This is the lovely Catholic
church attached to the convent. Religion is a very strong influence
in Tongan life and Sunday services are attended by every family from
grandma down to smallest baby, all togged out in their best finery. The
singing is tremendous and Chris and I go every Sunday we can
find a church nearby.
One of the first things we
did on arriving was to try and find out what had happened to the Hausia
Brothers Band, whose music we had loved and purchased on our first
visit four years ago and which has been played to many friends all over
the world. We discovered them in the Sovereign Restaurant, old home of the
Princess of Tonga and they were as good as ever...
Some Tongan children
showing us a bird they had tamed.
Rainbow over the village
where we had been walking.
It wasn't really very fair!
This is Sir Peter Blake's first Around the World Whitbread
Race yacht in which he came second, going on to win it
later on in another one called Steinlager. It
was handicapped by having to start 15 minutes after the rest of us,
but it wasn't long before we were straining every sail to stop her from
passing! Lovely boat, though, it deserved to beat us.
To our delight we
discovered that some of the Hausia Brothers were also in the Ano Beach
group so we settled down as close as we could to listen to them while our
feast was being prepared.
The dancing we saw that
night was not the most skilful but was definitely the most charming, the
children danced with such joy and happiness that you could not help
smiling and being happy too.
As always happens, after
the professionals have danced, the amateurs get pulled onto the floor to
try and copy their supple movements, not easy.
Steve and I , replete with
the remnants of our meal around us. Clearing up was dead easy, the mats
were rolled up with all the discarded bits of food and organic containers
inside and carted off to feed the pigs and be recycled!
The day we were out we were
only able to find a pod of rumbustious testosterone-filled males who were
having a jostling, adolescent pecking-order fight. Too dangerous for
people to attempt to get in the water with them, but beautiful
to watch these huge animals at such close quarters... a great end to
our stay in Vava'u.
Photos by Steve St Paul, Chris Smith and Fiona
Campbell. Text by Fiona, no responsibility taken for any errors or
This is our third visit to
Neiafu, capital of the Tongan group of islands called Vava'u. It is one of
the friendliest places, the bay usually holding some forty boats or so,
who come and go as the need for deserted beaches and solitude in one of
the thirty or more lovely anchorages of the archipelago seizes
them. Here we have the Mermaid Cafe, the mainstay of yachtie social
life with the Catholic convent above, where we have friends from many
years past, and yacht repair facilities to the side. There is an
excellent local market where one can buy fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs,
herbs and, particularly, the lovely basketwork woven by local Tongan
This is the Neiafu
Late Friday evening at the
Mermaid with Holly on the microphone. Without her there would be little
yachtie social life in Neiafu, the Mermaid, which used to zing when she
was running it, is now a shadow of its former self; she has moved on to
Whalesong, one of the whalewatching tour boats and is an now expert on
these lovely animals who come to give birth and mate in Vava'u waters
We spent a few days
recovering from our passage in Neiafu, replenished the larder and went off
to spend time in some of the little anchorages. Tongan villagers are very
welcoming, and this little girl took Steve by the hand and would not let
go of him until we had to leave. Chris loves the pigs of the Pacific, I
plan a Pacific Pig photo collage for our bathroom in France! These dear
little porkers are destined to be spitted, roasted and eaten as
succulent treats at some not far distant celebration...
Vava'u villages are
always beautifully laid out and kept immaculate, all the jungle detritus
carefully swept up and removed. We are walking down the High Street, edged
with shells and upturned beer bottles and hugging the curve of the
lagoon. The houses are behind their gardens facing the lagoon.
Steve preparing for race
which takes place every Friday evening in the Neiafu anchorage.
The following night
we went to an 'umu' feast at Ano Beach. The 'umu' is the underground oven
in which Tongans cook the most delicious food, wrapping the meat and
vegetables in palm or banana leaves, marinating them in freshly
grated coconut and lime juices. Here one of our hosts is preparing the
umu, which takes about an hour to cook from the moment the food and hot
stones are covered with sacking cloths and earth.
Here I am trying to teach
the village children, who are going to dance for us in a few minutes, a
very silly trick with your hands and your nose, which ends up with you
totally trapped pinching your nose if you get it wrong, which I frequently
The feast was beautifully
presented on long mats woven from palm leaves, the food was
heaped onto biodegradable plates made by splitting bamboo
lengthwise and chopping off appropriate sections. After a welcome from our
host and a blessing for the food we all dived in with our fingers, sitting
cross-legged on the floor around the mats.
The day before we
reluctantly left Neiafu we spent the day whalewatching with
Holly on her boat Whalesong.
We were not as lucky as
other friends who had been whalewatching on previous days. The very best
is to find a mother with her new baby, they are surprisingly tolerant of
humans and will on occasion allow the baby to approach really close to a
human in the water. They are also intensely curious about us and inspire
real affection in the people who come whalewatching year after year,
spending days on end looking for them with the reward of perhaps
five minutes in the water at the end of the day if they are lucky.