The Eastern Ha’apai group, Tonga
Our position on Sunday 15th May
19º 52.8 south – one more latitude nearer the equator.
174º 25.8 west
Sunday 15th May was a nice example of a day doing nothing in the tropics. We woke about 8am with the boat rocking quite badly in the swell. We had intended to go to church with Peter from the plantation but there was too much swell coming into the anchorage to leave Camomile at anchor so we had to leave. We left the same way we had come in the day before with our newly acquired fruit swinging in the new hammock Bill had set up under the solar panel. We had bacon and eggs for breakfast as we watched deserted islands slide by.
We anchored next to Tafata, which was uninhabited. I baked some bread for lunch alongwith some flapjacks, although it was 33C under the cockpit. We dinghyed over to the island and landed on the beach. It was mostly composed of shells and coral and it glimmered in the sunlight. We walked the two-mile circuit around the island, clothes were optional as usual, and it took about an hour. I collected quite a few unusual shells just lying in the sand, beautiful shapes and colours. On the far side of the island we watched the crystal clear water breaking over the reef and ending up in little ripples by our bare feet. We had a little shower of rain, which resulted in the usual beautiful rainbow. The island was covered in luxuriant green Hibiscus plants growing wild along the water line. We noticed some animal footprints in the sand and a bit further along came upon a wild pig but he ran off when he saw us.
We continued onto the dinghy then flopped in the water to cool off. Just as we were leaving Bill spotted this whales vertebra in the undergrowth. We got back to the boat about 4pm for tea and flapjacks.
This is Camomile anchored off the beach sporting her new solar panels that tilt to the sun.
We watched the local boats passing us overloaded with passengers from the neighbouring island on their way home after church.
We have 12-hour days in the tropics and the sun goes down about 6pm and is replaced by the moon. I usually cook our evening meal after sundown when it’s cooler. There isn’t any TV or radio here so we live in a beautiful but silent world.
So that’s our daily routine in the islands; tough life isn’t it!
The Ha’apai group of islands inTonga are not often visited by yachts and indeed we haven’t seen a single other yacht so far. There aren’t any special features of tourist interest just beautiful beaches and a lush background of palm trees and calm blue water, everything that the south sea posters portray but the basic trappings of life that we take for granted in the western world is simply unavailable to these people. The next day we took the dinghy across to the neighbouring island of Uhia.
We wandered around the village, which depicts the simple life the islanders live. Their homes are little more than garden sheds. Unlike the Fijians the Tongans are very quiet and reserved. If you greet them they will greet you in return but otherwise they keep themselves to themselves.
We continued along the ‘street’ and came upon some local ladies stripping leaves preparing them to make ‘Tapu’ cloth. They were happy to show us how they did it. They were also running a little shop where I bought some eggs. No egg boxes though they just placed them in a plastic bag. I managed to get them back to the boat without breaking them.
We spend the next few days visiting the islands of Uoleva and Pangai picking our way through the reefs to get to them. On the way to Pangai we encountered a mammoth thunderstorm. The forecast was for showers but after we set off the rain started getting heavier and it quickly became a tropical storm. We tracked it on the chartplotter and thought we had avoided it, the pink areas are storm clouds, but it turned at the last minute and crossed our path. The heavens just opened and it poured with rain. It was difficult to see more than 50 feet in front of us so we stopped the boat because we were too near the reefs. Fortunately it cleared within half an hour and we were back in the sunshine.
We continued to Pangai, the ‘capital’ of the Ha’apai islands. There were several other yachts there so it was nice to have a chat with them. We were hoping to get some supplies but the market had very little for sale. There were a couple of little shops selling tinned goods but nothing fresh, I don’t know what these people live on. We’ll have to wait until we get to Neiafu. We wandered around the village and found this abandoned digger in someone’s garden.
Further down the road we came across the Mariners café, which was run by a kiwi with his polish partner. It had a basic wifi system so we were able to log on and obtain our emails and managed to skype the boys; they also offered good beef burgers, which we enjoyed. We had thunder and lightening that night which made us swing around in the anchorage, the holding wasn’t very good so the next day we left the Ha’apai islands to head north to the Vava’u group of islands.