Nuku'alofa, Tongatapu.

Sat 25 Oct 2014 23:08

The rickety rockity pontoon in the harbour.

Nuku'alofa is a real town! With a rush hour and an amazing cafe that has flat whites and New Zealand House and Garden type magazines to read. Mind you, the rush hour is very sedate, whenever we have had a taxi ride it is noticeable how all over the island no one seems to rush or get hassled, everyone just pootles along at a moderate speed, rarely overtaking, never beeping at anyone. How come Tonga traffic is like this when driving in Trinidad is a life threatening event? (The Trinidad taxi drivers told us you have to be a PhD to drive a taxi there - a Pot Hole Dodger!). And the cafe is filled with an amazing variety of people, from 'Westerners' dressed for the tropics with panama hats, white shirts, black shorts, long white socks and polished black leather shoes, to local 'ladies who lunch', big bosoms, big bums, big smiles and big hearts calling over to chat with you from two tables away. There is abundant fruit and veg, with stalls all along the road way from the docks as well as a huge covered market, but very little range of stock in the supermarkets still - never mind we'll be in New Zealand soon and be able to buy ANYTHING we want to.

Craft stalls in the market and some strange type of starchy giant vegetable. We bought one and ate it boiled, and fried as chips and ... got bored of it!

There are many schools in the island and all the uniforms are the same, except for the colours. The girls all have the same style dress and - get this, exactly the same hairstyle, a plait at each side. Even their hair ribbons are regulation. Imagine in the UK if all the school girls had to have the same hairstyle. We'd have mass walk outs and riots on our hands! The boys look as if butter wouldn't melt in their mouths, with their smart skirts and ta' ovala overskirts. I couldn't quite picture them running and rough and tumbling at break times like Uk lads do...

School boys and girls heading home.

It's a little walk along the water front from the dinghy dock to the town and as you walk you pass by the reef, which is always busy. The fishermen set nets there, the children of the people who run the street stalls play there and the weavers of the ta' ovala cloths leave their fibres to soak in the salt water.

One day we saw something we'd not seen before. A family were stripping the bark from long sticks. It turns out that they were mulberry sticks, they use the bark to make paper - tapa. When we walked around Pangaimotu we thought a particularly well equipped island because, as well as having sand and palm trees,  there were always good sized walking sticks, free from bark, to be picked up on the beach. Phil's a stick sort of man when walking: helpful when going downhill,  useful to poke things with, good for holding back branches for people following, and, you never know, perhaps needed to defend us from robbers and villains or dragons that may appear! (In actual fact, in Trinidad, they were necessary to fend off rather nasty stray dogs). Now we knew where they came from, they were the discarded mulberry sticks that had floated across the bay to the island.

Stripping bark from Mulberry branches to make tapa.