TONGA, Nuku'alofa & Atata Island
NOTE all words in ITALICS were written on the trip.
The Friendly Isles - Malo e lelei
UPDATE 10/12/2007 We have now left Tonga. Grim last day with cyclone and quake, plus we saw on the news from NZ some sort of coup/riot, we are investigating. Anyhow even though we enjoyed it pleased to have got out. Last day at 8.45pm house, tables and everything shook. seems to have been a quake nearby, deep underground , no tsunami warning, storms raging. Cyclone Daman. But apart from that things we did were,visted Atata , idyllic desert island, hired a car on the mainland (Tongatapu) for 3 days and leisurely went round everything over 2 days (i guess you could do it in a 1/2 day) and on the 3rd day went to the Cultural centre. Saw trad outrigger boat, Houma Blowholes (ace), National Holiday procession for King Tupou 1st on 4/12, village traditional dancing and a cultural dance eve at the International Dateline Hotel. Tonga is slightly different from Fiji and Samoa....All the ladies wear what appear to be mats over their skirts, and sometimes the chaps as well. Plus visible signs of protest against goverment in the streets. Great inequality , see some of our pictures! In Nuku'alofa town we saw the Kings Palace, had lunch in the 2 Sisters (often, its ace!) and Robinas Express cafe. She is half tongan/ quarter japanese and a quarter german and is gr8 (forceful business lady with 'high' connections) generally the town is not that inspiring but the market excellent
HIGHLIGHTS Atata Island, Blowholes, 2 Sisters restuarant and village dancing
LOWLIGHTS cockroach, rat, tongan tummy, dead sea krate (the worlds deadliest snake) on atata beach, cyclone daman & earthquake
HISTORY Boy most of the reviews we have read of Tonga denegrade its infrastructure and believe it or not their people...bad stuff...we keep an open mind and are really looking forward to it....We will be staying at Nukuma'anu cottages Vuna Road Sopu (check it out on Google Maps below, near the Black Pearl appartments, it may well be closed 2020 but there is still an internet listing) on Tongatapu (the main southernmost group of islands) in the Executive fale cos guess what they have 24*7 internet....no water (joke)....now thats not bad for reports of a decaying infrastructure...more when we arrive. We are there 11 nights 29/11 to 10/12 ...have just found Nov is close of parliament and last year at this time there was civil unrest, fires and looting....Oh dear, let's hope no repeat this year....
Remember the Fale, Robina, Nuku'alofa market - coconut drinks, Black Rose (Rosiloa) album bought in market, New Eagles album downloaded, outsized washing,tonga's stonehenge,Captain Cook monument, cockroaches, earthquake & cyclone and getting out alive.
Summary: TONGA 11 days , Day 35-45, 29/11/2007 - 10/12/2007
Day 35 - Thursday 29th November 2007,Arrival in Tonga, Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu
Flight over quick and easy. Good NZ plane. Odd to see some 150+ people have to deplane in Samoa even though they were going on to Auckland, plus they would have to do the same in Tonga.Very little sleep. We had to have a 3 hour kip when we arrived to recover. Fale here at Nukama’anu is ace, Air con Inet 24/7, Sat TV etc.Met Silva, Margaret (PA) , Robina (owner) and handy man , who I had a chat to about Rugby and Hard Rock Cafes plus v friendly taxi driver who took us to 2 supermarkets and a stall for provisions and bananas.I drive a hard bargain and got a whole tree for $TOP4 (£1p) The currency is Pan’anga although for our benefit (I wish they wouldn’t) they call it a dollar.Plus lady in shop around the corner where we got bread, water and cheese (fondue style) who was having her kids talk to her ex in Stockton in California on a mobile, hoot or what! Most memorable: Christmas decs outside our cottage
Day 36 - Friday 30th November 2007,Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu
Morning spent on laptop catching up, bank stuff with Craig (our hero) and sally jacks (Barclays), website redo, audible book download (savage garden) research on Tonga and associated islands. Both feeling a little jaded and oh I hope not but experiencing Tongan Tummy.Anne ankles bad and she is resting whilst I catch the daily diary up as haven’t done it since we returned from Savaii to Upolu.Just chillin will get a car for 3 days. Researched beaches and roads / places of interest. Very laid back here. Most ladies (married?) wear black and a mat skirt over their skirts. It is warm but not humid here and sea breeze and air con a big plus Lovely cottage Sat TV which we haven’t tried yet but will .Silva gave us 4 bananas (with mine we could overdose on them if we are not careful) plus returned our washing (along with her underwear) Very cheap $TOP10 (about £2.50) - the bananas not her underwear! Walk along beach to shop to get more water and bread. Coast is v interesting as inner coral reef but not advised to swim in. Taxi driver and Robina said they collect fish/ crabs/ all manner of marine life to eat from there. It was covered in folk at low tide doing exactly this. Plus kids all playing rugby by the side of the road. No posts , in Samoa each village at least had wooden tree stuff for posts
Day 37 - Saturday 1st December 2007, Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu
Went by taxi into town and walked around. Saw market and bought tomatoes, lettuce, carrots, peppers and a small pineapple. Keith looked at cotton shirts but none his size. We saw taro, yams, kava root, ginger, garlic and other vegetables which we did not know the names. Very interesting. Internet café had a lot of NZ backpackers and Europeans. People were friendly and helpful in the shops. Bought a map & postcards. Some Tongans were in western clothing and others in sarongs with pandanus mats wrapped round their hips, both men & women. Saw local youth band singing & playing music in car park.Saw King of Tonga’s official residence (one of six) which was a colonial white clapboard building along the seafront. Town had a huge tree near the Westpac bank called a rain tree. Had lunch in restaurant, by then market was closing and traders were going home in pick-up trucks with unsold fruit & veg. Saw a pig in a wooden cage in back of truck being driven down main street. Weather was warm, sunny & cloudy & temp was 79F. Town looked very small considering it is the capital of Tonga – unremarkable buildings with colonial flavour – wooden with tin roofs but a small arcade with some modern shops and café. Got taxi back to our fale and then wrote postcards which we will send on Monday as the PO was shut. Watched ‘Around the bend’ on Sat Tv quirky family/road movie with Christopher Walken and Michael Caine (briefly before the cheque ran out!) – good (plus best quality picture since we started traveling) Tonga contribution to Broadcasting is a few local (hammy) adverts for beach resorts! Had interesting walk around market and town. Had lovely lunch in 2 sisters restaurant – chicken escalope in lime sauce with fried potatoes, garlic bread and side salad. For desert we had strawberry and chocolate gateau slices and nice coffee.
Day 38 - Sunday 2nd December 2007,Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu
Chillin.alas Keef has Tongan Tummy so he is on water only all day, which should sort it. Reading, listening to music, researching facebook, laptop not much really. Waiting to get the hire car 2moro for 3 days so we can travel. Researched map also for islands worth visiting (Atata & Fala).Nuku is the uninhabited one where shipwrecked was filmed (teen reality show) Gentle walk left out of cottage along Hake Vunu (hake is road), our road.Robina and her 2 children dressed smart presumably for church. Note all ‘married’ Tongan women seem to be dressed from head to toe in black. She paid tribute to the Tongan customs of mat or belt mat with long ‘dangly’ bits by wearing an equivalent in silver. Met no one – Sunday is a very family/quiet day here in Tonga, Margaret and lady in 2 sisters said they slept as tired. Have to say as temperature is about 80, i.e 15degs less that Samoa folk here are far less ‘moochy’.Whilst writing our postcards we had a long chat with the Tongan gardener who was sweeping up leaves outside our fale. His name was Alex and he said he had been to France by cargo ship in 2000 and went via New Caledonia & Suez Canal which took over 2 months. Said he is going to visit his brother & family in NZ before Xmas for 3 months.
Day 39 - Monday 3rd December 2007,Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu
Sent email to D&P-here is the extract which tells something of our day ,interesting one as first day of 3 with hire car***Hi Doug & Phoenix,Alas we didn’t get your text msg, both our phones don’t work here in Tonga and the only texts I have got are when i email phones and they respond...I’ll try l8r. Good stuff here in Tonga although i've got a rather bad dose of 'tongan tummy' at the mo, probably via water on salad but who knows, mum is ok. Got hire car 2day and saw LHS (left hand side) of the island, blowholes at Houma ace, plus saw surfing beach at Ha'atafu beach where we were talking to 4 ozzie surfers when a coconut that dropped narrowly missed all of us and the car (luckily). Gonna do the RHS 2moro. King died recently 84 and 33stone, fattest monarch in history, so being large (although we are both loosing weight a bit) is seen as good in Tonga. His main palace is just down the road from us, we saw his son (ex PM, King elect....its a bit / lot corrupt here I would suggest) drive past this a.m with police escort and blacked out bullet proof windows, public hols 2moro for his birthday and plaques everywhere celebrating what seems to be each of the previous kings 84 b'days (bizarre!) have to say not really enough to do here for 10 days, its very small We both preferred Samoa, still not complaining We will (if we can work out how) get to 1 or 2 of the surrounding Islands....Nuku is apparently where they shot the TV reality show Shipwrecked (never heard of it!) Still in answer to your quessies, bag 59 has dougs rucsac in it, i guess your tent is probably in that (unless we bought it over to you) ...no probs mum & i will get you a mattress and 2man tent when we get to NZ...not long now. Saw England result (did Beckham play?) , blimey that’s a heavy group, no I am not interested either....bet Craig’s mates who pre-booked tickets are pig sick bye love M&D/K&A.***saw 3 beach resorts(?) that you would really question, 2 ripoff taxi merchants and 1 resort ripoff, but apart from that a fairly good day!!! Houma Blowholes (ace), King elect Tupou V.Alex bought us 5 more bananas, we could open a shop, pity no blender cos banana milkshake is gr8. we did find out that 2moros public holiday is to celebrate King Tupou ,we more or less followed this route by car over our 3 days
Day 40 - Tuesday 4th December 2007,Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu
National Holiday in Tonga to celebrate birthday of King George Tupou 1st – he died in 1893 having reigned for some 48 years and was single handed credited with reforming Tonga,needs an update now from new King George Tupou 5th. Went round the right hand side of the island in the hire car (see pictures for details) Reasonably overcast day and about 79degs. The island isn’t that large , guess about 20*10 miles. After a few false starts getting out of Nuku’alofa down backstreets to avoid the town procession (after we had seen it) all roads from which seemed to lead to Queen Charlotte’s wharf we finally got out on our way, spend about 4 hours slowly traveling around. Memorable was Village dancing, protest banners against corruption, strip light (in our fale which was on the blink). Loved float procession thru Nuku’alofa , Captain Cooks monument, Paepe ‘o Tele’a (300 year old burial mound, started like pyramid (well 2 layers) – most UNIMPRESSIVE, Tonga’s Stonehenge (Ha’amonga’a Maui) , Lots of coconut/banana plantations, appalling roads, airport , Tongan boys college (red including mat uniform), dancing in village in SW Tongatapu,amused by Robina who said that the Princess regent came to her restaurant for a worship breakfast at 5.30 am (and she had to be up at 3.30 to prep for it) plus the father of her youngest child (boy) who has been visiting is returning to Oz 2moro.
Day 41 - Wednesday 5th December 2007, Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu
Last day of the hire car so went to the Cultural Centre ($TOP3 each) which was very interesting, lunch @ café express then market to buy Rosilea by Black Rose and then chilled (reading / laptop/ music) whilst the builders removed the stones outside our door and put up ‘police tape’.talk about holidaying by a building site, I will ask for a rebate, and Keef did some DIY to try and fix the light tube/ starter motor.Visited cultural centre, had tapa, saw outrigger boat, andsome great old tongan photos, especially those of the royal family. Called into International dateline hotel on vunu rd opposite wharf (empty) to see about the cultural show, it is tonight so we are gonna go. 9 pm UPDATE it was ace and cost us zip, mixture of tongan, hawaian and moari dances and a great band. See videos and pictures. The Tongans seem better at this than the Samoans (or maybe we just happened to be in the right place at the right time here). Met Ozzies on Queen Charlotte wharf who were waiting for their ferry to Fafa. They had just flown in to Tonga and were in transfer. We asked about ferries as it is so unclear and we want to go to Pangaimotu 2moro 10/11 trips out and 4/5 return, Robina reckons $TOP15 that you pay on arrival at island but as always its not clear. Will consider! Had to move the car parked in the shade outside the cultural center when some tongan guys shinned up the coconut tree and started machetteing off the fronds and nuts One almost landed on the roof (and that would have cost us) Went to Café Express (Robina’s) in Western Union Funds Mgt building for lunch. Chicken and pineapple toasty for me (my first food for 2 days and touch wood I seem to be over Tongan Tummy), Chicken and lots of things panini for Anne, plus 2 chocolate milkshakes (best so far on trip) and banana cake/ coffee cheesecake.
Day 42 - Thursday 6th December 2007,Trip to Atata Island
Took our hire car back this morning. Took boat to Atata, a small island north of Tongatapu at 10 am where there was a resort called Royal Sunset. Boat was very small with 7 tourist day trippers and open sea was very choppy due to wind. On arrival at 10.25 we were greeted by a Tongan lady on the jetty who gave us all an orange juice. Our day boat trip included lunch. We walked through some paths past some of the tourist fales and came upon a small village, then walked back to the resort along the lovely sandy beach. Some village children were sitting on the beach & greeted us and there were quite a few fishing boats and nets along the beach. Was very hot. Sat down for a rest on the decking in the resort and then got changed to go for a cool off in the water. Sea was only knee deep in the sandy bit but stiff offshore breeze. Keef still had Tongan tummy.One of the American ladies told us that she had seen a sea snake which put us off going swimming. There was an option to go out in a boat snorkeling but Keef did not go. Had lunch (Keef had mahi-mahi fish with sweet potato chips and salad and Anne had a burger). Relaxed and read our books and sunbathed. By now there was a pleasant sea breeze. Noted that the resort swim pool was very dirty and had never been cleaned so we did not risk going in. Also more dogs and puppies wandering around as well as hens, even in the restaurant bit. We were the only tourists on the island as even though there were 26 fales, they were empty. Lady who had greeted us asked us if we wanted to stay on the island in a fale but we said no. Would not like to spend more than a day on the island. Had a brief dip in the sea again and then walked a bit further along the other side of the island but saw a dead sea snake on the beach .aargh! Did not get too close to investigate but it was as thick as Anne’s arm and black and green.. Anne ran away. Tongan lady confirmed that it was a sea snake. Got boat back at 4pm and trip back was just as choppy – small boat was like a roller coaster at times and lots of sea spray over us. When we arrived back at the pier we got a taxi back to our fale.Boat trip to small island Atata. Saw dead sea snake. Saw unusual coloured circle round sun and took photo.
Day 43 - Friday 7th December 2007, Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu
Chillin..got up about 8 had breakfast (slowly) Peanut butter on toast, fruit juice and T Did stuff on laptop whilst listening to music Avoided taking ITunes and Ipod software updates. Will wait until NZ and faster line. Just too slow here and would maybe based on fragility of s/ware mean we ended up with no music. Did DVD for Mum of Samoa/Tonga. Sent lots of e-xmas cards and e-birthday cards to Doug & Nikki. Not much, some sun whilst we sunbathed. 84 degs.Met Margaret to pay the bill. $TOP1200 for remaining 8 days.Chatted to a young couple from the UK who were waiting for a boat to another island where they were staying. They were traveling round the Pacific, NZ, Vietnam, Thailand and India. On our boat trip to Atata island we met 5 sisters who were all born in Tonga but now live in Alaska, Sydney & NZ & all sounded very American. One even gave me her business card. 2 bits of lovely chocolate birthday cake courtesy of Suki, Robina’s 8 year old daughter. Sent lots of Xmas Greets email card from Tonga
Day 44 - Saturday 8th December 2007,Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu
Caught taxi into town. Went to Friendly Islands bookshop to get envelope for DVD for Mum. Alas post office closed (or never open) before 11 so will have to take with and post in NZ. Hope it gets there for Xmas. Had coffee in Friends café, walked around looking for tropical shirt for K, none his size however. Lunch at 2 sisters (we seem to be their only customers) They even send the chef out to say thanks for eating there. Then argument with taxi driver who tried to charge us $TOP7 (its only 4) we let him know in no uncertain terms he was trying to rip us off!!! Then back to sunbathe and do I/net research for NZ. Overnight real storm, maybe something to do with cat3 currently hitting Fiji.Bit of sun during sun bathing. Lady in trad costume in town. 102 Dalmatians (film with Glenn Close on kids TV channel) FOX News TV (crap-US).Tongan married to US guy (Stockton,CA) in shop where I went to get water and bread. Plus Corinne (previous Ms Tonga) in 2 sisters restaurant and her sister Andrea who chatted to us for a while as she was keen to try out her English and told us she had never been outside Tonga. Chicken escalope in lime sauce , herb pots and salad (again). Our fave Tongan food at 2 sisters restaurant followed by spaghetti ice-cream (Anne) and strawberry cake (kef) yummy. Alas Keef still had Tongan tummy, which is tricky to shift
Day 45 - Sunday 9th December 2007,Nukuma’anu Cottages, Nukualofa, Tongatapu
Last day on Tonga before traveling to NZ. Not much really. I/net catch up, backups, reading, scrabble, listening to music. Pack. Thought not much happening and then bang, Cyclone Daman and a quake. The quake off Raoul island some 355miles SSW of Tonga was 7.8 on the Richter scale (8.40pm) but luckily some 93 miles below ground under the sea so no real risk of a Tsunami. Tonga is so flat if it got hit you would definitely be a ‘gonna’. Cyclone had narrowly missed Vanua Levu (Fiji) but was arriving at pace on Tonga. Big winds/storms. Filled in visitors book for Robina.Felt Cyclone Daman.Alex and Robina called to mention the Sunday eve bread run to get fresh hot bread and cakes. A little too stormy for us outside so gave it a miss and watched Lethal Weapon 1 with Mel Gibson instead. Then they kindly bought us back a loaf, 2 cream buns and 3 choc donuts Had a real feast that eve as had pasta and fresh pineapple planned anyhow. Left a bit of food for them as you cannot take it out of the country.Pack, pleased to leave Tonga now. 10 days on reflection was probably too long. It is not big enough. Main town only really has as many shops as Sandiacre PLUS quake Was sitting on sofa which started to move. Bizarre, didn’t last long but it was big. I thought the walls of the fale had moved and jumped up to grab hold of them. To glasses on table at 45degs and liquids came out. Anne thought she was ‘having a turn’ in kitchen but then realized the clothes cabinet in bedroom was swaying. Amazed that the tiles on the floor didn’t split. Bit panicky after that especially with the howling gales outside so packed immediately and placed stuff reasonably high up. This happened at 8.45 pm. By midnight although it was still stormy it was a little calmer. Checked on Inet for quakes (recorded) and Daman, which it said had dropped to Cat2 tropical storm and cyclone warning for Tonga removed as it had veered off to the south west (thank god) After Jamaica and Ivan we vowed we wouldn’t get involved again .
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