Paradise is playing up

Sun 15 Jun 2008 04:59
Position  18.39S  173.59W
I've stolen the title from my sister in law, Pam, who with brother Rick has just endured a week of wet windy weather with us in the Vava'u Group of Tonga. Rotten luck for them, but we have rather enjoyed the much cooler weather. So rather than swimming, snorkelling and fishing in all the delightful anchorages that this area has to offer in good weather, we've been patronising the many funky little bars and cafes that cater for cruising boats. A highlight of our week here has been attending church on Sunday, both the Catholic and the Methodist, where the singing is so good it makes the hair stand up on the back of your neck. It's wonderful to see all the local people wearing their traditional grass matting costumes, and the little girls in their party dresses. Wet Sundays here remind me of growing up in Taranaki when everything was closed and it never stopped raining. The only difference between here and the Taranaki mud is the number of pigs running everwhere. Rugby fever is the same and we've had a couple of good rugby watching nights with the locals--one in quite a salubrious place where we ran a sweepstake and were very relieved at the All Black victory since we were heavily outnumbered by English supporters. The previous week we'd watched the Tonga vs NZ Maori match at Tonga Bob's--the local Mexican joint run by a young chap from Albury.This was a much more down-market affair, frequented by the locals, and heaps of fun.
Vava'u is a classic cruising destination, much like the Caribbean must have been in the good old days. There are real characters from all over the world, including a Pom who could have stepped out of Minder. Lawrence runs the famous Bounty Bar and is happy to fix you up with anything you need. Monday night is Music Night with a great American guitarist playing. He found us Billy, a terrific young English hairdresser who cut out hair in the bar as we sucked on a local beer surrounded by all the other patrons. There are Germans, Austrians, Americans,  New Zealanders and Australians, all of whom contribute to a marvellous radio net each morning where we hear the weather report, details of things that people are buying and selling, and what the local cafes have as specials for the day. Boats that need crew and crew looking for a passage to Fiji and onward all connect through the radio net.It's how I found Billy the hairdresser.
Sad to say, the tourist industry is having a terrible time, partly due to the very unreliable local airline that simply bumps passengers and cancels flights without warning,which happened to Pam and Rick. There seems little money for tourist promotion, and the Tongan Beach Resort that we visited one night for a  terrific lobster meal had almost no guests. Meanwhile, about $5 million is about to be wasted on the coronation of a drunken and corrupt king--no doubt much of it NZ and Australian aid money. We all feel pretty pessimistic about the future of these small South Pacific nations, given that tourism is about their only hope.
Sadly, our friend Paul Beaumont had to fly home to the UK at short notice when he developed a liver problem. His boat will continue on to Australia with a relief skipper. Another Irish friend developed a seriously painful back injury and had to be sent on to Melbourne for surgery.
Early tomorrow morning Rick and Pam leave us and fly back to NZ . We'll head off at 7am for Musket Cove, Fiji. The forecast is good so we are hoping for a fast 4 day passage. We look forward to seeing Brigid, Peter and the children  who will arrive there a day before us.