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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Loving Tonga!

Saturday (Sept 13) night we joined Christine and Jaime for dinner at the Dancing Rooster, owned by a Swiss fellow named Gunter, the only trained Chef on the island. Frank and the others ordered a spicy Thai lobster dish and I ordered the grilled whole lobster. The price for my lobster was $67 Pa'Angas (roughly $33 USD), and we all thought it would be a small to medium size fellow. After waiting quite a while for our food, the waitress came out to apologize that the meal was taking so long saying
that the lobsters were larger than usual and were taking an inordinate amount of time to cook. We were fine with that, and didn't give it much thought until she returned from the kitchen with my meal. The platter was the size of the one I use for Thanksgiving turkey. My lobster was so large that his legs and antennae were hanging over onto everyone else's plates at the table! Nearly in unison we all exclaimed, "Holy cow!". It was magnificently presented, split down the middle and prepared such
that the entire head and body cavity was edible as well as the tail. This would have probably been a $300.00 dinner at The Palm back home. I could only manage to eat a portion of the tail, and had the restaurant wrap the remainder up to go. After dinner we bid farewell to C & J to meet up with others at Tonga Bob's to watch the live broadcast of the most important Rugby match of the year - the New Zealand All Blacks VS the Wallabies from Australia. We arrived to find the bar completely packed
full of locals, Australians and New Zealanders. May of our cruiser friends were there already, including Ryan and his buddies. Obviously this crowd had been there for a while getting revved up, and the atmosphere was fully charged. I gave Ryan my lobster and he and several others feasted on it like wild men. Because the game started at 11:10 PM we were just going to stay long enough to watch the Haka that the All Blacks perform before each game, but became so caught up in the game that we actually
stayed to the end. We are now official All Blacks fans and are planning to try to get attend some games while in NZ.

Sunday - According to our cruiser's guide; "Tongans are very religious people and conservative behavior and dress is a must. While the standards of dress differ somewhat from group to group, at no time is it acceptable for men or women to be topless with the exception that men may shed their shirts at the beach. Women should wear skirts, dresses or lavalavas of knee length or longer and tops should cover the shoulders. Cleavage is not appreciated"… "Public displays of affection are discouraged.
Even the innocent act of holding hands can encourage hoots of surprise"… "Sundays are reserved for God and with few exceptions all businesses are closed. If you are anchored anywhere near a village or church, avoid working, swimming or even fishing on Sunday." Well, being anchored in the town of Neiafu, we are close to town and many churches. We were counting on two things after reading this since the guide was written in 2002: perhaps the rules about women wearing only dresses or skirts has
been relaxed because I do not have an abundance of dresses or skirts, and although I have tremendous respect for the women cruisers who are brave enough and graceful enough to climb up onto the dinghy dock in their long skirts, I chose to sport Bermuda type shorts and crossed fingers, and for the Sunday part maybe the Tongans won't mind if we tidy up our boat a bit on Sunday to get caught up on some housekeeping.

This bay is the calmest anchorage we have been in for a while and when we have an opportunity like this to work on the boat in relative comfort we seize it; therefore, while Frank did Captain stuff I personally dedicated Sunday to knocking out long overdue maintenance projects such as polishing and scrubbing rust off the stainless equipment and areas on deck. It was an arduous task because Destiny has a lot of hardware so I got after it. We didn't see anyone else working around their boats but
no one chastised us either so although I had intended just to do half of the boat I started with the deck chairs and back porch and before I knew it, I was on a mission to get it all done, including stanchions, pulpits, wenches, railing, shrouds, chain plates, the bowsprit, bolts and screws, etc. I now appreciate why it is so costly to have a yacht detailed. We have yet so much to do to keep Destiny looking beautiful but can only tackle a little at a time. If you don't stay ahead of the game it
gets overwhelming and then becomes a monumental task.
Tuesday night we invited Amber and James over for dinner. Ryan was still with us so the 5 of us ate and then visited with each other. James told us that he and Amber intended to go over to Atmosphere, the charter boat that he has been commissioned to deliver to NZ, the next morning to check it out and invited Ryan to go along with them. He was hoping to get permission for the crew to go ahead and move onto it while they await departure. This is good news for Ryan because Frank and I are ready
to head out to explore the many other islets and anchorages and to catch up with friends, etc. And we are in dire need of water, so to be fair to Ryan we had told him that we will be heading out on Thursday morning, giving him enough notice so that he can make arrangements to stick around the area until his crew position materialized. He is fortunate to have several options which are either free or cost no more than $25.00 per night. Tonga is a great inexpensive destination for travelers on a
low budget.

So, Thursday morning after getting Ryan settled onto another boat, Frank and I visited immigration for our Visa extension, took care of last minute business on shore and then set out for adventure. First port of call: Port Maurelle. This is a beautiful anchorage! The water is crystal clear - as it is all over these islands, and you can see clear to the bottom in nearly any depth. There are starfish down there in various colors such as blue and orange and purple! The sandy beaches are like postcards
and the bays are quiet and calm like. There are just a few boats I here and we are enjoying the solitude of being away from the hustle and bustle of the main anchorage at Neiafu. We have had the radio off for 2 days and only turn it on to listen to the morning net. So peaceful. It has rained on and off nearly every day but we don't care. We have plenty of books to read and cooking and baking to do while we enjoy they calm. Everyone is trading food goods because we can't take many items into
New Zealand so we are all cooking up a storm and trying to either use up or trade away foodstuffs that are questionable for taking with us. We had a couple of dinner with Imagine; it was great to see them again and to spend some time with them before they head to Fiji in the next few days.

Saturday we moved over to the Tapana and Ano beach area, named Anchorage #11 by the Moorings. There is a floating artist studio here called "The Ark Studio", owned by Larry and Sherry, American cruisers who built it as a studio/home and now reside in Tonga full time in their little Ark. They sell art, do custom paintings, rent mooring buoys to us and help take reservations for the Sat. night Tongan Feast on Ano beach each week. We attended the feast last night. It was really something! Local
villagers cook all day, preparing everything Tonga style, baking the food in the ground wrapped in Taro leaves. At the beginning of the evening the local artisans and craftsmen (and women) displayed their goods which included everything from wood and bone carvings to tapa cloths, woven baskets and decorations, all kinds of jewelry and pearls. Then there was music, dancing and a Kava ceremony followed by a traditional Blessing and then the feast. We had a great time and came home absolutely stuffed!

1 comment:

Ryan said...

I thought I'd leave a note of thanks on your blog. I had a great time aboard "Destiny" with you guys. I'm glad I had an opportunity to crew with you. I have been in Auckland for a week now and you are going to LOVE it. The longer I stay here the more I never want to leave. And to anyone else who is reading this, I wish Barb would've gotten a picture of that lobster. I have never seen anything like it. It fed four more people after she was done with it.