The Kingdom of Tonga - where the Streets have no name

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Oceania » Tonga » Tongatapu
April 8th 2012
Published: April 25th 2012
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After and awesome week discovering Sydney and it’s closeby countryside was finally heading off to Tonga.

Caught early transfer to airport in case things went wrong and was way too early to checkin so had to sit around playing computer for a few hours. Man checked me into window seats for both flights though J Then finally checked in and issue with luggage, whether I had to pick it up in Aukland or could check it straight through. Finally checked straight through and went into AirNZ lounge. Very nice having dinner and a couple of rums, which with the electrical storm outside that delayed our flight was highly valued.

Only had cheap seats so couldn’t watch movies and didn’t need to eat with the lounge pass anyway. Listened to Toby Keith’s Clancy’s Tavern and Brad Paisley’s Country Song and watched a few tv shows. Wasn’t a bad flight. Had to get airport security to walk me through closed area back to international checkin for my overnight in the lounge. Got a couple of hours sleep on a couch and then after 4am I moved into the lounge again and had some brekky, headache tablets and a more comfy chair. Pity it wasn’t opened all night.

Flight to Tonga was the second worst I’ve been on for turbulence. Only a copule of girly squeals (not from me) but went on for half hour probably with hostesses holding onto chair backs in a decent rush to get to their safe seats. Then was pouring at Tonga. Then took a while to get through immigration to find my luggage was not there. Waited for another load but still not there. Started paperwork and then had to go outside and missed Toni who was apparently there for my transfer. Had to draw money to pay for taxi that was 3 times the price of transfer. Went via Green Lodge to show me how far from town, then via Sela’s which is closer to town, then to AirNZ to get overnight kit and some money, then shopping for some shorts, then back to Toni’s Guesthouse to have a go at them for not being there for my transfer. Had to pay Ofa the taxi driver extra then for shopping as well. Toni was a bit apologetic and I asked him to take me to Green Lodge but their gate was locked and no way of contacting them so back to Toni’s. Got a lift into town with them and reported Green Lodge to tourist bureau and then AirNZ that I changed hotels. Had a quick look around town and had a lobster bisque which was ok. Then back to Toni’s, had headache so used internet for a bit to update facebook where I was staying so boys could visit, then shower, wash clothes and bed. LT Mau called about 8pm and then Beef visited just after that. Back to bed quite happy now that things are working out. So no luggage, hotel fixed and cheaper with access to town, boys know where I am.

Some Tongan info. King died recently so streets covered with lovely purple for respect. Government workers still wear like grass mats with a belt for respect, and most people still wear black, for 3 months. There is also no music is bars and no public celebration. They won’t commission the new King for 18 months either, which is his brother because he had no family. The main square of town, only about 2 square blocks, has got asphalt in last 2 weeks for king’s funeral. Most roads are potholed dirt though, but you do see them working on it. School’s have brightly coloured uniforms of purple, pink or red. Lots of beautiful church areas. Guys fishing out in waist deep water for fish and shells. Few shipwrecks around that remind me of Solomons too.

Headed out for drive with Mau who gave me plaque and carving again, and had an awesome day catching up on gossip and looking through town. Was nice sunny day too so got some photos. Went to markets and got a necklace, then to tshirt shop and got nice purple shirt. Then we had lunch at a nice hut on beach, big plate of yams, KFC, fish, chicken bits, vegie – very nice and drinks were free. Got home and rested before heading out with Beef and boys for a drink tonight. That was the plan, then beef rocked up with a rental car and we went for a drive through town again. One of the other guys from trip saw me driving around and followed us to Noah’s and gave me presents as well, a handbag, plaque and fan. Passed Toni on way there and he asked if I had a Tongan driver’s licence, Beef says Aussie will do? Headed into town for dinner, had chicken chips and powerade for dinner and sat down beach and ate it. Couldn’t get car into gear when leaving, had to walk to hotel to call Beef, he said put foot on brake. Thought I would naturally, but ended up having to put it on pretty hard. That was third thing, couldn’t get window up once, then couldn’t get key out of ignition because I left it in drive. Met all the guys at Beefs and headed down to beach bar which was nice, I was crowned Queen of Tonga for the day there, then to a karaoke bar, then to a pool bar. Had a few shouts through night and drove after drinks so didn’t drink too much. Had a midnight snack and got home about 1.30am which is super late for my old bones. Was cute to see boys wooing me too.

Had good sleep then Beef picked me up and headed over to his place for our island tour. Most boys had not slept and drank all night. Headed out to east of island to where there is huge gate that maybe entrance to old King’s Palace, maybe symbolising two brothers linked with top stone. Was funny to see boys climbing all over it. Then went through village that was he ancient capital. Passed military barracks near airport and saw 25m range – out over ocean with a lovely view. Took photos of where the Queen lives – the King’s mother. Then had lunch, another bbq, in a work shed where Doc and Nika work. Boys were drinking rum again, after beers all day. Then went to blowholes after lunch – was absolutely awesome. Not just one blowhole, but a whole coastline of a good few kilometres. Schamcal was telling stories again about his great great grandfather who lives in house there (that was really an old bar) and had 1000 women, this is the same grandfather who killed the King at the ancient ruins, and that Schamcal was really the king but he gave up his throne to be one of the boys J Was very funny. They were making heaps of noise too believing that that makes the ocean angry and bigger waves. I thought it was great but boys said it was quite quiet because it was low tide and we might go back Friday. Saw heaps of crops today, taro (elephant ears), saratoga (leave like), pigs eating in ocean, heaps of churches, friendly kids, boys in mat skirts as school uniform.

Oh, some other info – Mau said that most boys hitchhike to work because it is too far to drive and they don’t have cars. I asked boys why base was out at airport and they said people didn’t trust the army – which apparently was the case but the last King had cleaned things up a heap. There are no street names or numbers here, well in town centre there are names but only a few, to get around you just go past someone’s house and left at the big tree etc etc. Kinda like me in Townsville actually but at least I have a choice.

Toni was trying to explain to some efficient Germans about ‘Ish” time. They didn’t get it. He said if a ferry or inter island plane says 3pm on a day it may mean 10am or 5pm or maybe the next day if you were lucky.

Oh – Beef told me I could drive on Aussie Driver’s licence. I read somewhere then that you are supposed to pay TOP60 to some government office in town. Jack said he was in touch with police chief though and they were going to leave me alone J He wanted me to drive his schoolbus when I was Queen for the day but didn’t happen. And drink driving is not allowed, it is just Beef allowed, he says if police pull him over he says “hey, I am army go away” J

Thursday and AirNZ dropped off luggage. Had a nice shower with all my stuff, then caught 11am transfer to town, sent postcards and then had a wander and bought some lunch with take away for dinner. Chicken curry for 4 bucks was awesome but bones were in chicken, reminded me of Gurkas cooking. Chatted to Tongan guy from Parramatta which was cool. Alcohol was too expensive, TOP90 for 1l Malibu – should’ve bought some in duty free. Went into both ANZ and Westpac banks to see about converting AUD but both had queues of about 50 people – maybe it was because they were the only places I was with air conditioning. Tried to sleep this ave but was too hot and someone took fan away today. Lady hung out my towel to dry properly though. Then lazed around again and chatted to German’s staying here and some Aussies (Dave who left his passport on transfer today). Had breadfruit the German’s got from tree outside and fried up like chips – was nice, sweet a bit like fruit but crispy on outside which was lovely. Tongans don’t eat it because it is apparently food for the poor. Tasty though. Oh, when we went past Royal Grave again today, Toni said that with all the sand they used for ramps they can’t use mechanics to move for 30days because of the noise so grave workers are sandbagging it and taking it away. Because it was used for the royal casket as well it is sacred now so won’t be used for just anything, didn’t know what though. Read the tourist book through this ave and quite sad I am not here in whale season – might have to come again, will see sports then too because of no ban from King’s funeral. Beef came by to plan tomorrow pickup at 9am for umu and beach. He went to his block and picked yams and sweet potato today and he thought I was busy so didn’t annoy me.

Boys had already started lunch over at his place. Was so awesome and special to have a true local umu. I got there and helped out a bit, peeling kasava, also had sweet potato and taro (peeled with a can) and yam. Whole wheelbarrow plus of that food that boys picked at Beef’s farm yesterday. Pig was already on spit. Also Lu, taro leaves wrapped around beef and soaked in coconut juice with salt then wrapped in alfoil – yummy. Fish stewed in coconut juice, sausages I think that was all. Poured rain after I went to get the boys some alcohol. Got 3 bottles of Vanilla Vodka at TOP25 each which was ok, tasted ok too but didn’t drink too much. Was quite cool getting wet from that bit of rain, but then Ono had a shower in rain. Missed boys pulling out Umu because it was raining. Then had grace and Beef’s little sister said a thank you to me. After lunch I gave out pens and Koalas. Then we packed up leftover food and headed down to beach. Was rough ride to get there, got bogged and boys pushed, then walked few hundred metres and scarpered down coral hill to a beautiful beach. And it was like blowholes a bit. Walked out there with Schaumcel and nearly got blown over, would’ve got scratched up heaps, maybe not drowned where I was, then fell in hole that was hidden by seaweed and hurt ankle. Found a nice seat where we got sprayed all the time and you could hear and feel the waves coming. There was a big hole behind us that would’ve sucked you in and just drowned you. Had a swim and then ate some more till I nearly blew up. Stayed at beach from about 2pm till 7pm, then came home to get cleaned up and pack ready to leave. Oh, on way home we dropped off Sia, Tau’s girlfriend and Ono had to walk her in because she shouldn’t really be out with all the boys. Beef came back about 10pm and went back to his place for goodbye. Was nice, and sad. Then Lata went to leave and Nika spotted him and stopped him and then there was a fight – Beef loving it. Don’t know whole ins and outs but boys were looking after me, and everyone was concerned that I would tell these stories in Australia and not all the good stuff. Was going to say from the other day that when Tongans pass out they are out like a light, but not tonight J About 1.30am Beef dropped me home, had to skull coffee liquor the navy guy bought for me. Said goodbye to everyone. L

Everything was dry from beach which was good so packed and went to pay bill. I was apparently early and Toni yells out in his pommy accent ‘oh but I am not even dressed yet’. So then pops out in his underwear. A 70yo wrinkly body with long white hair in underpants is not what I need to see first thing in the morning. Was pleasant though and had a chat. Checked internet waiting for Mone to come and make up bill, then he didn’t charge me for full internet so gave him a bit more. Chatted to Aussie Dave and Swedish girl getting married in Tonga and wished them the best. Beef and Ono showed up spot on 9am. Threw luggage and backpack in tray and squeezed in front with them. Apparently all boys had left when Beef got back last night, bit sad not to say goodbye but cool because I didn’t have to again. Got to airport and bought pies and drinks for us, then was going to have ice cream but they called boarding so said goodbye and went through security etc. Spent couple of dollars change on chips that were banana, taro, breadfruit and kasava – nice.

Flight was ok, watched few tv shows and then spent last money getting changed to NZ$ and having burger king. Oh, got same deal on Sheridan and Frangelico as home so bought here too NZ$69. Another good flight, watched more TV and listened to Brad Paisley’s Camouflage again about 10 times. Got through immigration quickly with e-passport, waited for 5 mins for carousel to be put up then got bag nearly immediately, went through customs and showed wood and crafts and out in about 5 mins all up. Then out of airport had to work out which way to walk. Waited for GPS and then asked taxi driver who tried to talk me into taxi. Ended up walking and local lady crossing bridge said there was pedestrian crossing, then saw airport hotel but wasn’t my one, then walked another 15mins and found it but couldn’t find entrance – no luck with hotels this trip. Had to call and entry was like a take away shop. Room is very quaint 2.5 x 3.5m with shower and toilet half a foot away from bed but nice.

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