Blogs from Tonga, Oceania

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Oceania » Tonga » Vava'u April 18th 2019

Our next destination, Neiafu on the island of Vava’u was still within the Kingdom of Tonga. This island lies only 162 nautical miles north of Nuku’Alofa. To get there we crossed the second deepest section of the Pacific Ocean after the Mariana Trench. Known as The Tonga Trench, it averages a depth of 6,900 metres with the deepest part, the Horizon Deep, almost double the average at just over 10km to the seabed. The smaller Holland America ships are trying to steer away from traditional on-board entertainment and are now being marketed as an innovative approach to cruising for travellers who are looking for thoughtful and immersive ways to see the world. The ‘seeing’ bit was provided by the nine Zodiacs that the Maasdam carries. In selective areas, the Zodiacs are launched and, for a price ... read more
Weaving demo - stripping the bark
Weaving demo - ...and this is what the bark should look like
Weaving demo - weaving the Tapa

Oceania » Tonga » Tongatapu April 17th 2019

! would rather own little and see the world than own the world and see little of it!– Alexander Sattler The day after our trip to Hobbiton was spent at a leisurely pace, strolling down to the Auckland waterfront, checking out the yachts we’d never be able to afford, lunching in the sunshine of Viaduct Basin with its wall to wall restaurants and bars before spending the afternoon wandering through the city centre. We passed the Auckland Sky Tower, the tallest observation tower in the Southern Hemisphere. I visited the observation deck last time we were here in 2010. I didn’t want to spoil a once in a lifetime experience by ascending the tower again!! Auckland is known as the city of 1,000 sails. Well, we walked down the main shopping centre and I ... read more
What can we call the parade of retail outlets onboard
Quite a swell in the South Pacific
A carpet in one of Maasdam's elevators

Oceania » Tonga » Vava'u January 5th 2019

The island of Vava'u is situated in the north of Tonga, and is famed for beautiful beaches on it's Outer Islands. Many tourists visiting the Kingdom only stop off in Nuku'alofa, before catching an Air Tonga flight north to the resort mecca. However, I had the privilege of spending four enjoyable days in the capital prior to heading to the airport, for a direct one hour flight on a propellor plane out to Vava'u. There seemed to be quite the crowd milling around at the arrival area of the airport, but to my astonishment I wasn't pounced upon by a bevy of taxi drivers haggling for business. This was a first for me, literally no-one was paying me any mind. I couldn't believe it, and out of desperation approached a westerner for help. He got the ... read more
Secluded beach
Neiafu centre
Neiafu coast

Oceania » Tonga » Tongatapu December 29th 2018

Back in 2015 I had my heart set on visiting Tonga, with flights and accommodation booked as part of a previous South Pacific adventure. Mother Nature, however, had different plans as a volcano burst out of the ocean just off the coast and started spewing volcanic ash in a major eruption. Bizarrely; I had gone through check in, customs, and immigration on multiple occasions, and the planes had taken off, only for the pilots to announce mid flight we had been ordered back to Auckland. This was my version of Groundhog Day, where every day is the same! After three days of trying I had no alternative but to abandon my dream of visiting this South Pacific paradise. Well, here we are at the tail end of 2018, and this time around an effortless commute from ... read more
Ha'amonga
Tsunami rock
Natural Land Bridge

Oceania » Tonga » Vava'u October 10th 2018

RealTonga had rescheduled our flight to Va'vau four times, so we set off for our noon departure with low expectations. It was immediately clear our fears were well founded. RealTonga’s only plane, was running late. Our flight was now scheduled to take off at six p.m. Probably. Over the next ten hours, we watched the plane arrive and leave four times, flying to and from various Tongan islands. Eventually, 7½ hours late, our turn came. In the dark, we flew to Vava'u, as far East as we will get on this trip. Vava'u is a small irregular island. The north has high cliffs and small sandy coves but the rest of the island is a maze, fingers of land winding between deep-water bays and lagoons. Beyond the main island, more than 50 smaller island are scattered. ... read more
Ginger
Hanileti
Gill with our host and her children

Oceania » Tonga » Tongatapu October 3rd 2018

A flight East brings us to a new South Pacific archipelago and a new culture. Tonga is very different from Vanuatu. The plane landed late. Queuing for immigration and baggage we hear gentle Tongan music and it's not recorded, there is a small band playing to greet us, at one o'clock in the morning. The music, and the band’s clothing, make us realise that we have arrived in Polynesia. They all wear the tupendu, a sarong like garment, and they are all big. All Tongan men look as if they play rugby! Nuku'alofa, on the biggest island Tongatapu, is small and laid back. It's a proper capital with a parliament (just 30 MPs), a palace for the King and so on. It's just not very big and feels gentle and friendly. Nuku'alofa suffered a direct cyclone ... read more
Our second floor apartment
Royal palace
Our beach

Oceania » Tonga » 'Eua November 17th 2016

'Eua is an hour by fast ferry - and a lifetime away! Still a traditional Tongan island in many ways it is a nature lovers paradise. But of course we chose the wettest weekend this year to go! But what's a little rain amongst 7 intrepid travellers. The "things that can really go wrong" did not stop there. When we arrived slightly green from the trip and really, really wet no one came from our booked accommodation. But one of our party had a friend who knew someone who asked someone - and we secured a lovely little cottage. We managed some walks - mostly wearing black plastic bin liners. But it was so worth any discomfort - lovely forests, sweeping coastlines and even wild horses. In part it looked more like the Welsh moors than ... read more
Land Bridge Eua
Wild Horses Eua

Oceania » Tonga October 27th 2016

Food is a major part of Tongan culture. The Umu is an earth oven - but really it's an event! Layers of leaves/cardboard line the pit and a fire is lit underneath. Food is cooked in parcels (leaves or these days foil). Traditional food is Lu - leaves wrapped like a parcel containing coconut milk and meat or fish). Root crops figure heavily - and I mean heavily. Taro can be as tall as me and is harvested when the roots are as big as a watermelon. The leaves also make fabulous umbrellas. It is a starchy white vegetable that tastes of...nothing really. I prefer the Kumala Hawaii which is a sweet potato that has a fantastic deep beetroot colour. Note the icecream Jan is holding - this is the smallest size! Sweet things feature large ... read more
Taro
Kumala Hawaii

Oceania » Tonga » Tongatapu October 5th 2016

Pigs and piglets are everywhere here. They wander freely and often cause trouble for gardeners and road users. Roast pig is the dish of choice for weddings, funerals and any important occasion. But drunken pigs? Well because they roam freely sometimes they become a major nuisance. We have 2 that keep breaking into our compound and digging up the taro. They have become cheekier by the day and have evaded traps set for them. So desperate measures are called for - people have been sleeping out and trying to bait them with coconuts and bread. Then came the idea to soak the bread in vodka with the hope it would knock the pigs out! Guess what? It doesn't work and now the pigs not only get fed but they get happy hour drinks too. Back to ... read more

Oceania » Tonga » Tongatapu September 13th 2016

It's been a busy but fantastic time - Friday we had our inaugural Services Competition. Fire, Police, Army, Navy and Prisons competed for a trophy at a real gala event. Lots of VIP's and spectators were there. Plus of course a sausage sizzle. This event was the culmination of 10 weeks training for over 100 services personnel. I distinctly remember them arriving - thinking it was a one off. Oh no we informed them - this is ten weeks! But even when the weather chucked rain on us and the winds howled they (usually) came. Most had no idea that you would swim 50m in a lane and then had to touch a wall the other end (doesn't sound logical when I put it like that!). But they did it - all 4 strokes. We also ... read more
Go Mou'unga
It's a long way 50m!
Touch the wall!




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