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We arrived in Tonga at the town of Pangai in the central group of islands known as the Ha'apai Group on Friday, 11 June. When Jerry went to check in before the 3:30 closing of offices, the customs man was wearing the traditional lava lava (pareo in the Caribbean) with the traditional ta'ovala (waist mat) on top of it. We've read that you have to dress very conservatively here - no shorts or pants for women and no sleeveless shirts. Jerry noticed that Tongan is definitely the language here. Students are required to go to school until the age of 14 and they are taught some English the last couple of years, but we've heard that most people don't speak English too well and don't read very complicated books in English. The officials were polite, and we barely got checked in before they closed for the wekend. There were no fees, and they gave us two-month visas. We didn't get to the bank in time to change money, so couldn't shop or go to restaurants until Monday. This is no problem, as we were happy to relax on board for a couple days.
Tonga is a very religious country. A brochure written by the Tonga Tourism Board and given to us by New Zealand customs officials reinforced the idea that Sunday is a day of quiet and worship for Tongans. They ask that visitors respect this and do not make loud noises, have parties on their boats or use tools (especially power ones) as they are not allowed on Sundays. Their flag has a cross, and strict laws prohibiting work on Sunday date back to the late 1800's when missionaries (mostly Wesleyan, today's Methodists) convinced the king (and so all his subjects) to convert. These laws are still effective. From a 1979 Fodor's Guide: "A key clause in the Tongan Constitution of 1875 reads: 'The Sabbath Day shall be sacred in Tonga forever and it shall not be lawful to work, artifice, or play games, or trade on the Sabbath.'" Tonga's Order in Public Places Act reads, in part: "Whoever shall do any work on the Sabbath day, such as engaging in any trade or the purchase or trade of any goods or chattels, house-building, boat-building, gardening, fishing, or conveying anything by boat or wagon, except in cases of emergency, and whoever shall discharge a firearm in the town or country or engage in games such as cricket, football, lawn tennis, golf, bowls, or similar games and dancing, lakalakas, and such pastimes shall be liable to fine not exceeding ten dollars or be imprisoned with hard labor for not more than three months in default of payment."
We went exploring ashore for the first time on Monday the 14th after running the engine for 1 and 1/2 hours to charge our batteries. First we went to the Bank of Tonga to get some Tongan money. The currency is the pa'anga and the seniti. One pa'anga divides into 100 seniti. Our guidebook says that it isn't tied to any other currency but is approximately par with the Australian dollar. Of course we don't know what the Australian dollar is worth, but we did change a $20 New Zealand bill that we had remaining when we left there and got about 16 pa'angas. The New Zealand dollar was worth about 55 cents U.S. when we left New Zealand so that means that $1 U.S. is about 1.50 pa'angas or 1 pa'anga is about 70 cents U.S. After spending about an hour in the bank to get money from our Visa card and waiting in line 3 times, we finally had some pa'angas in hand. From the bank we went to the very small post office (but at least they had one). We sent two letters with 4 pages for 1.6 pa'angas and 2 with 2 pages for .8 pa'angas. The person there spoke a little English. Next we visited the Visitor's Bureau - very small with 2 Tongans working there. They had a telephone in their office. They said that email hadn't reached the island yet. When we signed the guest book we noticed that the sailboat "Wayward Wind" had signed in a week ago. (They have just sailed from Europe in a rally involving about 30 boats. These boats are moving very fast through the Pacific. We first met them in Trinidad and then heard them on the SSB radio when they lost their mast on the way to the Azores. At the time we were sailing north from the Abacos in the Bahamas to Kittery, Maine.) We did find a few brochures, including one that had a map and places of interest in Lifuka. Next stop was the Tonga Telecommunication office. We called Wisconsin to talk with Jerry's Dad. The connection had a long delay as was prevalent in French Polynesia. New Zealand had good connections. Cost of phoning wasn't too bad - 16 pa'angas for 5 minutes.
Next, Jerry wanted to find the museum that was shown on the map. What a surprise that was! The Afa Eli Museum is a single window display that is changed about once a year. The display for this year included a stuffed rat, a dried octopus, and a lure.
According to a 1968 National Geographic article, Tongans really like octopus. "They have an unusual way of fishing for them based on a legend. One day some land birds, sea birds, a hermit crab, and a rat put to sea in a canoe, but they left the kingfisher behind. The kingfisher flew out to the sea and saw his companions sailing along; in his anger he dived and pecked a hole in the bottom of the canoe. When the canoe sank, the birds took wing and flew away, the crab crawled to the reef, but the rat was left floundering in the sea. An octopus came swimming by and asked the rat if he'd like a ride to shore. The rat climbed onto the octopus's head, and the octopus swam to land. When they reached the beach, the rat jumped ashore and called out: 'O octopus, feel of your head; see what I have left there.' The ungrateful rat, during his lifesaving ride to shore, had well and truly soiled the head of the octopus. This quite naturally infuriated the octopus, which from that day forward has felt an undying hatred for rats."
A slight variation is given by Ronald Syme in his book "The Lagoon is Lonely Now": "One sunny afternoon long ago, a rat was strolling beside the lagoon. It occurred to him that as the weather was fine and the sea calm, it would be an excellent idea to go for a sail. Calling on a friendly crab and a bird eating stick insects in a nearby palm tree to help him, the rat pushed a large coconut shell into the lagoon. The three of them climbed aboard and allowed their boat to drift out from shore. For a while they were happy and sang songs. But soon the breeze grew stronger and the coconut shell began to rock a little. 'I'll get my feathers wet if this goes on,' said the bird, brushing a dash of spray off his plumage. 'Goodbye, friends, I'm off back to the shore.' And spreading his wings he flew away. The sea became still rougher. 'I don't like this much,' said the crab. 'The motion makes my stomach feel bad.' So he climbed up to the edge of the shell and dropped back into the sea, leaving the rat by himself. Now that poor rat got colder, wetter and more badly frightened, as the waves grew higher. He began to shiver and squeak loudly with terror, believing he was soon to be drowned. A passing octopus stuck his head out of the water. 'What troubles you rat?' he asked. 'You're making a great noise.' The rat told him. The friendly octopus paddled himself alongside the coconut shell. 'Jump on to my head,' he said kindly. 'I'll take you back to the shore.' The rat jumped. He landed on the octopus and remained there safely while the octopus, swimming strongly, headed towards the beach. No sooner had the octopus reached land than the rat leapt ashore without a word and began to run swiftly towards the nearest vegetation. 'Aren't you going to say Thank You?' called the octopus, a little angered by such bad manners. 'Wouldn't do any good,' replied the rat, still running fast. 'Just wait till you see what I've done on your head.' And so from that day to this, whenever the rat ventures into trees close to the lagoon, the octopus comes after him with great fury.
To take advantage of this enmity, Tongan fishermen have fashioned lures in the shape of a rat - the "maka-feke" (octopus stone.) The fishermen fashion such decoys as this from limestone, pieces of spotted cowrie shell, and coconut fronds and roots. The author watched a fisherman glide over a reef, paddling his outrigger canoe with one hand and dangling the maka-feke over the side, shaking it and chanting: "Octopus, descending fast, Octopus, descending fast, Spotted one come, spotted one come, Come hither one, come hither two, Come hither into the boat. " It worked. Octopuses dashed out from their rocky lairs and seized the lure, rippling all over in the waves of silver, black and brown. They held on so tenaciously the fishermen flipped them right into the boat. Many think that the octopus takes the lure for a crab, its favorite food, but who knows?"
This museum has an elaborate sign that says "The Smallest Museum in the World." As we were looking at the display a 70-year-old woman approached us from another building that she is leasing for a research library. The library contains magazines that she has subscribed to and saved. Again there was an elaborate sign outside the very small building. It said "Reserch Library." Notice the spelling on the sign. We met Virginia Watkins and quickly discovered that she was originally from New Jersey and then lived in Hartland, Vermont from 1967 until she started traveling in the mid seventies. She has lived in Tonga since 1981 - first in the Vava'u Group for 8 years, then Tongatapu for a couple of years, and now Pangai, Lifuka (since 1992). What a character! She gave us a copy of the in-flight magazine of Royal Tongan Airlines with an article about her and signed it for us. Then she mentioned that she sold art postcards so we bought a few from her. She has people sign a book on the date they come, so we signed it on June 14th. I entered the year for future reference, but many people hadn't. She wanted us to find the names of some people from Norwich who signed it earlier this year. They were Ed and Alice Kintner whose address is 109 Bradley Hill Road. She mentioned that she used to own the old Ben Gilson Farm that Coutemanche bought. They also owned a motel on Route 5, but when the interstate bypassed it they had much less business. Her former husband now lives in the state of Georgia. Our 1989 Tongan Guidebook (when discussing the Vava'u Group of islands) states: "you are almost certain to encounter another expatriate, Virginia, an effervescent one-time motel-keeper from Vermont, who will regale anyone who buys her a beer with stories real and imagined of her or anybody else's life." I had previously read this and had planned to see if we could find her. I doubt we would have ever seen her if Jerry hadn't wanted to see this museum in Lifuka.
After visiting Virginia we went to see Shirley Baker's Monument in town. It is in the European cemetery that is opposite the Catholic cemetery. The Europeans have headstones and monuments, but the Tongan cemeteries have big piles of dirt above the level of the ground. Tongan graves could be described as small earth mounds in cemeteries by the roadside. Some are ringed with beer bottles shoved into the dirt. Some are in fenced-off plots, under large cloth canopies, with embroidered tapestries or elaborate quilts flapping in the wind. Some of the tapestries had Jesus, the Last Supper, or crosses on them. Underneath them, rows of Foster's Beer cans, arranged symmetrically; or red banners and bunting; or tinsel - Christmas decorations seem popular on Tongan graves, even with Christmas a long way off. Several had plastic flowers decorating them, or bunches of yellow ribbon; some had bottles as well as beer cans on the periphery; some had wind chimes. In Tonga the graves seem to be everlastingly decorated.
About Shirley Baker: "Shirley Waldemar Baker, a Wesleyan missionary was one of the most controversial characters thrown up by 19th century history. He had been in Tonga since 1860 and in the space of two years had gained enough of the King's confidence to be influential in the writing of the 1862 legal code. Baker managed to alienate most other Wesleyan missionaries in Tonga by usurping their places as advisers to the king and was successful in provoking a number of influential Tongans also. By 1880 he had advanced sufficiently in the King's estimation to be appointed Premier, Minister for External Affairs, and Minister of Lands. Minor chiefs continually attempted to expel him and then assassinate him when expelling didn't work. With Baker, urged on by the King in the early 1880's, Tongan Methodists seceded from the parent church in Sydney (Australia) to form the Independent Free Church of Tonga. It was one of the bloodiest schisms in modern religious history, with hundreds of die- hard Wesleyans who refused to swear allegiance to the new church being flogged for their insolence; others had their lands confiscated or their livestock destroyed. In February 1987 the remaining Wesleyans in Tonga were removed to Fiji. The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga remains the largest denomination in Tonga today. Finally, British authorities, long critical of Baker from a distance, took action. In July 1890 Baker was offered a backhanded choice; voluntary exile or two years in jail. Baker departed that month." (From 1989 Tongan Guide by Norman & Ngaire Douglas) He was deported to New Zealand. After a 10-year exile, Baker returned as a lay reader. After he died in 1903 his children had a statue put up in his memory. It is the largest monument in Tonga (according to the 1979 Fodor's Guide to the South Pacific).
In the book "The South Seas Dream" John Dyson states: "I was walking up the slope of a mound of graves. As the islands were so near sea level one could not dig down far before striking water, so the dead were buried high up. The coffins were covered in sand patted down like sand castles and decorated with colored shells, Christmas tinsel streamers on sticks, and orderly picket fences of nose-down beer bottles."
On the way to town we saw some flying foxes , a kingfisher with a lot of turquoise color on it, and lots of very small buildings selling a few groceries. We bought local sweet bread called "pudeni," local bread (white and soft), baking powder and eggs (quite runny but not smelly). We also found rulers and pencil sharpeners for kids on outer islands - to go with small notebooks and pencils that we purchased in New Zealand. Candles were a good deal at 0.15 pa'angas each so I bought a few of those too.
Flying foxes are fruit bats (Pteropus tonganus) which are crow-sized, dark-brown, some have a wingspread of 3 feet and small ones cling to their mothers' backs. They spend most of their days hanging from palm trees and casuarina trees. We have seen several flying during the day. "Entrenched legend, part of which associates the bats with the spirits of ancient tribal chiefs, has given them a sacred status, and they many only be hunted by members of the royal family, though there is no indication of how often royalty avails itself of this privilege. Elsewhere in the Pacific, especially in Melanesia, fruit bats are still regarded as good eating" (Tongan Guide 1989).
At about 5 p.m. we decided to eat at Trevor's "Mariner's Cafe." It is named after William Mariner. Trevor had a 30-foot sailboat and decided to sell it and open a restaurant in Pangai in January this year. He is from Brisbane, Australia. A Tongan girl named Vevi worked for him. He had her cooking with lots of ingredients that Tongans generally don't use including burgers, rice and french fried potatoes. When we ordered Tongan Chicken Curry she didn't think we would like it because the chicken was composed of small pieces still on the bones. We had eaten this previously in Trinidad in their rotis (enclosed sandwiches made by Indians - descendents from India). Then, Trevor was out of potatoes (the Monday supply ship didn't have his order aboard) so she asked if it was okay if she served it with rice. We think the typical thing to serve with it is kumala (sweet potato grown on the island) but Trevor doesn't seem to use typical Tongan food to serve tourists. We didn't see any locals eating there the few times we stopped by. We imagine it is too expensive and extravagant for them. We paid 2.50 pa'angas each for the curry dish (about $1.75 U.S.) As you can see it is much easier to live on a retirement salary in these islands (excluding French Polynesia) than it would be in the U.S.
"William Mariner, was a British seaman who was held prisoner for 4 years after his ship was sunk and his shipmates were killed in 1806. At age 15 Mariner was a survivor of a native attack on the British privateer "Port-au- Prince." He was below while everyone was clubbed to death and then was taken ashore to begin four years in captivity. He had been the captain's clerk on the ship. He became the adopted son of a chief. Some consider him Ha'apai's most interesting European visitor. The ship put in at Lifuka to make repairs and was given a friendly welcome, as was Cook in 1777. The third day there they were attacked by 300 Tongans who were allowed on board. Mariner and a few others from the ship were spared being murdered. When Mariner returned to England he wrote a book of his Tongan experience. In the view of many scholars it is the most valuable book about Tonga ever written." (Tonga Guide)
At the Mariner's Cafe we met other tourists. One evening we sat at a large table with Carolyn and John from Alberta, Canada. They are on a month vacation while on their way to a conference of life insurance company people in Australia. John's family left South Africa when he was 8 years old and he is 6'8" tall. They told us about their difficulties in trying to make reservations in Tonga. They weren't even able to reserve seats on Tongan Airways to fly from Nuku'alofa to Pangai. They found few places that take visa cards. They used most of their cash to pay for accommodations, which they had planned to use a charge card for. They have done some canoe camping so were quite able to deal with the rustic accommodations in the Ha'apai Group. In the Tongan Royal Airlines flight magazine with Virginia's article we discovered that Tonga only gets about 25,000 visitors a year. No wonder they don't know how other countries deal with tourists! To encourage tourism Tonga should make some changes, but for those who can put up with some anachronisms it's relatively unspoiled. We also enjoyed the company of Hilary from London (a student studying eye surgery) and her recently acquired month-old Tongan puppy "Socks," though we imagine she had many problems taking that pup back home. Marta from Italy (an hour's train ride from Venice) shared some of her traveling experiences with us too. It was a good evening, but we didn't meet any locals. All of the above were staying at different places and only Marta's accommodation provided hot showers.
While walking around town during the day we notice many similarities to other islands that we have visited, both in the Caribbean and the South Pacific. Yards are penned to keep out the many pigs and piglets and the many hens, roosters and chicks. The few cows on the island seem to be tethered, as are the few goats. There seem to be many more pigs here than we've seen elsewhere. They raise pigs for special occasions - funeral proceedings which last from 3 to 10 days, and festivals and holidays. After someone dies large numbers of people gather for grieving with the umu (earth oven) constantly cooking something. In the umu hot stones are put in a shallow pit and the food is wrapped in packets of banana leaves and placed on top (some times they use aluminum foil now instead of banana leaves). Everything is then covered with more banana leaves or sometimes damp sacking and sand is piled over to trap in the heat. Only men prepare the umus. Pigs are usually done in the umu, but sometimes roasted on a spit over an open fire. Our guidebook warns that a Tongan feast is a wonderful experience but that foreign stomachs are inclined to be easily upset by eating pork, which is often served on the rare side. After attending the Mormon Church a family invited us to their house for an umu meal and we had pork. It was cooked very well - well done and tender.
One of the toughest things for me in Tonga is having to wear long skirts and shirts with sleeves. I have been very warm walking and riding a bicycle. Many of the Tongans are not only wearing lots of clothes, but they are wearing black clothes, which draw more heat. Black clothes are worn for mourning, which sometimes is long. Apparently when their Queen Salote died everyone had to wear black for a year. This period of time was decided on by the King. Besides this, they many adults wear the traditional ta'ovala. They are grass mats that sometimes hang just below the hips (usually for the men) and hang to the ankles (for the women). A 1994 Cruising World article mentioned that by wearing these ta'ovalas the Tongans are keeping alive the tradition of their seafaring ancestors who cut up the mat sails of their canoes and tied them around their waists to cover their nakedness before the chief. They wear them on top of their clothes and must be very hot in them. Sashlike ta'ovala are often badly torn and frayed and worn by a noble. We've heard (1968 National Geographic article) that the greater the age of the ta'ovala, the more it is treasured as an heirloom. Lucky owners show off their tatters proudly.
During the night we were awakened by large motors. The interisland Tongan ferry was in the harbor from 3:30 am until about 6:30 am. The following day a barge came in and the following night a huge freighter was in the harbor from about 2 am until 5 am. When Jerry heard the engines he turned on the anchor light on top of our mast. We already had our kerosene anchor light on, but wanted to be sure that the freighter saw us in the harbor. Apparently those three big boats arrive every week on schedule at the same times. However, they don't always carry the supplies that people have ordered. Sometimes these supplies don't make it to the boats before they leave Nuku'alofa. Our 1997 World Book Encyclopedia states that about two-thirds of the people in Tonga live on Tongatapu, the largest island. Nuku'alofa, Tonga's capital, chief port, and commercial center, is on Tongatapu. Nuku'alofa has about 29,000 people. Other sources that we have say that Tongatapu had 72,000 people in 1992 and the entire population of all the islands was about 95,000 in 1986.
June 15th we rented two bicycles for the day. The seats weren't high so we strained our legs some, and the next day our derrieres were quite sore from the uncomfortable seats, but we still had a wonderful adventure biking the length of two islands - Lifuka and Foa, each of which is about 7 km long. They are the two largest islands in the Ha'apai Group and have less than 5,000 people in total. Generally these are the only two islands in the group visited by tourists. When we went to Trevor's to get the bikes we met a Peace Corp volunteer from San Diego who is teaching industrial arts here for 2 and 1/2 years. Then we rode to the southernmost point of the island, through large plantations of manioc (tapioca), root crops, corn, orange and grapefruit trees. We went beachcombing for a while and then rode on many side roads through large plantations and back to the main town of Pangai. We saw men riding horses and carrying burlap bags full of coconuts or their crops. We again saw turquoise-colored kingfishers and flying foxes.
Back in Pangai we stopped at the Ha'apai Womens Handicraft Shop. It seems to be run by another Peace Corps volunteer, but has a local girl in charge. We bought a beautiful fruit basket, a woven bookmark, and a small piece of tapa cloth. We've heard that sometimes the women are so busy making baskets and tapa for their own use that they have little time to make them for the tourist trade. Tonga is famous for the size of its tapa and lengths of 50 meters are not uncommon. We shared a steak and onion burger at the Mariner's Cafe for lunch and had a couple of bottles of Australian spring water. Water is in short supply here as it is on many other islands. Then we set out in search of the Fortress of Velata, an example of a ring ditch fortification that was widespread throughout Fiji, Tonga, and Samoa. We didn't see anything left of it, but saw the sign and where its location used to be. We also rode by Olivehi's Tomb, constructed in the 1700's. She was a woman so high in rank, born into nobility, that she could not marry.
In Tonga, woven mats cover floors and act as wall partitions. Tapa covers beds and makes window covers. Tapa is material made from the treated bark of the paper mulberry tree. It used to be made on most Pacific Islands, but now is made only by Tongans, Samoans, and Fijians. Mats and tapa still have important social roles on these islands. In Tonga tapa cloth is also called ngatu. To make the cloth the women cut the slim, straight stems of the paper mulberry tree and strip away the outer bark. The rough outer layer can be separated from the finer, creamy colored inner layer. The fibrous material is laid over an ironwood anvil and beaten with a four-sided mallet. Three sides of the mallet (ike) are grooved to assist in the spreading of the material while the fourth side is smooth for felting the lengths together to form larger pieces. After several steps of folding and beating, the strips of material are felted together using an arrowroot adhesive and the smooth side of the ike. Then the tapa is decorated. A pattern is made by stitching the ribs of coconut leaves laid out in the required design onto a flat sheet of either thick leaves or woven pandanus. Sometimes a design is carved into a piece of wood to make a more durable pattern. The pattern board is placed under the cloth and is rubbed over with another small piece of tapa, which has been dipped, in a reddish-brown dye, which is the juice squeezed from the shredded bark of the koka tree. Then the finer decoration is added by hand using a darker brown koka dye or a black usually made from the soot collected from burning candlenuts. They often give large pieces of tapa for wedding gifts. Often women gather in a central fale (hut or building) to work together and socialize while making the tapa.
Next we decided to ride to the causeway that connects to the island of Foa. Foa is about as large as Lifuka (7.3 km long). On the way we saw another craft place called Melino Handicraft. We met the proprietors. The woman made the handicrafts and her husband found seashells. They had some black coral and turtle shells for sale, but we would never buy those as they are endangered and not allowed into the States anyway. There wasn't much in the shop as the passengers on a cruise ship had stopped in May and the sailboats in a Rally from Europe had stopped a week ago. The woman said that she hopes to have time to make more things before the cruise ship stops again in October. We did find a mat for hot dishes and bought that. She had made it with two colors and explained how she got the color black - by boiling the pandanus for a long time with some of its leaves.
We crossed Lifuka's airstrip in the northern part of the island. It runs east-west and crosses the main road, which is briefly closed when planes are using it. (On our way back to the boat we saw a man in a very small guardhouse beside the runway.) Then we crossed the 300- meter, one-way traffic causeway between the two islands. We rode to the end of Foa to the "Sandy Beach Resort." It looked quite elaborate with many small, attractive buildings with solar panels and tanks for hot water on the roofs, but it was mostly empty. We heard later that it is run by Germans. On our ride back to Lifuka some 9-10 year olds gave us some oranges and we saw high school students being transported from Pangai in the back of large trucks (their school buses). The younger children here say "bye" as we pass them. That is the only English word most of them know. A few of the younger children also know "What is your name?" and "My name is".... The industrial arts teacher in the Peace Corps told us that 14 year olds know about 20% of the English words he uses. Each year their usage of English improves, but it didn't sound like it gets much better than understanding about 50% for most students. I read that school is compulsory here from age 6 to age 14, but we don't know if most students continue. The younger children wear red uniforms and the older children wear white shirts and blue wrap-arounds or lavalavas for the boys and blue skirts or jumpers with white blouses for the girls.
We were quite tired after exploring all day so we ate at Mariner's Cafe again with the people from Alberta. Jerry had mussels and pasta while I had beef burgundy. Jerry found room for a huge piece of chocolate cake with ice cream (for the second day in a row). We were back at the boat after being away for 12 hours. It was quite a day! When we awoke on the 16th the sea was like a millpond. There were no ripples at all. Jerry went to town and found a lady selling sweet green peppers and lettuce on the street. What a treat! While he was gone two herons landed on "Arctracer" again. Late morning we pulled our anchor up and motored about 10 miles south to the island of Uoleva. There was still no wind. We went beachcombing and walked by a place with a few small buildings. Apparently the place is called "Captain Cook's Resort" (he was here in 1777) and is used by backpackers. There are no houses on this island and no roads. We did see several small boats bringing people at low tide to search the reefs for shellfish and octopus. The second day at Uoleva we bushwhacked through the woods to the other side of the island. We saw several pigs, then heard a bell. Investigating, we found a Tongan getting water out of an old well. He was using a leaky pan and putting water in a huge tire that had been cut in half. He didn't say much, but did understand when we asked him a couple of questions. He said that he has about 50 pigs on the island. Some looked much healthier that others. We found holes amongst roots as we walked through the coconut palms and other trees. Apparently pigs forage in the undergrowth for edible roots.
We ended up walking for 3 hours, following the beach back around to our dinghy. We found a few shells that we hadn't collected before. We also snorkeled for the first time since Aitutaki in the Cook Islands. We didn't stay in the water too long as we found it cold. I know that it is much warmer than the water on the coast of Maine in August, but it wasn't as warm as the water off North Carolina in August. We saw several 4-5 inch squid and some small fish while snorkeling. Jerry has attempted a little fishing from the boat but hasn't had any luck yet.
On June 18th we motored a short distance to Uhia Island where a local named Gary took us to Makahokovalu, which he said was constructed about 1830 and is a burial place for nobles and chiefs. It seemed to be the one sight to see on the island. We had planned to anchor at the island for a few days and attend church there, but there was a funeral and most people were busy with that. The small restaurant and guest house never had anyone around.
After eating one of Jerry's delicious omelets on the 19th we raised anchor and headed for another island. The wind didn't cooperate with our initial plan, so we changed course and arrived the island of Ha'afeva instead. The anchorage is well-protected, and the weather turned rainy and windy, so we just relaxed on board for a couple of days. On the 22nd we rowed to the wharf on Ha'afeva which was destroyed by a hurricane last Christmas. A cruising friend of ours from England had been there over a year ago and had taken three boxes of books to the school. She told us about meeting a family whose daughter is Afa. Afa, her brother Peter, her mother Sepa and her father Taufa invited us to their house for a Tongan meal. It was wonderful! They showed us the umu that they cooked the food in. They served octopus in coconut sauce and wrapped in young taro leaves, corned beef also in young taro leaves, yams (purple), white kumala (kumara in New Zealand, sweet potatos from South America originally), two whole chickens, and lemon juice. They also invited a couple from Australia on the boat "Opal" and gave us drinking nuts, red kumala, yams, a papaya, and many lemons to take back to the boat. We had a great time. Jerry took lots of pictures with his digital camera and then Afa came back to "Arctracer" with us to watch him print out the pictures on the computer printer. While Jerry was printing out the pictures I showed her our Vermont booklet that I'd put together and a map of the world relating where Tonga was with respect to Vermont and Salt Lake City. When she invited us to lunch the day before I decided to make bread and a cake to take to them in return for the lunch. They seemed to really like it and didn't seem to have an oven to make bread in.
Afa has a brother in Salt Lake City, and the family wanted pictures of themselves to send to him. Although her family belongs to the Wesleyan Church, her brother had joined the Mormon church and left for the United States. Apparently there are many Tongans in Salt Lake City, and help with visas, etc. is an incentive to become Mormon. We've heard that the Mormons build a church and a school with basketball courts in most Tongan villages. Their schools are quite good and many people join the church so that their children can attend the school free of charge. We've also heard that they change back to the Church of Tonga or the Wesleyan Church once their children have completed school. We have also heard that the goal is for Tonga to be the first country with a Mormon majority but whether this is true or not we don't know.
Another family gave us a breadfruit the first day that we walked around Ha'afeva. The next day I took them some bread and marmalade. They proceeded to give us a stalk of bananas, which was special because all the banana trees were destroyed in the Christmas hurricane and only now were some beginning to have fruit. The father, a retired schoolteacher, then asked if we had any (reading) eyeglasses aboard. I did have an extra pair (in fact two extra pairs). We said that we would return to their house the following day at 9 am. When we arrived they invited us into the house and gave us a breakfast of fried fish and fried potatoes. When I was told that Tongans eat all of the fish, including the eyes, I ate everything. I must admit that the eyes tasted like cod-liver oil to me. (I cannot remember having it, but probably did when I was quite young.) I can't say that I enjoyed them too much, but if invited to another Tongan home I could cope with eating them again. On my boat I think I'll avoid them. I had decided to take both pairs of glasses for Uikelotu to try so that he could decide which would be best for reading his bible. He either didn't understand or ignored me because he said "Oh, some for my wife, Ofa, too." and kept both pairs. I think I'll stock up on more drugstore reading glasses when I find some fairly cheap ones, but from now on I'll only take one pair at a time to a family!! I learn quickly. After eating while sitting on a mat on the livingroom floor Uikelotu said that some nylon (fishing line) and hooks would be nice for his 36-year-old son Sami. Sami had cooked the breakfast for us on the request of his father. He later told us that there can be only one leader (head of the family) in each family. When sons get married their wives move to the husband's home, so Sami stays with his parents unless he emigrates to another place. Sami will become the head of the family and inherit the family plantation when his father dies. We proceeded to invite Sami and his wife Ofa to the boat at 1:00. They met Jerry at the wharf about 1:30. Jerry rowed while they sat in the back of our dinghy. Was the back of the dinghy ever low in the water! These were big people. Before they came I got a few hooks and some nylon together, a dishcloth for Ofa, some lollipops for their 5 children, two shorts/shirt outfits for their youngest, and 5 notebooks with 5 pencils and a pencil sharpener for the children. I wasn't about to show that I had more notebooks, more childrens' clothes, etc. after the incident with the eyeglasses. We had tea and chocolate cookies that I'd bought in New Zealand. We showed them a world map and where we'd been and showed them a booklet that I've put together about Vermont showing the four seasons that we have. They understood English quite well, but when they attempted to explain some things they talked together in Tongan and couldn't always figure out how to say what they wanted to say in English. When they left Sami decided that he would row back. That was good as it made the dinghy more stable. They wanted us to stay at Ha'afeva longer because Ofa wanted to make me some things out of pandanus, but we decided that it was time to move on.
After the fish breakfast we went to the school and met Isaiah's teacher, Sione. Isaiah explained some things to Jerry the previous day when we had many children following us. He asked if we had any books. Since we did, we decided to take some children's books to his teacher and ask his teacher to give him one of them, while keeping the rest for the school. We also took some National Geographic magazines, notebooks, pens, pencils, rulers, and a pencil sharpener to the teacher. He seemed quite appreciative. On the beach near our anchorage in Ha'afeva we noticed more than 20 seemingly wild goats. Afa told us that they belonged to the chief. The chief doesn't seem to make too many decisions, but he has decided to have a feast when the wharf is rebuilt in about a year. We imagine that some of his goats will be on the menu.
I must say that we enjoyed our 6 days at Ha'afeva. We wouldn't mind returning one day even though the anchorage is very popular among cruising boats. It is easy to enter the anchorage. While we were anchored there several boats with huge numbers on them showing they were among the 50 in the "Around the World for the Millennium Rally" anchored there for only one night in their rush to sail around the world quickly. The people on Ha'afeva seemed very friendly. The children on the village street did continuously ask for lollies, so some cruisers apparently take candy to hand out freely, but we've decided to only give things to people who have treated us to new experiences or food. We just talked to the kids, playing "What's your name?"
On the islands of Ha'afeva and Oua the local Tongans called us "palangi" frequently. (Of course we are called palangi throughout Tonga). Palangi is an euphemism for white person. It means "sky-burster." The Tongans felt that the first Europeans who arrived must have exploded from the sky. Paul Theroux in his book "The Happy Isles of Oceania" states: "In the seventeenth century, Tongans and Samoans believed that their islands lay in a great and uncrossable ocean. The story of a long overseas migratory journey was conjectural in Tonga and absent in Samoa, where the local creation myth described how they had risen from a knot of twitching worms in the soil of their islands. So when the first Europeans appeared in this part of western Polynesia - Tasman in 1643, and later Roggeveen and Cook - the only possible way for them to have arrived was from the sky, exploding from the heavens."
On the 25th of June we sailed to the island of Oua. We had been headed there when we ended up in Ha'afeva. We figured that there wouldn't be many cruisers visiting Oua since it has quite a reef system and the chart does not show any entrance. We had a cruising guidebook which shows how to get in. It was quite an easy entrance with light wind and good light, and the anchorage was fine. We soon met several of the local boys, who ventured out to "Arctracer" in their leaky dugouts. Many of the children wrote down their Tongan names for us. Some of the names were: Neville, Davida, Saimone, Tui'neau, Kafoa, Levani, 'Eliki, Samupeni, Samiu, and Molata. Neville was the first to arrive with papaya. He then asked for fishhooks. We had bought some for trading purposes, so we gave him a few. Next Davida arrived with his two younger brothers with two drinking nuts. He opened them for us with his machete. We gave him some old rope to tie his leaky outrigger to "Arctracer" and we gave him three pencils and some of my fresh bread with jelly. Later when others came aboard they would say "I'm hungry." I guess the news spread that I gave out bread and jelly. Davida and his brothers came inside the boat for a look and while they were inside their outrigger floated away. Apparently he hadn't tied it securely. Jerry then showed him how to make a proper bowline knot. We discovered that it had floated away when the other boat anchored near us yelled to us. After the boys left we visited the trimaran "Sunbird" from New Zealand and had tea. They have a family of four on board (8 and 10 year olds) plus a friend of theirs.
Saturday, the 26th of June brought many more visitors to the boat. News spreads fast in these small islands and we doubt that many cruisers invite the locals aboard. Tuineau brought oranges and drinking nuts for old rope, fishline, hooks, and some bread with jam. We visited the town when he left and bought more oranges there for juice. We saw over 20 octopus drying at one house and Jerry took pictures of them. Later we saw many more octopus drying at other homes. When we returned to the boat the father of one of the boys we'd met (Katoni in Tongan or Gordon in English) arrived with an octopus. I said that I'd like it, but that I didn't know how to prepare it. Consequently he came aboard and cleaned it for us after taking the beak off. He stayed for a while and then asked if we had any tobacco. We did, so that is what we exchanged for the octopus. Later four boys (Davida, Samupeni, Saimone, and Viliami) visited us again. We sang songs in English, including Jingle Bells. I showed them a picture of a one-horse-open-sleigh and they hadn't known what the words meant. It was neat to see their faces when I pointed to it every time we sang it. We then cooked the octopus using my Caribbean fried conch recipe. The boys hadn't had it cooked that way before and really ate a lot. We finished it. We also ate manioc roots that they'd brought and drank coconut water from the drinking nuts. Later that evening Molata and Tuineau brought by smoked octopus, manioc, and breadfruit. They wanted nylon fish line and hooks, so we made exchanges. They were also hungry so we gave them each half a slice of bread with some homemade jelly on it. After the boys left we had showers. It was difficult to take showers in peace at this anchorage with all of our visitors in their outrigger canoes. Then I finished making my bread. I've been making it since we left New Zealand. I've also discovered that the organic cracked wheat that I bought in New Zealand does sprout, so if we go back there I'll buy some more. It must be the same as wheat berries. I was delighted with this discovery.
Many of the young boys that visited us were Mormons, so we decided to experience the Mormon church on Sunday. For the first hour of the three hour service the women went to a separate room. The leader never showed up so I talked with a mother and her two daughters. One of them had lived in Nuku'alofa for a while and spoke English. Her husband was sitting beside Jerry in the church occasionally explaining to him what was being said in Tongan. The men had a discussion about the future, and some feared the millenium would bring hurricanes, etc. The women invited me to their house after the service for a Tongan meal. The meal included pig, breadfruit, octopus, fish, yams, and oranges. Most of it was cooked in their earth oven (umu). Their umu was different from the other one we'd seen. It was a small steel barrel buried in the dirt. When we returned to the boat we expected to be by ourselves for the day since Tongans do not work or fish etc. on Sundays. However, a couple of boats did approach us. We told them that it was Sunday and we did not want to trade for vegetables on Sundays. We tried our dried smoked octopus for the first time and found it really hard and chewy. It was similar to beef jerky, but tougher.
On the 28th we opened the last of our four 25-gallon water tanks. They use rainwater here and don't have extra so we haven't been able to fill our tanks since arriving. We had invited the young couple, whose house we ate at on Sunday to the boat. I made a pineapple upside-down cake for their family and some bread. Sami and Lata said that they hadn't had bread since they left Nuku'alofa two months ago. We couldn't have tea with them as Mormons don't drink tea, so we had lemonade made with fresh lemons with our freshly cooked bread and marmalade. When they left they wanted to go get us some bananas, but we told them we were leaving the anchorage. They were on their way to get more octopus to dry. They had heard that perhaps they could make some money by selling them in Nuku'alofa.
(view Ha'apai photos)
Sami gave us information about the island of Mango, which is not mentioned in the guidebook. This might not have any cruisers at all, so we raised anchor and and sailed there. We arrived about dusk to find an Australian boat anchored in the only sandy place. The rest of the small bay was forty feet deep with a beautiful coral garden below so we couldn't bring ourselves to put the anchor down. Our chain would probably have damaged some of the coral. The anchorage was quite rolly anyway, so we put our sails back up and headed to the Vava'u Group in Tonga. There was very little wind, so we didn't arrive in the Vava'u Group until the 30th of June.
On the way to the Vava'u Group of islands in Tonga we passed the island of Tofua and the island of Kao again. This time I knew that it was there and it was no surprise to see it in the night. While on "Sea Princess," a 30,000-ton cruise ship going to the Vava'u Group in northern Tonga, John Dyson explains in his book "The South Seas Dream" published in 1982: "At ten I strolled out on deck to see what I could of the island of Tofua and, just off it, the perfect cone of Kao, which the Staff Captain described on the blower. Right here, Captain Bligh had been turned adrift in a 23-foot open boat by Fletcher Christian and the mutineers. On Tofua he had landed to get water, been surrounded by natives who picked up stones and beat them together. They threw the stones as the castaways backed off the beach, killing the bosun."
P.S. (Poetry Stuff): Most sailors who like poetry think that John Masefield's is the best, especially
I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,|
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
I must go down to the seas again to the vagrant gypsy life,
We think Thoreau was right when he said that the person with the fewest possessions is the most free, but Jerry has decided that Masefield needs updating, to correspond with the thinking of many of today's cruisers, so here is
I must go down to the seas again, in a modern high-tech boat,|
And all I ask is electric, for comfort while afloat,
And alternators, and solar panels, and generators going,
And deep cycle batteries with many amperes flowing.
I must go down to the seas again, to the autopilot's ways,
I must go down to the seas again, with a freezer full of steaks,
I must go down to the seas again, with power-furling sails,
I must go down to the seas again, and not leave friends behind,
I must go down to the seas again, record the humpback whales,
I must go down to the seas again, with RAM in gigabytes,
I must go down to the seas again, my design seems quite sound,
I must go down to the seas again, how can I get away?
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