Edit Blog Post
Published: August 8th 2009
Don't worry, me either until this trip...
Anchoring at Pangai, Tonga was a little bit of a nail biting experience. The water is incredibly clear and the reef system is very intricate. Making the evolution a little more difficult, there was a storm front that blew through the entire day with lots of fog and rain. As I stood watch on the bridge, Kyle looked at me and told me to come out on the bridge wing. He saw two whales breaching, but I didn’t see a thing! What a bummer... oh well, I’ll keep my eyes peeled around the ship. Apparently in Tonga from June to September is the humpback whale calving season, the archipelago’s only real tourist attraction. There are about 150 or so whales that come to these waters every year.
I finally got off the ship and into town a couple of days after getting here. This is an extremely small town, actually village might be a better word. There aren’t really any grocery stores or places to shop, some people can’t handle something that rural. Ha’apai is the name of the island chain. The Southern island we’re at is
Lifuka and attached to the Northern end, by a little one lane causeway, is Foa. Driving from Lifuka to Foa, you cross over the tarmac of the island’s only runway. No security guards, it’s just a short runway that goes from East to West, water to water. There are only about 3,000 people on this island, it’s very hard to imagine living out here for a long period of time with what the normal middle or even lower class standards of living that Americans are used to.
For myself, I think that as long as I had something to do, like running a shop or cafe, the slower pace island life would be welcome. There is one small cafe in Pangai, called the Mariner’s Cafe, run by a lady named Magda (I think she’s Polish) that maybe has 5 tables. It’s a place to grab a beer, a small meal and talk to some of the locals, but it’s the ONLY “restaurant” on the island. She wasn’t really prepared for the onslaught of BYRD personnel and even ran out of beer the first night. The normally laid-back atmosphere turned into a military bar for the most
part, but it is a welcome scenery change from the ship. I was able to try the local beer, Ikale... warnings of formaldehyde should be on the bottle, enough said. I tried to stick to the Aussie beer and dry ginger ale. Girl can make a mean pizza though!
Things are somewhat slow for me here in Tonga, I have to hang out on the ship just in case they need an extra HCO and I’m trying to assist in the communications between the military aboard and the Civilian Mariners. Sometimes that’s easy and other times I’d like to bash mine or someone else’s head in (don’t worry, I’ve held back).
I had never taken a ride on the Puma before, so I asked to be a passenger, along with Albert (the Chief Steward), LT(jg) Darrin Davis (one of the advanced team, also known as D-Day) and MC1 Hayes (the Public Affairs videographer). Of course I took my camera.... wow, what beautiful land and water. You can see the reef up to about 60 feet or so. We checked out some Landing Zones (LZs) at local schools to see if we could
safely land there. The 2 islands here are flat, but abundant in greenery and livestock. There are adorable little pigs running around everywhere (just make sure you run the other way before a feast, they kill piglets very young). This little piggy went to market, this little piggy was roasted after being bled slowly to death... it breaks my heart, but it’s a way of life here.
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