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Tonga: Vava'U and Haapai 3.9. - 7.10.2002

updates:  3.9.   9.9.  15.9.  23.9.  30.9.  7.10.  

3.9.2002 Vava'U, Tonga
Pule'anga Fakatu'i'o Tonga, as the name is in Tongan, is the only Pacific kingdom. Captain Cook visited the islands in 1773 and 1777 naming them the Friendly Islands. The 170 islands of Tonga are divided into five archipelagos of which the main are Vava'U, Haapai and Tongatapu. The capital Nukualofa is located on the southernmost islandgroup Tongatapu. Tonga has approximately 100.000 inhabitants of whom the majority (98 %) are tongans. Besides Tongan language English is also spoken and taught at school. In 1900 Tonga came under the British protection but retained its autonomy. The full independence was gained in 1970. 
Tongan monarchy is old. Local tradition has preserved the names of the sovereigns for thousand years. In the 1300th century the power was extended as far as to Hawaii, Fidzi and Niue. In the 1900th century three branches of royal family were fighting about the crown. The western missionaries influenced on the result, because the king claimant they had converted in Christianity, became the ruler of Tonga in 1845 taking the name King George Tupou I. At the same time Christianity began to spread. The present king, Taufa’ahau Tupou IV, got in power in 1965. His son was nominated as a prime minister in 2000.
Tonga is still very religious and conservative country. The power is in the hands of the king and the nobility. Tongan parliament has 30 members of which only 9 are elected, 9 are nominated by the noble families, 10 by the King, and in addition there are two governors. The ministerposts nominated by the king are lifelong. Marriages between the nobillity and people are not generally accepted. The noble person is loosing his/her rank in a marriage with a commoner. On Sundays, church days, is it not approved to work or do much other activities either. Religion is controlling the dress code as well. Women are using an ankle long skirt, men a knee long. To this traditional costume belongs a waist "mat" woven of pandanus leefs called taovala. Instead of taovala women sometimes use a decorated, long belt called kiekie. The national dress is used on special occasions and in the church. In addition, all the civil cervants on duty wear it.
The constitution guarantees to every tongan adult male a small piece of land to cultivate. One can only guess how fair the land is divided by the nobility and common people. Also women are earning money to the family for instance by selling handicrafts.

We arrived to Neiafu, the capital of Vava'U archipelago, on Thursday 29.8. On our way from Niue to Tonga we lost a day of our life, because Tonga lies on the other side of the international date line. The time difference to Finland changed, now we are 22 hours ahead. When it's seven in the morning here, it's nine the previous evening in Finland. Confusing? Because of the increasing time difference, we have changed our satellite phone time. Some weeks already the alarm clock has gone at 4 am and either of us (usually Auli) has gone up to turn the phone on. Now the phone is on from 8 to 10 am Finnish time, i.e. 05-07 UTC, which is from six to eight in evening here.
Neiafu has totally different atmosphere than French Polynesia or Niue. Houses are rather ragged, chickens and pigs are running on the streets, digging on the yards and even on the cemetery. Tongans are quite stout people and there is no rush. At first the shabbyness and slugginess irritated us, even customs clearing didn't take place at once, but soon we got into the rythm. We have no hurry!
There are about 50-60 boats in the bay, including yachts of two charter companies. Almost everyone has a mooring buoy because the bay is deep. There are a lot of familiar boats, since the differents routes across the Pacific end up to these islands from where some continue to Australia some to New Zealand for the hurricane season.

The weather has been annoying rainy many days and the forecast doesn't promise any change. It doesn't bother as long we are here in the "city" or work in the boat, but the Vava'U archipelago with humback whales are waiting. Humback whales migrate up here from the gold waters to give birth. We saw two whales when we came, they jumped up and splashed the water with their big fins. There is an opportunity to see whales real close, because a couple of companies offer snorkling/swimming tours with the whales. If we cannot see the whales of our own, we will join one of the tours.
The humback whale belongs to same family as the blue whale, and both are baleen whales. Humback whale is easy to regonise because of its white underneath and long, partly white pectoral fins. They are big, 13-16 meters long, and weight 25-30 tons. The humback whales are the long distance travelers of the sea, every year they migrate between the gold, rich-nutrious feeding grounds and the warm waters, a distance of half earth.

On Monday Auli joined a basket weaving workshop with four other sailor women. Our teacher was 37 years old Fineau, who sells her baskets and teaches all the way up in Samoa. Every island have their own style, Niuean, Tongan and Samoan baskets differ from each other. Three hours we tied strips of pandanus leefs around palm stalks, but none of us got bigger thing than a coffee plate ready, not to mention of getting any brims done. Slow work. Panadus tree looks little like a yucca palm and has sharp, narrow leefs. The leefs are boiled before they are hang to dry. Light coloured and soft leefs are cut to strips, which are tied around palm stalks. Figures are made using brown and black strips. Besides learning the basket technic, it was very interesting to hear Fineau telling about the life in Tonga. She has eight children of whom five are her own, her husband is a carpenter, and they lived on American Samoa for a while. They moved back to Tonga to be near Fineau's 68 year old mother and 71 year old father. There are no old homes in Tonga, the family takes care of each other.

9.9.2002 Vava'U, Tonga
At last the sky cleared up and we moved out to the islands. The first anchorage, Port Maurelle, got its name after the first European on Vava'U, Spaniard Francisco Antonio Maurelle, who visited the island group briefly in 1781. Although Maurelle was the first European in Vava'U, some Dutchmen had visited other Tongan islands already in the 1700th century, among a couple of others, Abel Tasman in 1643. Captain Cook never visited Vava'U, although he was in Tonga twice. Cook was told that there are no good anchorages on Vava'U, which was a big lie, since Vava'U has the best and most sheltered anchorages in Tonga. The story doesn't tell why Finau, the chief of Haapai group islands, lied to Cook. The story behind the name Cook gave to Tonga, the Friendly Islands, is also less friendly. On his other visit to Tonga in 1777 Cook and his men got very friendly welcome and a feast was arranged for them. But the purpose was to get the Englishmen together and kill them, so that the treasures of the two ships, Resolution and Discovery, could be overtaken. Chief Finau and the noble disagreed whether the attack should be taken place during the night or day. The chief was so angry about the disobedience of his subservience, that he cancelled the whole thing. Cook and his men were rescued without knowing how close it was. Maybe they would have ended into umu, the Tongan earth oven, because cannibalism was practised until 1900th century.

But back to present. Port Maurelle is a beautiful, sheltered bay, and there were about ten other boats. In the evening some active Australians and Americans arranged a beach party with barbecue. We didn't have anything to grill, but a fish catch of one boat was big enough to everyone. And there was a lot to talk about.
Next day we took a dinghy ride to a cave one mile away. It can be reached only by dinghy - or by swimming. The cave is about 20 meters deep and wide. Some day light cames through an opening high on the ceiling helping to admire the greenish-yellow colors of the walls as well as the stalacites. Near the water coral had coloured the walls red. You could see 18 meters down to the bottom. We were not temptated to swim, at least not after seeing a blue-black striped sea snake sneaking into a rock whole.
On our way back we stopped on a small, white sandy beach to snorkel. Corals were colorful, even there weren't plenty of them. But we saw a lot of fishes, blue star-fishes and fat sea cucumbers.
The archipelago of Vava'U is full of yachts, both cruisers and charter boaters. Moorings has published a guide of the anchorages and the numbers in it have taken the place of names, such as "We are now at the no. six, going to no. ten for the next night". We didn't expect to find any lonely islands, but one of the outer islands, Kenutu, lying behind a mazing route of coral reefs, was empty. One day we enjoyed the solitude, also local people kept away because it was Sunday. Kenutu is a multifold and splendid island. Ocean is roaring on the other side, we are sheltered in front of a white sandy beach. We walked through the island full of pandanus trees, coconut palms and pine looking needle trees to the other side to look at the waves. The tide is about 1,5 meters, so the reefs close the island dry and uncover the interesting small creatures life.


Kenutu, anchorage no. 30

Kenutu has more beautiful shells than we have seen elsewhere, maybe because they have been collected from the more popular places. The only hinder to collect the shells are the small crabs, who hold the shells as their homes. This species has a soft body, but the shell gives a solid protection. When the crab grows, it moves to a new house. The opening is closed with the scissors and so the cover is perfect. When the little creature feels that it's safe outside, it peeps out. Blue eyes in the end of sticks gives a 360 degree view. Even a smallest odd movement makes the crab quickly draw into the shell again. It is unpossible to make the crab to leave it's home, so I quess that the fine shell may stay on the island. 

We had only a couple of hours whale watching tour on our way to Kenutu. We saw two humback whales, maybe a mother and a baby. A couple of time they were near the boat, then one, 8 minute long dive took them far from us.

15.9.2002 Vava'U, Tonga
We spent a week in the archipelago and motored back to Neaifu on Friday to buy some food. There we saw the Swedish 6 meters long plywood boat Peter Pan, who had called us outside of Raiatea a month ago (see the 17.8. log). Peter Pan is SMALL, hard to believe it a 21-footer. Nils has built the boat himself and it has a sail canoe rig without shrouds. The mainsail is 5 squaremeters, mizzen 3. The masts looked like matches (sorry Nils) among the numerous tall masts in the harbour. On the side is mounted an outboad of 4 hp. We went to say hello, and heard that Nils had sailed back to Raiatea, where he bought a new autopilot. Of the two broken he was able to fix one functioning. We invited him to Kristiina and had an interesting evening listening to 73-year old Nils telling about his 12 years at sea. Peter Pan was the one who decided where to take its skipper. He even had Tingeling, the radar alarm, and Wendy, the dinghy, with him. A year ago, after Galápagos Islands Peter Pan had lost its main mast and Nils sailed 3000 miles with the three square mizzen sail. It took him 31 days, not bad! Peter Pan has been faster than a Nordic "folkbĺt", Nils boasted. He built a new mast on the Marquesas, but the tree was of bad quality, and at last he went back to Sweden to build a mast.

  
Peter Pan has a centreboard, draught  0,65 m - 1,35 m

On Saturday we left Neaifu and motored to the already familiar anchorage of Port Maurelle. The next bay is a site for a Tongan Feist every Saturday, which is an evening with traditional Tongan food, music and dancing, arranged for tourists. Fish, chicken, octopus and roots were packed in banana leefs and cooked in umu, the earth oven. Beside umu two small pigs were roasted above an open fire, also a traditional Tongan course. In addition, there were salad and fruits served from big shells. There was also kava, the intoxicating drink made of the roots of a kava plant. The muddy liquid that was drinken from one and same coconut cup got a very meagre interest among the papalangis, us whities. Kava was mainly for the musicians, who sat around the carved tree-bowl. We, the sailors, were about 20, and there were more or less the same number of hosts including the children running around and the giggling teenagers. The dinner was accompanied by two gitars and an ukulele. With the darkening evening more boys were joining the singing group. Music was the task of men, dancing, that took place after the meal, was taken care of women and girls. The skin of the dancer is oiled so that audience can stick notes on her. There were several dancers, beginning with four shy 7-year old girls. The dance was much more subdued than the vivid action we saw in French Polynesia. Dancers stay on same footsteps, legs together, knees slightly bend, and the main movement happens by hands and head. The performers were school girls from the village, in Tahiti we saw semi-professional adults - maybe this also effected to the different character of the two shows.
Our host told about the Falevai village, which currently has 200 inhabitants left of the 500 there were some years ago. Australia, New Zealand and USA temptate to emigrate. Village has a primary school and three churches of three various religions. The only noble family of the village has got its member to the Parliament, which was told with a pride.


Paanga notes stick to dancer's oily skin

Talking and tasting kava for first time, is a good place to tell a bit more about this typical drink of the Pacific Islands. Kava belongs to the pepper species. The drink is not alcohol, even it has a dazing effect. It is made of grinned kava roots mixed with water. Kava is not only a drink, but also a traditional ceremony and an essential part of certain occasions. Kava ceremony is like a handshake, it seals important agreements and honors a guest. A Tongan marriage is not valid  before the bride has drinken a cup of kava handed out by the groom. Usually, only men gather around the three-leg, wooden kava-bowl. Each of them drinks in turn, of the same coconut-shell cup. Friday evening kava rings are social meetings, often including singing and guitar playing.
To Auli the kava not only looked like mud, it also tasted mud, but Hannu found some more sophisticated flavours (pepper?). The first effect is a slightly numb tongue, but nothing else was noticed, not even by Hannu after his second cup.

23.9.2002 Haapai, Tonga
After the Tongan Feist (15.9.) bad weather kept us in Port Maurelle for five days. It was rainy, windy and chilly. Fortunately we have time, so waiting and being inside didn't bother us. Between the showers we took long walks criss-cross the island. We found mandarin trees with some fruits, and they tasted so good after a long time. We became acquainted with Andy and Lisa from Alaska, who's 36-foot steel sloop has a very difficult name, at least for Finns: Indefatigable, but fortunately we can use Indy, otherwise there wouldn't be many VHF-calls. (Once more we noticed how easy and international Kristiina is.)
When the weather turned better, we motored the third and last time to Neiafu to get water, do our laundry and clear-out. Even we will continue in the same country, we had to see both immigration and customs.
The only thing left in Vava'U was the long and thoroughly considered whale-tour. The temptation is snorkeling near the whales, but no guarantee is given, not even for seeing the whales, for the 95 paangas (50 euros) trip. But the rare possibility to see humpback whales under the water made it, we decided to take the risk.
Friday morning was cloudy, but dry. At ten o'clock we were heading out in a big aluminium boat with six other tourists and two guides. There are seven companies running whale charters in Vava'U, which is much more than the demand, and usually only a few customers are seen in these boats. Around one whale can be two-three boats, which was one of the reasons for our own unsuccesful whale-watch trips. Only one boat can get as close as 100 m, others must remain beyond 300 m. Only one boat at the time can put swimmers into the water, and only five at the time.
We made exactly two groups of five, including the guides. Soon we saw the first blow. (When a whale comes to surface to breath it blows a shower into the air, which is easiest to discover.) It was a mother and a calf, which is the most usual combination in Tongan waters, where the humpbacks come to breed and nurse until the calf is big enough to take the long trip to cold southern waters. We got closer and the first snorkeling group was ready. A couple of times they went into the water, but the whales were too far away. We left this couple and went for another. Now it was our turn to get into the water. First I didn't see anything else than the blue deepness (there is over 100 m deep between the islands), but then I could distinguish a massive creature under me, the mother whale. It was still, and so deep that I barely could see it. Then the calf became to come up to the surface. An adult humpback can remain under water as long as 15 minutes, but a calf has to breath more often. The calf  took air, and went down again, beneath its mother. Then both of them came up and started to swim horizontally in about two meters depth. It was amazing, like a movie, but here you were a part of it, a drop water in your mask, a bit chilly and more anxious than ever! We followed them for a few minutes, then they turned and disappeared. The last sight was the huge, six meter wide tail of the mother whale.


On whale watch tour: two humpacks in sight

We swam two more times and both times it was as marvellous and breath-taking. Seeing these enormous animals in their own environment gave a perspective unable to grasp from the surface. Their movements were slow and gracious. When they came up, not a fin was moving, maybe they used their lungs as a "lifting vest". Especially the rise of the mother whale was spectacular. Its dark shape could barely be discern in 25-30 meters depth. I was floting just above it again, a little afraid. First I didn't realise that it rises, but the shape became more distinctive until I saw it properly. Big, partly white pectoral fins, furrows in the head, huge mouth and the other eye. Underneath were hanging small, white suckfishes. The whale took a breath and went down again. The calf was more interested in us than the mother, when it came up to breath, it came closer and stayed near before returning to mother.
After our swimming tours, we also got a show:  the calf was slapping its tail, rolling around and jumping, and for a perfect ending, the mother jumped entirely up from the water. It's easier to understand the size, if compared to Kristiina: the whale came up to the level of our mast top, 14-15 meters. It weights twice as much as Kristiina, about 20 tons, so the splash back to water is enourmous. An adult humpback whale can weight 30-45 tons, but breeding and especially nursing take the share. The newborn calf weights 2-3 tons and can put up 25 kg in a day. The humpbacks don't eat in the Tongan waters, they use the grease gained from the richly nutrious waters of Antarctica.
We were really pleased with the trip, it was the best experience with animals and whales so far.


The calf is splashing his tail upside down

On Saturday we left Neiafu behind and motored in the sunny and calm weather to one of the outer islands, from where it would be easy to start towards the Haapai Islands. We stopped by an underwater cave called the Mariner's Cave, and Hannu dived into the cave. There is no anchorage, so Auli remained driving the boat. 
Two stories are related to this cave. The date of the first is unknown to me, but it is told, that once Vava'U had a very tyrannical chief. A plot was made to depose him, but it was exposed. The chief ordered the conspirator and his family to be killed. A young chief was in love with the beautiful daughter of the conspirator and decided to save her. He took the girl into this cave, which has opening only under water. The girl spent two weeks in the cave, and the boy visited her every day bringing food, coconut oil and gifts. The girl fell in love with the young man. To get the girl in more safe place, the young chief announced that he will sail to Fidzi, to look for a wife. The canoes stopped by the cave and the girl was taken along. The couple returned to Tonga after the death of the tyrant.
The second story tells about 15-year old English boy, William Mariner, who arrived to the Haapai Islands in 1806 with a privateer ship. The crew got a friendly welcome, but behind was a plot to kill the Englishmen. Some of the men suspected something, but the captain thought it was imagination, and so they were an easy target for the Tongans. William was away,  and returning to the ship he found all the men killed. His end was near as well, but just in time all the ship's gunpowder exploded because of the fire the natives had set on the ship. It made them panic, and William was able to negotiate for his life with a reasonable explanation for the big bang. By time he got rather appreciated position, learned the language and travelled around. He was allowed to follow the chiefs and join in ceremonies. He was also shown the Vava'U secret cave. When the old chief of Haapai Islands died, his son permitted him to sail away with a ship passing by. In England William Mariner became a successfull stockbroker and a father for 12 children. He drowned in a canal in 1853. Mariner wrote a book of his experiences named An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands.

At 3 am we hoisted the anchor in the moonlight. Following our old route with GPS, we passed the reefs out to the sea. The 60 mile sailing to Haapai was perfect, a smooth easterly wind gave us 6 knots and the sun was shining. As usual, we trolled two Rapalas, and twice we got a snap. The third one we got aboard and what a catch! It was a 12 kg, 130 cm long mahi-mahi, which is said to be the best fish in the Pacific. This was our first. In the water it is sharp blue with yellow tail, but when dying the colours fade.


Mahi-mahi has a long back-fin and a huge head

In the Haapai Islands there should be less yachts than in Vava'U. At least we are alone here in our first anchorage on the Haano Island. Also the constant chat on VHF has turned down to couple of calls. We tend to spend a couple of weeks on these low coral islands.

30.9.2002 Haapai, Tonga
Four days on Haano were pure Pacific paradise: sunny, calm and peaceful. We had the beautiful little bay surrounded by magnificent corals just for ourselves. The coral here was fabulous, most beautiful we had seen, not even the nature park in Cuba was able to beat this colourfulness and variety. Different colours, shapes and species were side by side, like in a garden. The water was clear, but it had cooled to  23-25 C and felt chilly. Usually people wear light 2-3 mm wetsuits when snorkeling, but we only have Hannu's 7 mm suit, made for cold waters. Now we took it out from the closet, no one would see us here using this "fur-suit". It has two pieces, Auli took the overall (which made her look like a black michelin creature) and Hannu was wearing the short-sleeved vest. We were warm enough, and were spending hours in the water. Hannu was diving into the caves and chasms, Auli was admiring the beauty from surface.


A photo picked from the video doesn't show the 
true colours. The flat coral is about two meters wide.

Our fantastic days were fullfilled by two humpack whales, a mother and a calf, who came just outside the reef. We got closer with the dinghy. They didn't get scared, the little one was splashing around and the mother was lying still on the surface. Auli even got a glimpse of them under the water before they moved away.
As pleasant animal experience wasn't the "ragged bird" as Hannu was calling a crow-size bat before he really believed that it is a huge bat. And there was not only one of them but a flock! At dusk tens of big bats were flying to the trees on the beach. We already had some unpleasant imaginations of blood-sucking monster-bats, until Auli found a leaflet telling about pekas, Tongan flying foxes, which eat fruits. They also have an important task of dispersing seeds and pollinating flowers. Peka is the only original (endemic) mammal of Tonga, I wonder if related to bats in Galápagos Islands, where one of the three original mammal species is the bat.
The wind increased and turned more south, which made us to leave Haano. We spent two windy days on Foa, mostly inside reading and writing. The turbid water and chilly wind didn't temptate to swim. After Foa we continued to Uoleva, an unhabited island surrounded by white sandy beaches. There are two modest resorts on the island, both consisting of 4-5 huts, outdoor toilet, and a basic kitchen/eating hut. On Sunday we had dinner with the five guests of Captain Cook Resort. The simple dinner was subtituted by a pleasant company.
We found a lot of mandarins on Uoleva, and helped us a whole bagpack. First then we tasted one, yack, these were sour. We didn't want to throw them away, so it was time for our first marmalade cooking. It succeeded well.
On Monday, the last of September, we motored in 30 knots wind the one-hour trip to Lifuka, where Pangai, the biggest village on Haapai with 3000 inhabitants is located. Haapai Islands have a total of 8000 inhabitants, Vava'U twice as much, and the total population of Tonga is about 100.000.
Along the Pangai main street are located two banks, a hardware store, croceries and a lot of colourful small kiosks, that sell more or less the same than the food shop: a variety of corner beef and some other cans, chicken franks, butter, milk powder, makaroni and a lot of different cookies and chips. There are a couple of guesthouses and one cafe, the Mariner's Cafe, which is a hangout for tourists. We found out in the sailors' guestbook that s/y Iiris from Kotka had been here exactly two years ago.


Women at one of the many kiosks of Pangai

7.10.2002 Haapai, Tonga
We have now visited seven islands in Haapai archipelago (Haano, Foa, Uoleva, Lifuka, Haafeva, Oua, Nomuka) and the first, Haano, turned out to be the best. We haven't seen other yachts during the whole two weeks.
After the main island, Lifuka, we had a good tail-wind sailing to Haafeva. We had just got anchor down, when two boys, about 20 years old, were already swimming to the boat. They came aboard, got some coke and candies, and then the fruit trade began again. These boys were professional, they didn't hesitate to ask things they wanted: music tapes, video tapes, cd's, a cassette player, t-shirts, cigarettes, alcohol, a Rapala lure, chocolate and - surprise - a cake made by Auli. The result was three music tapes (ZZ Top, Dire Straits) for an unclear number of papayas, and we agreed to meet them on the wharf next morning at 9.30.
At 7 am boys were whissling on the wharf. Hannu was sleeping and Auli working, so boys got to wait. At 8 Hannu went ashore with the cassettes, and took some money and three lighters just in case. Suddenly, the tapes didn't do, but boys had some own tapes they wanted to listen on the boat - while eating the cake! Well, there was no cake and the time was not suitable for any visits, so Hannu took the fruits, three papayas and some rather ripen bananas, and paid - after some negotiation - four pangas (2 US dollars) and three lighters. (At the Neiafu market papayas cost one panga each.)
After a couple of days in Haafeva, we motored to Oua, which is surrounded by a large reef. We anchored quite a way out from the shore. In the afternoon a man, who had been fishing nearby, paddled with his outrigger to us. We invited him for coffee. He offered mandarins (the sour ones) and taro-root. We gave him 50 meters of fishing line and some small lures. He promised to bring the fruits next day.
With him came Vai, 6 years, and Ahi, 4 years. Again we made some coffee and opened a new package of cookies after the one eaten yesterday. Abraham had two taro-roots, a small bunch of bananas, one papaya and ten mandarins for us. He started to ask for more exchage items: fishing gear, glue, batteries. We gave him hooks, snells, a couple of lures, glue, a lighter, some nail polish for his wife, candies and a teddy bear for the children. We had no batteries left. Looking disappointed he paddled away with the children. We were wondering if we were hard-hearted and stingy or were the locals lacking common sense, how much they expected to get for the fruits.
From Oua we sailed 17 miles south, to Nomuka. We got a 9 kilo "big-eye" tuna on our way. The one meter fish has 5 cm wide eyes. Meat is rather dry, typical for the tuna species, and in this tuna it is white. 
The anchorage is between the main island and Iki-Nomuka, i.e. the small Nomuka. It is open for south-east winds, but the reefs protect from the waves. However, it's not a very pleasant anchorage. We are close to Iki-Nomuka, so far from the main Nomuka that it's an impossible ride in this wind by our small dinghy. It doesn't matter, we are not looking for any more fruit trade. Hannu took the other half of the tuna to local men who were anchored nearby.
Iki-Nomuka is a former prison island, where prisoners were cultivating their own food. Nothing else is left of the houses than a toilet bowl. What a skilful plumber! We helped ourselves with papayas, nothing else is left of the plantation. Not a bad place for a prison, the island is surrounded by white sand, and the centre is bushy and green. Pekas, the flying foxes or fruit bats are flying around here. When we were walking around the island we saw a big, dead sea snake on the beach and a small shark in the shallow waters.
Yesterday we motored to the north side of Nomuka, where the chart showed a small bay. It was very beautiful place, a sheltered little spot in front of a small beach, surrounded by reefs. But the bottom was full of coral patches, so it was impossible to anchor. What a shame. We anchored a bit more out, behind the reefs, and went snorkeling to this wonderful coral garden, and afterwards took a walk on the beach. It wasn't a place to overnight so we sailed back to Iki-Nomuka.
It is 60 miles to Nukualofa, the capital of Tonga, where we will leave tomorrow - or day after.

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