Monday, August 25, 2014

Our Final Prize Giving Dinner

Native wood carvings on the wall at Mango Cafe
One of the things we most look forward to are the rendezvous times. This is when all of the boats come together after a long crossing or a free cruising period. It is a time to reconnect with friends in the fleet and share experiences.

The subtle dance movements of the Tongan women
We had our rendezvous dinner and prize giving night at the Mango Café on the shore of the mooring field. Again it was an evening of rum punch, kava, traditional food, music and dance. I really look forward to these events as we all get together - especially before setting off on a month of free cruising where we don't see others often.

We were treated to a demonstration of Tongan dance which is different from the French Polynesian and the Hawaiian style. Here in Tonga, the movements are mostly subtle movements of the hands and head with very little body movement - at least for the girls.  On the other hand, the boys and men do a lot of jumping and fast movements.

The welcoming dance at Mango Café.
The Hawaiians use fluid whole body movements and the Tahitians shake their hips like no others! So this is the other extreme of limited body motion, but very beautiful and graceful. It fits their conservative culture and lifestyle. It seems that the dances done by men are more aggressive and are telling a story of fighting or winning at something.

Receiving our prize
Lucia, Jo (Argentina), Anita (Norway) and Sherry
Prize giving is always fun as several of the boats are serious about "winning." We are not and were quite pleased and surprised when we placed third in our division back in the Panama to Galapagos leg. It seems that there are some repeat winners each time, but also new winners. Therefore, it is a happy surprise when new boat names are called to receive a prize. This time the prizes were very special as they were hand carved kava bowls.

Mimi, Dennis, Gro and Erhling
It is going to be difficult to say goodbye to some of our  new friends when we drop out after Fiji! I hope we maintain contact for catching up later when we do land travel. We have really enjoyed meeting Miimi, Gro and Erhling and Anita and Glen from Norway. Sandra and Tom, the honeymooning couple from Switzerland, have become special friends, too. We enjoyed the family from Argentina, but don't know if we will see them again.  I know we will keep and touch and probably see Merc and Bob from Chicago. There are a number of others we will look up when we travel to their countries.

Monday, August 18, 2014

One Man's Passion for Generations to Enjoy

Haniteli in his garden
The World ARC had a path dedicated to them.
One of the tours we did in Tonga was to the 'Ene'io Botanical Garden. As the brochure says: where beauty abounds. It is a natural garden nestled on the shores of beautiful 'Ene'io Beach in Tu'anekivale, Vava'u, Tonga! How is that for a location address!

After arriving by bus, we were handed branches of leaves for shooing away the mosquitoes! They are a problem everywhere and I think they see me as new meat. For some reason, I attract them more than Dennis does. These branches proved to be very useful. 
The garden was founded by Haniteli when he was seven years old! He started collecting plants and relocating them to his family property. The official garden was started in 1972 and has over 550 different plant varieties.

Making tapa cloth
Haniteli tells the story of this garden with such great passion. After retiring from high positions in the government, he and his wife Lucy now run tours, a restaurant, and share native culture with their guests.

The garden is on 'Ene'io Beach, the first port of call for Ancient Polynesians with remnant of ancient rock cuttings, burial grounds and waterholes of 'Ene'io. The bay is beautiful. Obviously, Haniteli's family had the prime real estate at the time and of course, it stays in the family. They shared their culture with demonstrations of tapa making and palm weaving. It is amazing to watch the women prepare the plant material and then pound it for hours into large thin sheets to make tapa cloth. I never would have thought it could be done: going from a one inch strip to a 12 inch piece! Amazing!

I have done some basket weaving in my time, but these women are like machines. Within 15 minutes, one had striped the palm leaves from the stalk and had made a large basket! Working with fresh green material is a little easier than the dry materials we had to soak, but still ...

Preparing the kava
We also watched them make kava from the root of the pepper plant and prepare the traditional drink. This is a non-alcoholic, non-narcotic drink that is somewhat sedative. Mostly the men drink it - like having a beer (or several) with the guys! It is known to numb your tongue and make you sleepy.

Lunch on the spit!
One of the highlights of this tour was the lunch and program that followed. They roasted two small piglets over an open fire. It was very tasty and was served with other traditional dishes. The best was the dark chocolate coconut cake! At this point, you could serve us anything with dark chocolate and we would love it!

Some high school dancers performed a number of dances for the entertainment. Although not as "professional" as some of the performances we have seen, it was delightful to see the children in a natural free dance mood. Some really have rhythm!


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Getting to Know People in Vava'u Tonga

It is a big day when the ship
comes in. Everyone comes to the
wharf to collect their orders.
The local market. Crafts are inside the building.
This island group is in the north and some distance from the capital. As a result, there is limited commerce. A supply ship comes in a couple times a month and the intra-island ferries do some transporting of goods.

It is a big event when the ship comes in. We saw people lined up to receive their orders, including washing machines, sofas, and other large household items. There were stacks of container crates waiting to be unpacked. Dennis and I just happened to be walking through the wharf area when we realized what was happening. It was like Christmas - such anticipation!

You can buy any kind of fish on
the wharf during the market.

There is a central market that is open daily with fresh produce and craft items. The fishermen have coolers full of fresh fish at the wharf each day. I wondered what they do with all of the seafood that isn’t sold at the end of the day.

Watermelons are very popular here much to my surprise and it was a nice treat. However, white potatoes were very expensive because they come from New Zealand. The local sweet potato is purple inside, but very tasty – just a little too starchy for me. Whatever they sold me for lettuce was tough and somewhat bitter. I think I needed to ask for “salad” to get what we call lettuce.

I encountered this one on the street one Sunday when
I was walking by myself. I wasn't too sure how she
would react to me as I passed her. It was fine!
Pigs seem to rule here! They are everywhere: in the streets, in the yards, wandering around vacant lots, etc. It seems most families have a pig or two. On some of the smaller islands, a pig roast for cruisers is a common thing. The cruisers bring the side dishes and the local family brings a pig. Some people were grossed out when the pig was killed in front of them and then put on the spit over the wood fire! I guess we don’t think about that part of the process when standing at the meat counter!
Pigs in the yard with the kids and laundry.
Unfortunately, we did not participate in one of these meals as we were dealing with a battery situation – again. The new expensive system that was put in before we left has been a great frustration and disappointment. Dennis has spent too much of this adventure dealing with it and we hope for find a solution in Fiji where they have more marine services. In the meantime, it affects our ability to desalinate sea water so we are hauling it to the boat in five gallon jugs.

Looking down the main street of town. We spent a lot of time
in the red roof building in Tropicana Café - best Internet!
The local businesses were most helpful. Our gathering place was at the Aquarium Café near our mooring. It was a short dinghy ride to the dock and then a mile walk to the other end of town. We made the walk several times a day. In fact, we do a lot of walking in these island. (The result is 4-5” lost around my waist! I needed this!)
Trying to keep the overheating battery cool!

Mike and Laurie who own the Aquarium and Lisa and Greg who own the Tropicana Café were the most helpful with information and providing Internet services and good food.

And, of course, the happy hours were the nightly deal at the Aquarium where the fleet gathered. Lisa and Greg managed to help all of us struggling with the Internet to get our paperwork for Fiji clearance completed and sent off to Fiji. This is no small task. These island governments want you to email them information, but forget they have lousy connection services so we spend hours trying to make it happen. 
I love this tree. Walked by it several times a day. They
built the sidewalk around it so they must love it, too.
Lisa said it is hard to get spices and things for the restaurant kitchen so I gave her a bunch of stuff I had on the boat that I realized I am not going to use or need. She was thrilled. I think there will be a lot of Mexican flavored items on the menu for the next few months! I also gave her a bottle of A-1 Steak Sauce since I haven’t see a good steak in the market for a long time!
The World ARC fleet "at rest" in the mooring field!

While in Neiafu, I did manage to finalize our plans for the holiday trip to visit our children and grandchildren. We will be leaving the boat in New Zealand for two months while we fly to Sydney, Istanbul (for a mini vacation), then to Munich for Christmas in Germany with Katie’s family. Next we go to Detroit for a special birthday girl’s party and to take care of the four F’s: family, friends, finances and “f(ph)ysicians.” After a couple weeks in Michigan, we will go to San Francisco to see the boys and a new grandson! Then we are  on a flight from LAX to Sydney and back to Auckland! WHEW! We are calling it our “double loop” as in a trip around the world within a trip around the world!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Welcome to the Kingdom of Tonga!

Tonga is a very flat country compared to where we have been.
The Kingdom of Tonga is similar and different from Nuie in several ways. It is similar in that the land rises directly out of the water with no real beaches. The cliffs are straight up and there are some caves to explore by diving underwater and coming up inside them.

The Aquarium: the WARC hangout above the anchorage.
It is different in the size of the main community and the people, and that the island are flat plateaus on the top rather than mountainous. This place is not full of New Zealanders; it is more native. It is also a group of islands rather than just a single island.

Tonga is the only kingdom in the southern hemisphere and has the reputation of being “the friendly islands.” Indeed they are! Tonga is a monarchy and the King’s birthday is celebrated on July 4th. This year he will celebrate it here in Neiafu, Vava’u so the people are busy preparing for the event.

Beautiful sunsets to the west.
The King lives in the capital Nuka’alofa, Tongatapu over 150 miles south. That doesn’t seem far to us with cars and drive twice that distance to our cottages up north, but it is a long way by boat!
There are three different island groups that make up the Kingdom of Tonga that stretch over 500 miles from north to south. There are 170 islands of which 50 are inhabited. The island chain lies along the Tonga Trench where the Pacific Plate, the Tonga Plate and the Australian Plate grind into each other. This action gives rise to a lot of underwater volcanic activity!

St. Joseph's Catholic Church
Dressed in traditional Sunday best!
We visited Vava’u, the group to the north that is considered best for diving and snorkeling and, of course, cruising. Others are known for fishing and their remoteness, except for the capital island in the south. 

Here in Neiafu, you can see that this country is less developed than French Polynesia. The churches have great power over the people and many criticize the money put into the churches when the people are so poor. Religion is very strong and highly influences the people.
We attended Mass at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church near the harbor. The singing during Mass was beautiful. You can hear the singing from all of the churches daily even when we are on the boat in the mooring field.

Young girls in their Sunday best.
Traditional men's wear.
It was interesting to see the Sunday dress for church. Everyone wore the traditional ancient pandanus overskirt of some type – men, women and children. These are worn as a sign of loyalty to the monarch. They are hand woven and some have intricate detailing. The men's version is more like a woven mat wrapped around their waist like a sarong. Some women wore something similar, but many work what looks like woven flowers hanging from the waistband like on the girls in the photo.

Students on the way to school from church. Each school
has different colors. Notice the wrap worn by the boys.
This is common in many island counties.
We were amazed at the power the missionaries have had over these people for many years. As one native told us: we don’t know our history before the missionaries came as they wiped it all out. The people still have their kava ceremonies, dances and music, but they just don’t know what it was like all those years before the missionaries arrive.
Same view as above, but in the morning.
Tonga is a religious country so no work by anyone is done on Sunday! Dress is influenced by the churches as well. The children all wear uniforms to schools. It appears that different schools wear different colors. Women do not wear shorts or pants, although it is becoming more westernized in the “urban” areas, such as Neiafu. The men wear the traditional cloth “skirt” with the pandanus overskirt. It appears to be required dress if you work for the government.

We were first told not to wear shorts and tank tops and that men could be fined for being bare chested. Here in Neiafu where they depend on the yachties for much of their income, this didn’t seem to be a problem. As explained in one of the shops, they realize they need to accept what the rest of the world is doing. Even the locals are wearing tank tops, but everyone is still respectful - especially on Sundays.