Cool, so finally we are here in Tonga. It feels so different from the countries we have been before. Of course, the procedure of checking in that took us more than 4 hours was really an interesting first experience…
Also we finally have crossed the date line as in Niue we still had -12 and in Tonga it is currently UTC +13. As a result the 9th of September didn’t exist for us… In addition, we are “officially on our way home”, since just the day before we have passed the point that is on the other side of our home town Trimmis 😉
On our second day in Neiafu a men comes up to our boat – “it’s raining and I will come up and get shelter” he tells me and does so… I leave him with Reto alone and it doesn’t take long that he spots the Ukulele and asks to play. Reto takes his guitar and shortly after learns how they play Ukulele in Tonga 😉
The first thing I really enjoy here is the Market and the choice (and prices) of fruit and vegetables. The tomatoes are still not cheap with approx. US 3.-/kg, but for a few dollars I get Pak Choi, white cabbage and taro leaves to feed us with vegetables for two weeks.
The taro leaves are excellent as a curry just like spinach, but attention, they have to be cooked well, otherwise they are poisonous! Reto at one time accidentally picks one piece and eats it raw, then he has a numb mouth for 2 days and a funny feeling in the stomach…
Exploring the island of Vavau with the mountain bike
After a few days of rain we take out the bikes and explore the main island. It feels good to pass by all the friendly people in the villages who great us all with a smile. Also the kids are great, they happily wave at us and when we stop, they come up and introduce themselves.
Then we hide from the rain at a bus stop together with two teenagers. After a small chat they ask us “you like to eat pig?”. We assume that was an invitation and say “no, thanks”, but we do think that it is quite special, that they have asked us.
On Sunday morning the church is full with people, everybody in their best dresses.
We quickly realize that the traditional mat around the hips that mainly the men wear is replaced by a sort of waist belt with stripes for the women.
The Polynesian singing is once again amazing, but though we don’t understand a word, the songs sound familiar.
Snorkeling in Swallows cave
Right afterwards we sail the few miles west to the very protected bay called Port Maurelle.
Since the snorkeling there is not very special we check out the north of the neighboring island A’a, but also there most of the coral is dead. Then we head up to the Swallows cave and we enjoy the views above and underneath the water.
Diving and Snorkeling from Vaka’eitu, No 16
The same afternoon we move further west to the anchorage of Vaka’eitu, since from here we can reach many dive or snorkel spots.
The next two days we dive the Pagodas, two small reefs in the middle of the channel between Vaka’eitu and Ovaka. There are some spectacular large coral heads and plates and many small things to look at. Unfortunately also here a large part of the coral is dead.
Just a bit north of our anchorage in Vaka’eitu is the Coral Garden. Unfortunately it is necessary to cross over the reef and that is only possible at around high tide and by swimming with quite some effort.
Therefore we are happy every time we make it without injuries through the waves over the reef and don’t even take the Go Pro with us…
But the Coral Garden is worth the effort, we find a lot of colourful corals of different shapes, like the blue and green “romanesco” corals.
In the bay of Vaka’eitu Hika and David live with their younger kids. The elder sons are in Tongatapu going to college.
In order to finance that Hika and David make regularly a Tongan feast for the sailors, all including the famous Tongan roasted pig and dance show.
The food is excellent, although the pig is not our favorite dish. I prefer Hika’s chicken curries and the raw fish as well as the Taro leaves dishes. After the meal Rosmary (5) and Roslyn (9) gracefully perform some typical Tongan dances or us, they are lovely.
Diving the Mariners Cave
After almost a week in Vaka’eitu we move on. We would like to check out the dive spots next to Euakafa, but our anchor doesn’t hold.
Therefore we move back up next to Kapa island and although the sky is grey we take out our dive stuff in order to dive the Mariners cave. And just as we are on the way to the cave wtih the dinghy the sun comes out and we have an amazing dive in and out of the cave.
The forecast for the following days is strong winds and showers, so we move to Tapana, where we safely hide in the protected bay. But the bad weather and wind doesn’t come on Tuesday, on Wednesday and not on Thursday, but instead Reto is sick and has to stay in bed….
Alone in Kenutu
Only on Friday morning a 4 hour front moves over us, and afterwards the sun is out again. We are happy about it and immediately leave for Kenutu all the way to the east of Vava’u, where we have the anchorage for ourselves.
Blue Water Festival in Neiafu
On Sunday we sail back to Neiafu, plan to get filled up with Diesel and veggies, and sail down to Hapai, the next group to the south.
But again the weather is not in favor, so we wait and join the Blue Water festival, where we get a lot of food, some Tongan cultures and a lot of information about New Zealand.
The highlight is the visit of the Cultural Show and Fest at the Hosean Christian School. Children from Kindergarden to Teenager age sing and dance the typical Tongan dances for us, where mainly the hands are moved. In the end they all together sing for us a farewell song with “we love you and we wish that you stay save during your voyage”.
Understanding about Biosecurity in New Zealand
Another highlight for me is to finally find out what food I can bring to NZ and what not. Mike form the Whangarei Quaranteen office is there during the festival and answers all our questions, it is great. Reto says for him it is not so great, because instead of the cans containing meet and the frozen fish he has to eat lentils and chickpeas now everyday for several weeks ;-). See also my notes on this topic on our page: What to bring to NZ
Then we finally see a good weather for the daysail to Hapai, so we set off to south. Starting at 5 am from Ngau south of Taunga we sail the 60 miles down to Foam where a huge shower goes over us, just after we have passed over the reef into the anchorage. We almost hit a coral head following the waypoints that we found in the guidebook, so from now on we also don’t trust these anymore…
Now we plan to cruise in the Hapai group for some time and when the next good slot to NZ comes up we might as well take it and do that sometimes difficult passage in hopefully good conditions.