20 August 2012 | Islands
Hey there everyone,
Our Experience of Tonga : We were greeted by Whales as we entered the harbour and also cruising friends of Stolen Kiss, SV Carillon to give us the heads up on check-in procedure and where to collect a mooring.
First stop though was along the wharf for the formal procedures, which consisted of Quarantine, Customs and Health officers boarding our vessel, coke, biscuits & cigarettes shared while paperwork & money handed over.
Next stop Terry from "SV Virgo's Child" helped with a mooring by securing one of our surfboards to guarantee we don't miss out. Great to be surrounded by cruising friends and a very calm anchorage. The local network on channel 26 gave us heads up to all the places to eat and things to do and see.
We spent the following week : Eating at local cafes - excited to see pies on the menu, "The balcony" wins hands down for the best pie for us. Aquarium Cafe awesome food, great service, free Internet and best view by far.
We were told about a pig race which is a must, so we hightailed it to the farm where this event occurred. Not a huge crowd the day we went, a comedian who didn't really do it for us, a human horse race which one of our friends was roped into participating gave us the barrel laughs we were looking for... but definitely will always be a talking point for all who went.
Our next must do consisted of dressing in our Sunday best and heading to church, although we did not understand the Polynesian Priest, it was a Catholic Service with a twist, the service from start to finish carried us on a perfect harmonic journey which gave me chills and a lump in my throat, a must do! Later an afternoon walk to Mt Taipu for an awesome view of the anchorages.
"OK Let's get out of this town", unsure of the vibe here, with limited but adequate basic stocks from the Markets we headed out to the islands on Tuesday with SV Stolen Kiss and SV Carillon showing us their favourite anchorages:
First Anchorage 8: " Nuku" - White sandy point, surrounding coral reef, amazing clear water: first off we circumnavigated the island on foot and swum.
We dinged after lunch to Mariners Cove where a cave is marked by lines on the rocks, SV Carillon had been preparing us for this excursion and it didn't disappoint - We dived into the water and snorkelled to the entrance, Lynne, Steve, John, Peter and then Leanne, Leanne Leanne Leanne ..... Oh God the opening was so dark I couldn't bring myself to go all the way in, with lots of encouragement I finally did it and so pleased I did. You dive into a cave underwater, making sure you don't come up too soon and scrape yourself on the opening ledge, then your husband grabs your arm and pulls you through and up into the most amazing site. Open Cave filling and emptying with a mist created by tidal surge and the most amazing colours of mauve limestone, tinting the water with its brilliant colour, breathtaking! The dive out of the cave was so much easier as the sunlight shone the way. So good, I did it again without help! Exhilarated, we darted off in the dinghy's to our next adventure "Swallows Cave" equally magnificent, you drive your dinghy inside and take in all the colours you can think of, laver like paint dripping down the cave walls, the rocks can be seen right to the bottom of the cave through transparent water filled with schools of fish. The only disappointment was spray painted names inside the walls, such a shame to destroy something so beautiful.
Of course a day would not be complete without sundowners, 7 boats joining us from all around the world - US, Egypt, Germany, England, Australia and including SV Zanalana from NZ Alan & Anne (met 3 years ago), so good to see them fit and healthy and enjoying Tonga. The sky was full of stars, the fire burning on the beach, wind slightly chilly, hard to pull ourselves away, a few more yarns until drinks all out, another day in Paradise over.
Second Anchorage 30: "Kenutu" - SV Carillon lead the way through a narrow opening in-between coral bommies to a beautiful bay with jagged Coral Rock, waves crashing behind the reef, aqua blue water, splits in the rock with waves crashing through creating cascading waterfalls, hard to capture all described but I did my best so check out the photo album for a taste of Tonga. A walk on the beach and quiet night onboard, ever so slight roll, no flopper stopper needed in these anchorages. The next day Snorkelling and Paddle Ski exploring ; small fish and minimal coloured coral but signs of rejuvenation.
Third Anchorage 40 : "Ovalau" - Day Anchorage : Anchored near another white sandy beach island with surrounding reef, awesome snorkel, sparse but better coral colour and more abundance of fish, slightly larger. A must see huge coral bommie in the middle of the anchorage unlike anything I have seen before - like brain coral but different, long route like stems with small round coral heads, quite spectacular. The weather turns a little rainy so up anchor and off to our evening anchorage.
Fourth Anchorage 17: "Lape" - 5 moorings offered $10 per night - An afternoon movie onboard, and a rain shower which encourages John to scrub the decks. Grey skies greet us the next morning, SV Carillon & SV Stolen Kiss headed off with machetes to an Island with Papaya trees for the chopping, 3-4 each for boats in the anchorage. Coffee and tea onboard Red Sky, decided to make a cake, of course always the way when you have guests, it stuck to the bloody pan and ended up a trifle mess, but edible. Eight of us in the saloon comfortably, perusing the World Map and sharing places and stories to go or have been.
We dinged ashore to attend our "Traditional Tongan Feast" around 5pm, we were greeted by one of the locals and each person offered a freshly made local flower Lai. The people were warm and friendly, they sang a hymn before eating and entertained us with a few more songs throughout the evening, the food prepared and served was at no cost to us but we gladly donated money to their island for improvements to dinghy jetty and school. The banana leaf covered table displayed a banquet an of local fish cooked several different ways, corned beef and pork cooked hungy (cooked in ground hot coals) style earlier in the day, also freshly made salads, all very tasty. I went back for seconds and John had at least three servings in his hand made banana trunk carved dish and also tried to encourage our vegetarian friends to put pork on their plates for him. The following morning we dinged in and perused their local crafts, baskets, earrings, sarongs etc, after a few purchases we dropped our mooring ball and headed to our next spot.
Fifth Anchorage :Point Muerell - Whales entertained our short trip to Pt Muerell which was another picture perfect location with white sandy beach and aqua blue water. 5 or so free moorings or drop anchor, sundowners and fire on beach to finish the day.
Tuesday: 21 August : We are now back at Neiafu, stock up, wash, and last minute jobs, hopefully a favourable weather window will allow us to head to Fiji by the weekend.
Love to all and a special big kiss and cuddle to our new addition to the family "baby girl Ivy" Michelle and Lochlan's daughter and little sister to Jasmine. Ross and Rae's new granddaughter.
Lea & John xo