11:30 LTY time (UTC +13) = 22:30 (Sat) UTC
Location: Anchored by village of Falehau, NW lagoon of Niuatoputapu Island, North Tonga
Position: 15 56.485 S, 173 46.180 W (cut & past this into Google Earth to see on map)
TERRIFIC TIMES in TRUE TONGA
** See photo album at http://picasaweb.google.com/wayne.hodgins/NiuatoputapuTonga# for more pictures
As usual I’ve extended my stay in yet another spot, this time the northernmost island of the Kingdom of Tonga, Niuatoputapu Island where I’m anchored in a nicely protected lagoon on the NW side near the small village of Falehau. I arrived last Wednesday (21 July) and yet again the whole experience of the past 5 days has been serendipitously super, and so I wanted to get you a brief update on some of the details that made this adventure so memorable.
It is these situations when I really miss having an internet connection sufficient to add photos to these postings, but since arriving in Tongan waters last month, internet connections ashore have been few and far between and even when I do find them they have not been good enough to support uploads the size of photos or Skype calls. I am however taking lots of photos and will do my best to post these, likely next month some time when I get to Fiji I suspect.
* July 29th: photos now added to this and several other posts
This has me rethinking and reexamining my budget to purchase one of the new stabilized satellite based broadband options so I could have broadband internet wherever I roam, but that will have to wait for another day yet. In the interim, I’ll do my best to use my limited writing abilities to paint some pictures for you.
As I’ve mentioned and as you can see above and if you have checked the lat/long coordinates on a map or Google Earth, this is the northernmost of the many islands that make up the archipelago of the Kingdom of Tonga and is apparently the most remote and least visited of all of Tonga. There is actually “Tin Can Island” of Niuafoou which is a bit further north yet but it is completely inaccessible by boat so can’t call there. Here on Niuatoputapu from what I’ve read and experienced this is about as close as you can get to what “true Tongan” culture is/was like, and I’ve been so I’ve been very warmly welcomed into a group largely unaffected by external forces, other than natural ones. They were for example hit by the tsunami I was in last year and are still busy rebuilding homes, roads, etc. But I've been very fortunate and pleased to be invited into their homes and lives and will be heading ashore in a few minutes to join in a Sunday Tongan feast that Cici and Niko are putting on. There is now one other boat that came in on Friday, “Navire” out of Wellington NZ with a very interesting couple, David originally Canadian but grew up since he was 13 in NZ and Janet. We had a fun afternoon hiking up to the highest point here on the island (some great photos to follow) and we've had each other over to our respective boats to enjoy the last 2 sunsets, some wine and good food. (she's an ex chef!)
Everyone ashore, population about 800 are a bit shy but very much want to engage and talk, the children especially. They speak their native Tongan language of course but all but a few are also extremely fluent in English and so the conversations are deep and rich. I’ve been able to barter some of my skills and tools for all their kindness helping Niko diagnose a poor V6 that was running as about a V2 and then pull the camshaft and crank pulley on a diesel van that has blown a timing belt. Fortunately I’m a bit of a travelling tool shop and tools are one of the biggest limitations here. The monthly supply ship came in yesterday and so it was a big day on the island for everyone to get their various supplies from food to building materials to diesel. Several large pallets of building supplies from the Red Cross also were unloaded as part of the ongoing rebuilding after the tsunami. The locals explained how the government workers who are here are busy repairing the roads, which are actually in quite good shape while most of the people are still living in tents or with tarpaulins over the remains of old buildings! Seems to be an all too typical mismatch between what the officials think priorities should be and what the local inhabitants do. Some things are rather universal in this world aren’t they!
I’m now just back from a delectable Tongan feast compliments of Cici’s long hours and ably assisted by Janet who was able to spend most of the morning, after church of course, learning some of the tips and tricks of Tongan dishes and cooking methods. We had a veritable feast of fish and pork (Iots of domesticated pigs running around here) that was done up in coconut milk wrapped in papagayo leaves then in banana leaves and cooked in a fire pit, along with tapioca root and breadfruit that was simply cooked as is in the fire pit as well. And then plenty of a papaya and coconut dish to add even more flavor and color. We ate this all, Cici, Niko, Janet, David and myself with some of their boys coming in and out, on the floor of the excellent new first part of their new home which Niko has built from the wood and other materials they were able to salvage from what was left behind after the tsunami waters cleared away.
So as you can see, I continue to lead an unexpectedly and undeservedly charmed life and am doing my best to wallow and live within each of its moments. But now it is time to head out for the next adventure, I’m leaving in about an hour to sail up to another small remote spot of a pair of island groups known as Wallace and Futuna, about 14S and 176W if you want to hunt them down. These are French overseas territory tied administratively to Noumea, New Caledonia with a total land area of about 93 sq. miles and a total population of about 15,000 spread out over many islands. One interesting thing about them is that the people of Wallis, or Uveans as they are called after the main island, are descended from Tongans, whereas those of Futuna originally came from Samoa. It will be most interesting to see the differences as I visit each one as they are equally different geographically as well apparently. I’m leaving late this afternoon (Sunday here) as I don’t want to get there and go into the rather tricky pass at Wallis until daylight and it should take me somewhere around 36-40 hours depending on the winds and currents. Forecast looks very good for the next few days with wind and seas mostly behind me and little chance of rain, so the window is open and I’m jumping through it.
Hope you are enjoying an equally great weekend wherever you are and whomever you’re with. I’ll post some updates while underway as usual and report back to you about my experiences in Wallis as they happen. I gain a day and lose 2 hours in the process due to the odd fact that Tonga uses Fijian time zone but I’ll likely head for Fiji later on as well so it will wall work out.
Wayne & Ruby the Wonderdog
Aboard s/v Learnativity
15 56.485 S, 173 46.180 W
Falehau, NW lagoon of Niuatoputapu Island, North Tonga
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