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Friday, October 17, 2008

Moving on from Vava'u to Ha'apai - Tonga

On October 8th we awoke at 2:30 AM for departure to the Ha'apai group of Islands. It is about 63 miles to projected landfall but we wanted to arrive early in the day in case the small anchorage is already full thus pushing us onward. We had a great sail, making excellent time arriving at Ha'ano Island by midday. The beach area there was inhabited by a former sheep skinner and New Zealander of Tongan ancestry named Greg, who had recently acquired this lovely parcel of land through his grandmother.
He is in the process of building a fishing lodge with some bungalows for guests and a larger building to house the restaurant/bar & hall. The property truly has a million dollar view and a prime location for snorkeling and whale watching and is in close proximity to a colony of fruit bats (referred to as flying foxes), housed in the trees at the point of the bay. We spent time there snorkeling, observing the bats, walking into the villages and just enjoying this impressive anchorage. Greg generously
provided us a large bunch of bananas and a woven basket full of mangos and papayas which we shared with Morning Light. A side note about this part of Tonga: What is termed "village" by locals was a stark reminder to us of the abundance we Americans enjoy. These people are literally dirt poor; however their joyful temperament implies that they are a very content people. The children laugh and play, skipping around in the street, calling "Hello!" to us. They are self sufficient to a degree, living
off the fruits and vegetables they are able to grow, and raising pigs. Pigs are as abundant here as roosters and chickens are in French Polynesia. A village consists of churches and small homes. Religion is very important here. The Mormon population is strong, and then follows Latter Day Saints and then Wesleyan, with a scattering of Catholics and other denominations. We saw no stores to speak of other than a miniscule building that very much resembles a portable fireworks stand that one would
see back home along the highway. The stores here are dark and closed off; you do not actually enter the store, rather you walk up to a wired window for a peek inside. If you see something of interest, you point and the clerk slides it through the opening as at a ticket window for the movie theater. Life is very different here. Crime seems to be nonexistent, generosity abounds. It is easy for us to visit these villages with a spirit of giving - in whatever way we can whether it is food items,
bits of clothing, candy & gum for the children. Greg wanted cold beer. Electricity is a luxury which is rationed to each village in bocks of 6 hours per day. Even with a generator, Greg must be careful not to run out of fuel because it is not readily available either. Solar power is still being developed and is not used that we could see.

We finally bade Greg and Ha'ano farewell to cruise over to the village of Pangai at Lifuka Island - the main island in Ha'apai.

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