18 August 2015 Neiafu, Vava’u Group, Tonga
We had a good passage from Niue to Tonga, 230nm with 1.5 overnights. The winds were steady from the SE at 18-20 knots, with a “modest” swell, nearly inline with our direction of travel. We arrived at Neiafu just at 1630, closing time for the Customs/Immigration people, so we cleared in the next day. Just before arriving in Tonga, we crossed the International Date Line, so now when we email our friends or post on Facebook - we are a day ahead of our family and friends in North America and Europe. Here is a photo of our current favourite beer, “Ikale”, the “First Beer in the World - Every Day”.
Tonga has a definite “third-world” look to it, in stark contrast to what we saw during our three month stay in French Polynesia. Officially known as the Kingdom of Tonga, it comprises 177 islands, of which 52 only - are inhabited by 103,000 people. Tonga provides for its citizens free and mandatory “basic education”, secondary education with only “nominal fees” and many foreign funded scholarships for post-secondary education. Their universal health care system is similar, in my opinion, to the Canadian model - although the services and technology may be lacking. There is lots of agriculture here, but it is primitive, without any signs of irrigation or big machinery. We didn’t even see a tractor. In our experience to date, it is not unusual to see domestic chickens roaming around free - but they all belong to somebody. In Tonga, the pigs that you see roaming around, and they all belong to somebody. Here are some pigs in the church grounds.
We happened to be in town for the annual Agricultural Show, where many of the farmers and fisherman showed off their talents. These are some dried/tanned octopus skins, no meat, just the skin. It looks bizarre, even a little creepy. What are they used for? Diane has read that it is chopped up and added to food, as it is very high in protein and supposedly “mouth-watering”.
King Tupou VI officially became the new King of Tonga on July 4th 2015. Even the new King was in town for the agriculture show.
Here is the stand that the People’s Republic of China had. They were demonstrating how they have brought their farming technology and assistance to Tonga.
There are two charter boat operators here, The Moorings and Sunsail, and both operate from the same dock and shore facilities. They provide moorings, water, diesel, showers etc to visiting cruisers. There is a large (and getting larger every week, as cyclone season approaches in November) contingent of cruisers here, reminding us of our time in Georgetown Bahamas and Grenada. There is a morning radio net, on channel 26 at 0830 seven days a week. Apparently there are a small number that remain during cyclone season, staying on a “hurricane” mooring, if there is such a thing…..
We took a “Cart tour” one day with Vava’u Adventures. We drove around in these little “buggies” from 1000 to 1600.
It sounds exciting, but in reality, the ride is rough and unreliable. Of the four buggies we had, two of them kept breaking down. We left ours running because it was a nuisance to keep boosting the battery. It did give us a different perspective on the island though.
We had a great tour of the Botanical Gardens, which is privately owned and managed by a retired and very knowledgeable former government official for agriculture.
Here - I found a very big, but apparently not poisonous spider laying in its web in the jungle.
The anchorage at Neiafu is deep, 90-140 feet, so nearly everyone takes a mooring. Many of the moorings are very strong, “typhoon-rated” but some are not. The cost of the mooring varies from 12-15TOP ($ 6 - $ 7.50US) per night. A few boats anchored in close to shore, but the bottom isn’t really conducive to anchoring.
We went for a tradition Tongan Feast on Lapi Island, something that many cruisers before us had raved about. We found Lapi to be a small island with only about 30 people living there. They put on a pig roast (suckling pig) and at least 10 side dishes for us to enjoy, at a cost of 40TOP ($ 20US) per person. The meal was pretty good, but sadly there were simply not enough pork or other dishes to cater to the number of cruisers (about 40) that reserved. The event was way “over-sold” by about 50%. This is the “plate” we were served, tasty food on a banana tree stalk.
It was good to have a small tour of the island though, and see solar panels (190W per house) donated by the people of Japan and the renovated church (thanks to the people of the USA).
Each household is obliged by custom to make and maintain a “tapa”, a hand-made wall covering. These tapas are there when a baby is born and when people die, they are double-wrapped in one (the second layer being made of reeds) for burial.
Children learn English as a second language, in school. We visited a small school and had a conversation with the English teacher. Naturally, the children are shy to speak English, but they get over it.
Their map of the world shows the Pacific ocean as the centre, contrary to our view with North America being in the centre.
As we head further West, and South, we’ve noticed that the air and water temperature is getting cooler, made even more noticeable because of the El Nino year and effect on climate. We don’t use fans at night much anymore, and sometimes even use a blanket! Its strange that cold air comes from the South, but that’s where Antarctica is. The water temperature is so cold (22-24C) that we even take our hot showers indoors and haven’t taken a shower on the transom in weeks. I suppose that’s why the whales like it in this area. The air temperature though is still in the 20-26C range.
The Internet is not too bad, much better than what we had in Niue, but we’re looking forward to fast Internet in Fiji. Supposedly, they is fibre optic cable laid to Fiji, and that’s where all our computer, laptop, iPad and phone updates will be downloaded!
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SV Joana is listed for sale at this site (in case you're wondering why, we're not planning to give up the cruising lifestyle or our home, but most things are for sale and since we've met many cruisers who have listed their boat, we figured we'd do it too).
Countries Visited So Far: (Departed Canada: May 2009)
Antigua: May 2011
Bermuda: June - August 2009
Bonaire: February - April 2014
Bahamas: December 2009 - March 2010, December 2010 - February 2011
Barbados: March 2012
British Virgin Islands: May 2011
Colombia: Oct 2014 -
Cuba: March - May 2010
Curaçao: May 2014 - September 2014
Dominica: May 2011, April 2013
Dominican Republic: March - April 2011
French Polynesia (Marquesas, Tuamotos, Tahiti and the Society Islands): April-July 2015
Galapagos: March 2015
Grenada: June-November 2011
Guadeloupe: March 2013
Martinique: March 2012, March 2013
Niue: July/August 2015
Panama: December 2014 (San Blas Islands), January 2015
Puerto Rico: April 2011
St Lucia: May-June 2011, December 2011 - February 2012, December 2012 - February 2013
St Martin /Netherlands Antilles: May 2011
St Vincent and the Grenadines: June 2011, February 2012, December 2012, April-May 2013
Tobago: March-May 2012
Tonga: August 2015
Trinidad: May - December 2012, June - November 2013
USA: August - November 2009, June - November 2010
US Virgin Islands: May 2011
Venezuela: November 2013 - February 2014