Catch up pics- Tonga, Vava'u Islands

Thu 16 Oct 2014 04:16

Vava'u island group consists of one large island, with it's maze of bays and inlets and reefs, and tens of smaller islands, fringed with reefs to the South of it. The sea has undercut the volcanic rock of the islands around the edges, forming caves and cliffs, and they're topped with trees, so the islands pop up out of the sea like those chocolate covered marshmallows you can get, with biscuit on the bottom, well, like the ones we bought in Niue were anyway, i.e. with green bits on the top. There are reefs surrounding the islands too, and others between them, so navigation is best done in good light but well worth the trouble to find sheltered anchorages and beautiful beaches. 

We are used to chickens and dogs running free around the islands, in the Caribbean I asked an islander how they knew whose chickens were who's "De chickens knows whose dey is" came the reply. In Tonga it's not so much the chickens that run free, it's the pigs. They are everywhere. On the beach, walking down the street, in the parks, on empty lots. Flower beds and gardens have to be fenced to keep them out, rather than in.

These pigs are outside the corrugated steel fence, the plants are inside.

The other new thing for me was the fruit bats. The Tongans call them flying foxes to make them sound cuter but they are basically massive mice with wings, hanging out in the trees during the days. They gently flap their wings to fan themselves when the sun catches them. A tad creepy for me...

The traditional Tongan dress of dark skirts, ankle length for the men (tupenu), just below the knee for the women, along with an over skirt made from a mat of  woven pandanus (ta' ovala), is everywhere. The school boys wear them, the shop assistants wear them, all government employes have to wear them. No Tongan would go to a wedding or funeral without one - it would be a mark of disrespect, although the youngsters put their own twist on it now and again. We saw one young man wearing trainers, baseball hat, combat trousers and a ta'ovala woven in pink and white squares! He explained he was going to a funeral.

The ministry of works in Neiafu. We had to go pay our harbour dues here.

Neiafu was good fun: lots of company, great  cafes, and a fascinating town to walk around, but my favourite place in Vava'u has to be our last anchorage there, whilst we waited for evening so we could leave for the next island group and not arrive before dawn, Ovalou Island. It had the perfect combination of reef to snorkel, sand to walk on, and rocky cliffs to explore on the south coast, all within swimming distance of our anchored boat. To top all that we were able to sit on deck and watch the whales swimming between the islands. Bliss.

Ovalou Island.