Tuesday, August 11, 2009
We left all our animals in the capable hands of Karen and Greg and set off for 9 days in Tonga with Richard and Kate.
We'd never been there before so had no real idea of what to expect, but it was absolutely wonderful.
We left kerikeri and flew down to Auckland to start our journey, then Air NZ flew us over to Tongatapu the main island. For the first couple of days we were staying in the capital city, Nukuʻalofa. We'd booked into a place called Heilala and it was lovely. Stunning tropical gardens with small fales ( traditional Tongan huts) dotted around.
As our first full day was a Sunday and everything is closed for church we decided to take a small boat over to another island, Pangiamoto and spend the day there. It was beautiful, just like a bounty advert!
On Monday everything was closed as it was a holiday for the King's 1 year coronation. I stayed at Heilala and read in the gardens.
Tuesday dawned clear and sunny, which was just as well as we were heading over to Eua on the smallest commercial flight in the world! A tiny 8 seater plane and amazingly it was actually pretty good!Eua airport!
We were met at the airport by someone from the hideaway Lodge which was where we were staying. They were driving the oldest pajero in the world! But it went well. The Hideaway is great, basic, but clean with a great living area where we all ate and hung out. The people are as helpful as you can imagine. We absolutely loved staying there, you can do as much or as little as you want, I think we did quite a lot!
They have built a walkway down to a viewing platform just at the waters edge where you could stand and look for whales. It's the season for whales to breed, and we could see them from the deck every day, it was amazing. We went out for a whale watching trip on a tiny boat in fairly rough sea, it was fun but we were beginning to wonder if we were ever going to see a whale up close - we were out for about 6 hours! Eventually we did! This is Lloyd and Jo ( our guide who was tireless!)
and it was brilliant! Well worth the wait. After that we saw several and you really can't get the scale of how huge these animals are until you see one right next to you!typical sunsets from the platform.
The following day we arranged to take a 4 wheel drive safari, the old pajero was in the garage as it seemed to have broken! But this was no problem, they just borrowed a ute from Kiko who owned the boat we were out on the day before. We all piled onto the back of the Ute and set off round Eua. This island is quite different from most of the others in Tonga as it is very mountainous.
The safari was excellent. Highly recommend it! We saw all round the island.
We watched ladies weaving the beautiful mats they make, another one beating out the bandanas to make tapa cloth, vanilla being dried in the sun ( smell was amazing and we had to get some to take home!) We climbed over a natural archway on top if a cliff, walked to see the biggest banyan tree I have ever seen in my life, and ended up at the most beautiful snorkelling beach ever.lloyd and I are standing under the tree!
this is cava drying out on the roof of a building
there are pigs roaming around all over the place. We asked how people knew which pigs were theirs, the answer was, they don't, but the pigs know who their owners are! Here's some teeny baby ones
On our last day on Eua walked to the nearest beach, just a wander down through the forest. It wasn't really good for snorkelling but it had gorgeous white sand and was deserted. We just faffed about there.
Then in the morning we got the teeny plane back to Nukuʻalofa and were picked up by the car rental people. We'd decided to rent a car for a couple of days so we could explore a bit more of Tongatapu.
We drove all over the place!
this is a typical Tongan stall, they're all over the place selling whatever the person grows
On Friday night we went to a Tongan night held on the beach and in a cave! It wasn't one of these tacky tourist things ( there are very few tourists in Tonga!) so there were a lot of local Tongans as well. It was spectacular, there was an enormous feast with tongan food and a huge suckling pig ( it had most likely been running around the day before, but it was delicious!) there was a lot of traditional dancing as well, it was an amazing night out.
Then it was Sunday again and another trip to one of the islands, this time we went to Royal Sunset, and to be honest it was a bit neglected, but as we'd found everywhere the people were just amazing, so friendly and happy. We took a boat out to a reef and went snorkelling and saw a giant clam farm and lots of beautiful tropical fish.
All too soon it was time to go home again.
It was an amazing holiday, the Tongans are some of the most friendly genuine people.
( and the Chinese restaurant in Nuku'alofa was the best ever!)
We hope to be back again next year as we loved it so much. ( and it's a nice short flight from New Zealand.)