laptop wielding tourists descend upon a town of 600 looking for an alternative to slow and expensive satellite-based, ship-board Internet, they are bound stress the system. And they did. I was not able to even connect. One large tree in the market square that had picnic tables and benches under it was christened the wireless tree for all the tourists crouched over their laptops under the tree.
Around the square there were some shall shops and the post office. In the middle of the square was a shelter with some more vendors. In one corner was a small playground where the local children mixed with a few of the little ones from our cruise. One of the officers has his wife and baby on board, and there are two families with two kids apiece. The older children are being tutored by their parents, I guess you could call it ‘home schooled’ since everyone on board consider the Amsterdam home at least for the few months of the cruise.
I returned ‘home’ in time for lunch. First, I took a dip in the pool to cool off. Then I decided to eat at the pool-side Terrace Grill, something we don’t often do. I skipped the bergers and hot dogs and had some pizza and taco fixings (w/o the shell or meat).
Then I listened to Cluny talk about the future of the Pacific Islands while I sorted through the days photos. Cluny continued from the post-war phase nation-building dominated by the US and European powers to the post-cold-war phase during which a wane in the interest of the big powers shifted support to international institutions, which had different goals from nation-builders. Where the US and European powers seemed willing to provide continuous aid, the international institutions wanted to create self-sustaining countries. The only problem was that the island nations cannot generally be self-sustaining in the modern economy. The current trend is to develop regional institutions that can provide benefits to, and be sustained by, groups of countries.
The talk reminded my of what Janice and I have been learning from the GISPIA lectures at home. Municipal consolidation is almost impossible in Pennsylvania, even though many municipalities are not self-sustaining. One solution that is being used some areas and would probably benefit Southwestern PA is regional cooperation through regional authorities and revenue sharing. Then municipalities don’t have to compete against each other with drive-to-the-bottom tax give-aways that don’t really pay off.
Entertainment: Comedian Jack Mayberry, a funny west-Texan.
Crossed the International Dateline tonight, so we lost a day. Some people are upset that we missed Ground Hog day. From the weather reports from home, though, it sounds like Winter will last forever.