What a Wonderful World

After having had rather poor weather during our first week in Tonga, we were happy that the conditions improved from Sunday on. Everyone who is now expecting us to tell you some spectacular story will be disappointed, because we simply spent some days relaxing at the beach. But what a beach! We were mostly all alone, the long strip of white sand is lined by a forest of coconut palms, the water always has a comfortable temperature of about 25 degrees and going to the sea is like jumping into an aquarium: the whole ground is covered by coral reef and you see hundreds of different fishes of all sizes, shapes and colors. They come close to you, some blue sea-stars are relaxing at the bottom and you can find many mussels and crabs everywhere. Since it was my first time snorkelling and I was so amazed by this underwater-world, I did not see a bigger wave coming, which pushed me towards the reef where I scratched myself a bit. And exactly at that moment, when I was slightly bleeding, I saw a 1.5 meters big reef shark swimming 3 meters away from me …. scary experience when you have no idea whether they are dangerous or not! However, the shark did not seem to be interested in further interaction (or was disgusted by my blood) and later the hotel owner told me that such a meeting is quite common and that at least in the past 40 years no incidences occurred. So the next days we swam to the area where I had seen the shark and we looked hours for this guy to come back again, but unfortunately in vain. You see, also in the South-Pacific not everything is perfect :-) At the resort we also met lots of travellers of all ages who had interesting routes and a great way to discover the countries they are visiting: almost everyone took the public bus to the “city” (with respect to the Tongan definition), couples in retirement cycled across the island to see the sights and all were interested in getting into contact with the local people. So it seems you can do large and challenging travels when you’re retired, but though they were experienced travellers maybe it is hard to first learn it in that age. Continue reading

Rain in Paradise

So finally we arrived to the “Friendly Islands” …. it was rainy and windy again, but this time the pilot (male, by the way) landed so smoothly that I did not even wake up! In the plane we met Siue, a young Tongan working in New Zealand, who arranged the airport transfer to town for us, so we did not have to take a taxi. At the same day we went to the wharf in the capital city (Nuku’alofa) to ask for the ferries to the Ha’apai Group, where we wanted to spend a week on a lonesome island. However, still due to the stormy weather, the sea was so rough that there was no ferry service that Wednesday. Hence, we returned the next morning and they announced that there would not be any passages until Monday. As also the flights were full (the only domestic airline had resigned the Sunday before and there was just some replacement service available) and we only have two weeks for Tonga, so going to that group was not worth it for us anymore because we would have spent just one night there. But luckily, finding some alternative program is not very difficult in Tonga.

We spent two days in Nukualofa (staying at Sela’s Guest House), visited the market and the King’s Palace and did a bike tour around the main island (Tongatapu) to the blow holes. What impressed us most was how green the landscape is, everything grows here in abundance: mangos, bananas, melons, sweet potatoes, the people’s bellies and most important, coconuts. We were taught how to drink the milk and afterwards how to open and peel them, and we cook a lot with them (together with curry). The taste of a fresh coconut which has fallen from a tree 10 minutes before is simply awesome! From Friday on, we stayed in a simple but great Beach Resort (Heilala Holiday Lodge), so we have a more or less comparable beach experience as we wanted to have in Ha’apai. And since yesterday the weather is also improving a lot. Continue reading