Our week in Nuku’alofa including my Birthday
Our position is
21 07.5 south
175 09.7 west
Tonga is made up of four groups of islands each one a day sail apart. The distances would be the equivalent of Dover, Portsmouth, Falmouth and then Cork in Ireland because the last group are a couple of days away. Most of the larger islands, Tongatapu and the Ha’apai group are raised coral limestone while the Vava’u group and the Nius in the north are volcanic. The whole chain sits on the edge of the Tonga trench which, at it’s deepest, is over 9000m deep and some of the islands are just tips of volcanos. The Tongan people are Polynesian and they live in close net communities. Tonga is the only Pacific nation never to have been controlled by foreign powers and is the last remaining Polynesian monarchy. We had made land fall in the Tongatapu group and Nuku’alofa was their capital city.
It is the centre of government and the king and his family live there. Our first impression was that it was a bit dirty and run down. Many of the people live in little more than tin shacks.
We spent our first weekend relaxing and catching up with our sleep. We went across to Big Mama’s Sunday evening for a beer but were driven back to the boat to escape the mosquitoes.
Monday morning was my birthday. It would be hard to beat the fantastic time I had last year pearl diving in Manihi with our friends from the boats Lucy Alice and Enchantress. We caught the water taxi into town and firstly started at the bank changing our NZ dollars we were going to spend in Niue into Tongan Pa’anga, we have to stay now. The pavements here are awful and while walking into town I managed to fall over, one minute I was walking along, the next I was on the ground. I only grazed my arm and leg a bit but I had gone over sideways and twisted my back, I didn’t realise how badly until later. We continued into town to the Digicell shop to set up our communications (usually the first thing we do). My English mobile isn’t working here because a local network has hijacked it because they don’t have Vodafone here so I’ve turned it off. We bought a sim card for our other phone so we have some contact with the outside world. We then spent the next hour and a half waiting in the shop while their technical team ‘investigated’ our USB plug-in modems to see if they would work in Tonga. The final answer was ‘no’ so that was a waste of time. We managed to find a nice cafe called Friends cafe serving lunch which also had a wifi network albeit very slow. We managed to log into our internet account but no messages – you must have all forgotten it was my birthday!!
We walked around the market to buy some fresh fruit but by this time my back was starting to seize up. After a further mile back to the harbour to catch the water taxi I could hardly walk. I got back to the boat feeling very sorry for myself when our new friends Michael and Sharon from the yacht Larabeck arrived with a little cake, I was so pleased. They joined us for a drink and Bill managed to rustle up a few candles. We had a little celebration but as birthday’s go it won’t be etched on my memory.
Tuesday it rained heavily and we stayed on board so I could rest my back. Bill put the canopy up with his new water catcher system – that stopped it raining.
Wednesday we went into town on the water taxi with Michael and Sharon to get some stronger pain killers for me and some treatment for Michael’s ear infection. We took a taxi to a recommended pharmacy where a nice young New Zealander was working and he gave me some strong anti-inflamatories which have proved to work very well. We all went back to the Friends cafe for lunch (it’s a little oasis selling real coffee and NZ style slices) and to log on but the internet is painfully slow. I would love to post some photos but it’s too slow to support that.
Thursday we went across to Big Mama’s and took a slow walk around the island to try to keep my back active. If you put our position into google earth you will see a large ship wreck next to us. It ran aground 30 years ago and hasn’t been removed. It now has coral growing on it and lots of fish swimming around it. We swam from the beach and snorkeled over it. It was amazing to see all the fish.
Friday was another quiet day resting my back which is now a lot better. The wind has dropped and it’s really hot, 33C in the cockpit under the sun canopy. The mossies have found their way over to the boat so the mossie nets are in.
Saturday is Market day in town. There’s a market every day but Saturday’s was much bigger. I enjoy wandering around the stalls looking for fruit and veg. Things like pineapples, papayas and bananas are really cheap but apples that are imported are more expensive. I also managed to get some peppers, beans, tomatoes and carrots. At the moment we are the only white people here but the stall holders are very friendly and make us feel welcome. We heard today that the ICA rally finally managed to get away from NZ and 25+ boats are on their way.
Sunday everything stops here. Nothing is open and the locals all go to church. It’s also Mother’s day here which makes me feel sad because I miss my boys so much. We snorkeled the reef behind us which had an amazing amount of fish on it. Another boat has arrived and we went over to welcome them and have a chat.
Monday was our last day at Big Mama’s, although the wind is now too strong to leave today the forecast is good for tomorrow. We went into town to check out with customs. We are accustomed to waiting hours in customs houses but luckily he wasn’t busy and processed us straight away. We took a taxi into town (my back was still a bit fragile for too much walking) and had a last lunch in our little cafe.
Although we’ve been here a week we haven’t been able to venture far across the island because of my silly fall but Tongatapu looks a bit flat and uninteresting, hopefully the Ha’apai group will be nicer. Our Tongan mobile is 00 676 8490588