Published: June 3rd 2012
June 3rd 2012
My travel blog has officially been reignited by time to think and something to report after a year away!
Travel experience poor for a year until now, I managed to arrange a long weekend in The Kingdom of Tonga. Arriving at Nuku'alofa airport was a standard Polynesian affair - don't expect efficiency, but do expect a sudden head-lift-come-nod, as in 'Malo e lei lei' to Tonga. Vichi, a Fijian born resident and our driver, graced me with a leis of flowers and we waited out another 30 minutes until the remaining 4 arrived, 25C and fine. The trip from the airport to Ha'atafu takes about an hour, but we quickly turned that into 2.5 hours with stops at ATMs, a mini supermarket and the less elaborate weekday market.
Almost everywhere you look in Tonga is evidence of the Kings recent death - purple adornment and ribbons are on every house and building of the whole island. There was no place spared. Except at the bus station, though 'station' is a strong word - it is more a string of shelters. Some buses have natural air con, similar to a glass bottom boat they have panels of the floor removed
i.e a floorless bus. This option is is oddly more economic as usually air con costs extra!
Not one to let the fine surf stop me, and after much deliberation, I joined an Australian and an American surfer out on the Ha'atafu reef, a known surf break in these parts. This turned bad, as I shall tell later. If Tonga'tapu is a sideways place 'c'. then Ha'atafu is on the far western (left) corner. Heilala lodge, new of 2 years, is down a dusty 200m drive, and from the entry is only 1.5km from the Abel Tasman landing site in the mid 1600s. And I am sure it looks similar to 380 odd years ago, minus the rubbish tip that greeted me there this morning! Plantations of taro and cassava, banana, above ground burial mounds, and some 'recreational' looking plants lie aside the paved road.
The reef surf experience was drawn short and luckily laceration free which is common on reef breaks. A freakish 10Ft plus wave came through, I was in it's line of force, and duck diving with my hand firmly at the boards cord could not save me from losing 2 fins.... and a long
Church in Ha'atafu
You could hear this guy calling his sermon for at least a kilometre!
breath hold later I surfaced. No stranger to breath holds, the legs hitting the reef sealed it and I went ashore. Smaller surf the next day and enticed by support of others out there, I decided to get over my fear and have a 2nd try ... inevitably the ocean Gods spoke.... and of course my skill was lacking such I came into strife again, retaining a fin and hitting less abruptly the soft coral reef. Reef breaks, no thanks, not converted. But the sunset kayak rental was a nice alternative, the lagoon getting choppy as the tide turned.
A church session is encouraged in Tonga tourism, which is very much developing. So much so, they have considerable water supply issues, and at times the water can be cut without warning. Sounds 3rd world to me! Perhaps a community prayer is needed. I watched the Pastor loudly pour out his emotion and protestations at his congregation, and wondered (spoken totally in Tongan) if this was about the recent loss of their King. It was standard issue and even louder up the road towards Able Tasman site I'm told!
Opportunity to relax about the resort have now arrived...what do
Basic but functional - church from the back row
Was playing wink/ smile tag with the kids, they were so funny!
do, what to do.....husk coconuts, pick bananas freshly from a bunch in the courtyard, read that trashy novel, admire the coral and tropical fish in the picturesque lagoon, lie in a hammock listening to the song of praise or bells filling the air on a Sunday or try and rustle up a 4 course meal from a 2 burner in the communal kitchen when no shops are open for miles....I love a challenge! Though there is plenty to do, I'm going to practice what there isn't...
Next blog could be in Central and Adriatic Europe, in 5 months.
There are more photos below