The Kingdom of Tonga, Vava'u

Bill and Caroline
Sat 7 Sep 2013 02:34
Promised photos of the Mahi Mahi landed on the way from Bora Bora to Tonga…
Entry to the almost land locked harbour was made at lunch time, with little visibility, gusty wind and a deluge of rain. Tied up alongside the customs wharf and waiting for a visit from health, immigration, customs and quarantine. 4 men with lots of forms, mostly asking similar questions although an interesting enquiry on time spent using the toilet provoked multi-cultural hilarity. Formalities over with and the yellow quarantine flag came down as the mooring carefully reserved for us by Spruce was picked up in the anchorage at Neiafu, a frequent stopping place for cruisers en route to New Zealand or Australia.
The Kingdom is divided into 4 parts, with the Vava'u Group in the north and its islands formed from the limestone of an ancient uplifted atoll with steeply sloping cliffs and flat tops - imagine green icing on a cup cake... From the sea and on land the differences between French Polynesia and Tonga are quickly apparent. English is spoken for the first time since the Caribbean (as a second language here), traditions here are strong and Sunday is a day of rest - so no fishing, boat jobs or kite surfing for a day. Pigs and their piglets are seen everywhere, crossing roads, rooting around verges and wandering through gardens - suckling pig is also a local delicacy. 
First sightings of sea snakes too….
The market has local produce presented in palm frond baskets (3 TOP, Tongan Pa'anga, per serving - so just over a £1), tarrow roots lined up for sale alongside woven baskets, mats, trays, jewellery and tapa cloth. 
Tapa cloth is made from the bark of the paper mulberry tree by women who pound the bark with a wooden mallets for days to produce a leather like cloth which is often painted with natural dyes. Finely woven pandanus leaf mats are worn around the waist, often for formal or ceremonial occasions, and also to indicate mourning where the height of the mat indicates the closeness of the relationship and is worn for many months. Its also part of some school uniforms.