We arrived in Tongatapu Sunday evening after spending a night in "arguably one of the most idyllic islands in the South Pacific," according to our Tonga guide book. Yes, Kalafesia - the southern most island in the Ha'apai group - is the stereotypical deserted tropical island. It was a bit sketchy getting into the anchorage as the entrance to the lagoon is lined with sharp and shallow reef, and waves breaking on either side. It was no problem for us and we found a nice little spot to drop anchor for the night. Not all boats have been so lucky, as we found a mast on the beach that indicated that a boat sank there recently. Our friends on Sara Jean confirmed that a boat sank there last season. Oops.
We did not sink and had a lovely time beach combing and swimming. The snorkeling was not as good as in other places, but it was cool to be the only people on an island - Robinson Crusoe stylee... kinda. The only other evidence of life we saw was a dog, a few pigs, and chickens. I would like to think I could fare well alone on an island with companions like that, but I decided not to find out.
The other island we stopped at overnight before arriving in Tongatapu was Ha'afeva. I like the cruising style of doing little day sails down an island chain, stopping in places for a night or two. I mean, it's not my favorite way to cruise, but certainly better than doing a bunch of overnight passages. We were only in Ha'afeva for 18 hours, but this gave us time to go for a snorkel and check out an old fishing trawler that sank on the reef years back. It seems like there are a lot of wrecks in this part of the south Pacific. It is a bit disconcerting, but I think most boats are sunk during cyclones, which we are going to New Zealand to avoid.
The wreck was eerie and cool. There is something about swimming over and around a sunken boat that gives me the heebeejeebies (sp?), but also an adrenaline rush. The coolest part of the snorkel was that I found the most awesome shell I have ever found - a bright orange conch shell. I held onto it for about two hours before I managed to give it back to the ocean, one, because there was still a conch living in it, and two, because New Zealand customs will confiscate shells and marine life like that. I thought about smuggling it into the country, but, meh. I think I get a karma boost with the ocean.
Which brings us to Nuku'alofa, Tongapoopoo. The reason we went to the hospital was to visit a friend from a boat who got a serious staph infection in his leg. He and his wife were on their way to New Zealand and he got a fever of 105, so his wife turned the boat around and headed for the nearest hospital. Had she not he would probably not be alive right now.
The visit to the hospital was tough - not only to see Bill and his horrendous leg, but to see the state of health care in Tonga. The hospital was packed with screaming babies and sickly old people. The pharmacy was a shack in the parking lot. There were cockroaches everywhere. Sue, Bill's wife, told us that the families of the patients have to bring everything for the patient - including food, water, sheets... everything you would expect a hospital to provide. Sue told us that Bill is doing much better than he was a few days ago, gracias adios. Going to the hospital and seeing Bill made me so thankful and appreciative that my, my family and friends' health has been so good on this trip.
After the hospital visit we went to the market. I have come to realize that all the markets in the s.Pac are all more or less the same. Fruits and vegetables, baskets and other kitchy trinkets. We bought a few vegetables and then went across the street to an "American" market to buy some supplies. The market was dark and dusty, although they did have a few Kirkland Signature (Costco) products, which is always exciting. We bought a bunch of ramen instant noodles as that is the easiest hot meal on a passage.
After shopping we went to customs where they decided we had to pay a fine of 120 pa'anga because we did not check in the day we arrived - the prior evening. It is ridiculous that they make people check in in each group of Tonga. That would be like having to go to customs when doing interstate travel. What a bunch of BS.
Did I mention that our refrigeration died? Well, I don't know if it died, but it is not currently working. No fridge, no freezer. Warm beer. Shit. A guy is coming today to look at it, but we did not have access to the fridge yesterday. We were all hungry and went to a little cafe for lunch. There were cockroaches in all the corners and a few on the ceiling. The fish and chips were delicious.
As you can tell, Nuku'alofa is not a charming place. Fortunately we are anchored out at Pangaimotu, a little island a mile off the city. This is where the people who live in the city come for a nice afternoon. Big Mama's Yacht Club serves food and beer, has a pool table and free internet. There is also a sunken ship right of the beach which makes for cool snorkeling. This is a nice place, but I don't want to stay here longer than necessary. That being said, I don't really want to leave, because that means heading out on the 1,300 mile passage to New Zealand. Catch-22.
And so we wait. And do laundry, clean, tighten the rigging, and do everything else possible to prepare for what could be a very gnarly passage. But we are waiting for a weather window with the hopes that the passage won't be too gnarly. Vamos a ver. We will see.
At 10/17/2011 7:15 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 21°07.51'S 175°09.79'W
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