Monday, 3 November 2014

Tonga, Vava'u - 13/10/14

Tonga is awesome! We're in Neiafu, which is a little town in the island group of Vava'u in the northern part of Tonga. It's a great place for yachts, which was immediately evident by the number of other boats in the harbour. We haven't seen so many yachts in one place anywhere else on our travels so far. Which is strange, because I read somewhere that Tonga wasn't worth visiting. Obviously it is.

Anchoring was difficult. The water in the harbour is deep, which is probably why every single boat is on a mooring. The moorings are cheap, but we were determined to anchor. We motored around for ages before finding a spot way on the other side of the harbour that was shallow enough to drop the anchor in. It's a long, wet dinghy ride to shore. But with our 2hp outboard the fuel we use each day is a lot cheaper than a mooring. Plus we're pretty much on our own, which is nice.

All the other countries we've been to have been quite spread out. Fiji and New Caledonia have islands everywhere but they're not that close together. In Vanuatu it took us two days to sail from one island to another. Tonga is just lots of tiny islands everywhere, really close together. You could island hop here for months, anchoring at a new golden beach every day without much travelling. Plus it's beautiful.

We had things to fix and provisions to restock, so we couldn't race off island hopping though. We just hung out around town for a few days and relaxed, which was nice. Although not very productive. Neiufu is like a cross between Port Vila and Lenakel in Vanuatu. It's a small town with just a few shops, but it's big enough to have everything you need - there's both a post office and a mobile phone store (so we now have data on our phones). Unlike Lenakel we don't feel out of place though. There are a few other tourists in town and a lot of other boat people, so we're not getting funny looks for a change. A lot of Australians and Kiwis seem to live here too, which is unusual. I guess it's not that far away. I think the population is around 6000.

The vege market was disappointing, mostly because the pineapples were expensive and scarce. Everyone was determined to sell us bananas, no matter how many we already had. We could be walking around carrying a huge bunch and the shopkeepers were still trying to get us to buy more. At the end of one day we ended up with a bunch for free as well, probably because they were looking a bit sad and wouldn't have survived the trip home. So many bananas. Annoyingly they are the sole, lonely item that I don't eat.

I think they used to do a lot of whaling here. I'm not sure if they still do or if they've just cut back, because it wasn't exactly advertised. But there were so many things for sale made out of whale bone. Lots and lots of necklaces and trinkets, carved the same way as the Maori pendants in New Zealand. I'm not sure how I'd feel about wearing whale bone around my neck. We got a drawing as our souvenir, done on a special cloth they make out of bark stuck onto home-made cardboard. I think it was called Tapa.

The main tourism draw here seems to be whale watching. But you can book a tour where they take you out to actually swim with the whales. You can swim with whales! I would absolutely love to do that one day. Unfortunately the good tours seemed to be part of a holiday package where they take you out to a resort for x amount of days. I guess that gives them time to find some whales while you entertain yourself on a beach, rather than just going out for a day and maybe not seeing any. We'll have to come back when we're grown ups to swim with them.

It's a really nice place to go kayaking too, with all the little islands everywhere. We weren't going to venture out on a serious kayaking trip in our inflatable canoe though. I guess I can't tick Tonga off my list of places we've been, seeing as we couldn't do the two most exciting things here.

We did get to go to a Tongan feast though, which was absolutely amazing. Obviously because I love food, and there was lots of food. It was on the other side of the island as well, so we got to sneak a peek at what the island is actually like. The houses are proper houses rather than the thatched huts in Vanuatu, but from what we saw they're all in a state of disrepair. The wood is rotting and falling to pieces. You wouldn't think people were living in them if it weren't for the pigs and piglets running around in the backyard. Every single house has a pig, and most of the pigs have little piglets trailing after them. Which of course I'm loving. Even in the middle of town there's just pigs everywhere, hanging out on the side of the road and running around enjoying life. There's lots of homeless looking dogs too, which is sad. But they all seem reasonably happy.

The feast was at a beautiful little bay that's supposed to have good snorkeling so we took all our snorkeling gear in the hopes of going for a swim. But the tide was low so we didn't get a chance to use any of it. We met some lovely people from another boat though, Neville and Glenys. So we talked about boats and wind and water for the majority of the day, which was a lot of fun. We don't meet many people so it's always nice when we get the chance to socialize.

The food was amazing. The sides were a coleslaw type cabbage salad, steamed rice and roasted root vegetables (including breadfruit, which was actually nice. We haven't tried cooking it ourselves yet). Then there were muscles cooked with a delicious coconut sauce and some amazing corned beef things. They were my favourite. I think they were essentially corned beef and onion wrapped in taro leaves and cooked in coconut milk. I could have eaten them forever. There were some amazing fish cakes and kumera cakes as well, which were so good I went out and bought a heap of kumera when we got home. Garth doesn't normally eat kumera, but he loved them too.

There was a banana thing, spicy chicken, delicious fish in a coconut sauce (which tasted like mahi mahi and was another of my favourites). Then of course they had a suckling pig. Best. Lunch. Ever. Later on I tried to find a recipe for the fish and corned beef, but everything has to be baked for ages. Considering how dodgy our oven is and how much I want to eat nice things, I'm now in search of a pressure cooker. Glenys sold me on the idea. But I'm easily influenced when it comes to food.

This is where the pig became delicious

After lunch we got a chance to wander up the beach and go exploring, where we met some locals swimming in a little lagoon that was still deep with the tide out. Two young girls started chatting with us, very proud of the fact that they were twins. They spoke broken English, only understanding about half of what we said. But they were so friendly. I didn't bother putting my togs on, deciding to just get my feet wet. But they kept asking me over and over again if I was going to come for a swim. I said I wasn't wearing my togs but they didn't seem to understand. I've always wondered what the girls wear when they go swimming in these conservative Pacific islands - you have to be covered up so they can't exactly chuck on a bikini. You very rarely see girls swimming. These two were just wearing normal clothes - one had on a long silky dress, and the other was wearing a T-shirt and bike shorts. So i'm not surprised they didn't understand that my silky skirt and singlet top weren't swimming clothes. I've forgotten their names, but this sweet little thing let me take her picture with the gopro and was then really disappointed when she couldn't look at it. I'll have to remember to take pictures of kids with a camera that has a display!

Afterwards Neville and Glenys offered to pass on a heap of PDFs and cruising guides to us that will be insanely helpful for the rest of our trip, which was so nice of them. We're obviously going in different directions, so we're retracing their steps. We scored a lot of information on French Polynesia, Panama and Ecuador, including some actual books. So we were stoked by that! Hopefully we'll know where to go now. Garth was contemplating buying a cruising guide for French Pol, but now we have all the information we need. So I can't praise them enough! They were so organised too, which made me incredibly jealous. We're definitely not good at organising.

Xxx Monique

This island has its own watchtower!


  1. Gorgeous! Peter is now obsessed with Raratonga!!

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