When we arrived in Tonga about two weeks ago, it was early in the morning, and there was light wind, so we silently entered the Vava'u group of islands, slowly slipping past island after island. What struck us the most, was the singing of the birds. The islands are heavily forested, and obviously full of birds and we listened to them chirping away, welcoming us to their home. We all said it reminded us of the movie "Rio" with the beautiful melody of the singing birds! The trip to the main town of Neiafu is almost like sailing down a fjord, a narrow passage with tall cliffs on either side. It was beautiful, and we were excited to see what Tonga had to offer us.
The second major thing about arriving in Tonga was that we had crossed the International Date line, and we had jumped a day ahead. We never experienced Wednesday, October 12th, because it was now Thursday, October 13th in Tonga!
We spent two days at the main anchorage in the town of Neiafu, taking care of formalities such as checking in, and saying hi to boat friends who had arrived before us. We explored the town a little, the most exciting thing was probably the cheap ice cream cones we were able to buy at a the ice cream shop...the rest of the town leaves much to be desired. Sadly, we found a lot of litter on the ground and generally it was a little run down.
After 2 days in town, we left to explore the beautiful Vava'u group of islands. Our first stop was a great snorkeling spot where we saw tons of starfish, ranging from a beautiful blue, to red to black. We also saw some gorgeous little luminescent blue fish hiding behind lilac tinged coral...
We then moved to Port Maurelle, the anchorage named after Francisco Maurelle, the first European to "discover" Tonga. He was actually not an explorer, he was merely trying to deliver despatches from Manila to the Spanish authorities in San Blas, Mexico. His ship was leaking, his men were sick with scurvy and they had no fresh water left. In Vava'u, he found friendly people whose chiefs supplied him with fresh food and water. We could just imagine a big Spanish galleon anchored in this protected bay with a white sandy beach.
We ended up staying in Port Maurelle for a couple of days as some less than desirable weather came through, and as a result, made some new boat friends! We met "Enchanter", with ex-South African Rijnhart and his Australian wife, Lisa aboard. They also had Canella, a cute doggie aboard, that the kids immediately fell in love with! Then "Jade" and "Enough" arrived...more kid boats!! We had a bonfire on the beach one evening, with adults talking weather and past experiences, and all the kids running around playing "capture the flag" and roasting marshmallows. They had a blast!
At another anchorage we discovered a little village that was in complete contrast to Neiafu. Matamaka was impeccably clean, with no litter to be seen anywhere, and all the houses had fences and beautifully landscaped gardens. You could see they really took pride in their village. We met the school teacher (one of 2) and she showed us the school. It has 2 classrooms for 15 students, ages 5 - 10. Class 1,2 & 3 are in one class (those were her grades), and the other teacher taught class 4, 5 & 6. They had a surprisingly robust library, with many donations coming from visiting yachts.
Despite there being a lot of cruisers in Vava'u, as well as a Moorings charter base, we were able to find some lovely secluded anchorages where we were all by ourselves. We spent one afternoon exploring Swallows Cave and a neighboring cave with no name, that had a "secret" cave accessible only by diving underneath the water through it's submerged entrance. No problem for Dave and dare devil Gaby...a little more coaxing was needed for Ben and myself to go through, but we all did and it was amazing! At the cave entrances there are beautiful coral reefs that are shallow for a bit, and then plunge down into dark blue depths of nothingness.
On Saturday the call came over the radio asking Cool Runnings to rendezvous with Fata Morgana, Invictus, Excalibur, Vida and Mercredi Soir, at a specific anchorage. Maya on Fata Morgana was having an early birthday party, so we upped anchor and headed over to meet all the boats. We baked her a cake in lieu of a birthday present and the kids had to dress up. Gaby went as an archer, with a home made bow, made with the help of Noah on Jade, back in Port Maurelle. Ben went as a surfer :-). There were 12 kids, and since only kids were allowed, I have to take Ben & Gaby's word for it, that a lot of fun was had by all!!
We ended our stay in Tonga with a Tongan Feast, prepared by the family living on the island we had anchored off. Much to the horror of the younger kids, there was a little piggy busy roasting over a fire on a wooden spit! We had seen lots of pigs in Tonga...even out on the reef at low tide, and of course the piglets are always so cute. Well, this little guy was now our lunch!! We had a lovely afternoon of great food and great company, with kids climbing trees and splashing around in the water, and grown ups chatting and enjoying a glass of wine or a cold beer....a great way to spend a Sunday, and a great end to our stay in Tonga!
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