Wow, Tonga…! This is the country on earth that is the farthest away from Denmark! It was quite fascinating to think about where we were and trying to picture us on a map of the world. On a tiny little island in the middle of the big ocean. Getting this far away from everything is one of the exiting parts of traveling. Far away in distance and culture. Tonga was both!
We really didn’t know what to expect. We knew that it would be the least touristic and most basic country on our trip, but other than that we didn’t know much. We decided to go to Tonga after reading in a guide book. Immediately after we both read this passage we decided to go: “Kiss the tourist hype goodbye – and say a warm hello to the Kingdom of Tonga. Resolutely sidestepping flashy resorts and packaged cruise-ship schtick, Tonga is unpolished, gritty and unfailingly authentic”. (Lonely Planet) How can you not go after reading that (when you’re in the area anyway)? 🙂
We spent a week there. We were not going to cover a very big geographical area. Further, Tonga doesn’t have the best medical facilities should something happen, and traveling with two small kids, we needed to consider this fact. There are only 106.000 people living in Tonga, and the main island is 260 Sq Km. So one week seemed appropriate.
After our week we can conclude that Tonga is a place where nothing much goes on 🙂 At least not where we were (but I’m pretty sure that it goes for the whole country).
We were on Tongatapu – the main island – for the most of the time. But we also took the worlds shortest commercial flight to the island of ‘Eua, and spent two nights there. The flight was less than ten minutes, and I didn’t really look forward to it. But despite a very old plane, and a few bumps, it was an ok flight – and over really quickly!
On ‘Eua time must have stopped many years ago. It was like the middle age, just with motorized vehicles. We were always wondering a little whether it was real road or just tracks that we were driving on 🙂 Afterwards, we’ve talked a lot about it, and in some ways ‘Eua is the most extreme place we have ever been. In the way that the ‘modern’ world is so far away.
We’re not completely sure, but there might have been one ‘real’ store there. In addition, the only places to eat are where people stay, and after staying on ‘Eua I’m not sure I can eat coconut oil again (ever!). Every meal only tasted of coconut oil… but our guesthouse was very atmospheric, and there were humpback whales playing in the ocean just out in front.
Unfortunately Søren had to see a doctor to get some antibiotics for a tonsil infection while we were on ‘Eua. So we went to the local ‘hospital’ where the people working at our guesthouse thought there might be a doctor that day – they weren’t sure. But there was a doctor and he got the antibiotics. However, when we needed a receipt for the insurance the only person who could write receipts was not there that day. So we had to come back the next day. And this is what we got 😂 I’m not sure the insurance will accept this…
During our visit, we went on a 4WD trip around the island with a guy who happened to have a somewhat reasonable car. I cut my knee on a very rusty hole in the door. And a big hole in the front window was fixed with tape. We asked if it was a fallen coconut, but apparently is was a rugbyball…Well, at least the car made it the whole way around the island with no break downs. The sights were [limited to] some big fig trees, a waterfall and a sea arch plus some wild horses – and a lot of mosquitos. Again the real experience was really just being there and taking in all the impressions of the local life.
Back on the main island we met a lady who called herself Tonga…?! She was our driver for a day trip around the island, and the day after we met her in the local church. It’s a small place 🙂 She took us around to see the main tourist sights. And while Tonga really tries to make a tourist sight of everything (a 3 headed coconut tree and a tree which usually has bats…?), they actually do pretty well on the actual sights.
We saw the worlds biggest tsunami rock. A huge rock in the middle of nowhere on a flat piece of land -a scary thought when seeing how big it was, and imagining the size of the tsunami that brought it there…
They also had caves, blow holes (I must say I’m pretty impressed by blowholes. I’ve never seen them before visiting the Pacific Islands, but they are so impressive. Ocean water being thrown into the air through small holes by the force of waves from the sea), and the Tongan ‘Stonehenge’, which scientists are not completely sure how got there.
It was very interesting to talk to Tonga, and she shared a lot of her thoughts with us. Especially her thoughts on the many Chinese people that dominate a lot of the businesses. They were welcomed by a former king, but currently the Tongans did not seem very friendly with the Chinese as they had (apparently) bought all the shops and businesses, and hadn’t been integrated into the local communities. As the Tongans said, ‘they just stay in their shops all day, never come out’. It was quite sad, but I guess integration is difficult all around the world…
On Sunday we went to church to experience the most important thing in Tongan life. Only too late did we realize that men were sitting in the back and women in the front. But the Tongans were too polite to tell us, and afterwards told us we shouldn’t worry 🙂
We had asked Tonga – the driver – about the dress code for church. She had told us that there is none. But since everyone in Samoa wore white I made sure to wear light colors (as light as a possible with my limited amount of clothes). When we got to church everyone, and I mean everyone, was wearing black… imagine how much I stood out. Sitting in the back with the men AND in light colors AND suddenly extremely blond… 😳 Søren only had one clean shirt left which was coincidentally black, so he was all good. (We later found out that they were wearing black because one of the villagers had passed away.)
When we left Hawaii, I was sure that I would not get an espresso coffee before hitting Sydney one month later. But it turned out that espresso coffee has made it to even the tiniest parts of the world. So in ‘dirty Nuke’ as the capital of Tonga is called, we even managed to get a decent coffee. Ahhh 🙂 And Nuku’alofa was actually surprisingly nice. There are a few good restaurants, some shops, and some ‘western’ style coffee shops. All in all a welcoming visit, -however, not enough to keep you hanging around for a long time in my perspective.
On Samoa, Fiji and Tonga we have spent much time talking about food – and not least looking for some decent meals. It has been quite a challenge, and I’m pretty sure Tonga has some of the worst food culture in the world. It is close to impossible to get a good meal…!
And since Søren got antibiotics, yoghurt would have been good to the stomach, but it was impossible to find – in the whole country (we asked all possible places). It was very contradictory, there were actually days where we more or less went to bed hungry… but then looking at the Tongans, they are probably the most obese people we have ever seen. Everyone was overweight!
BUT as we were about to leave the Pacific Islands, seriously craving good food, we spent our last day on a small Tongan island called Fafa. Here we had the best meal we had had for weeks and weeks. It was a very exciting feeling and a great way to end our island time! (I would have added a picture of the food, but we ate it too fast to take photos 😉 In stead there are a few pictures from the island.)
Our next stop is Australia and Sydney. The first time for me there and the first big city to visit in a very long time. Before leaving Tonga, Søren was joking so much about how devastating it would be to miss the flight – we were really ready to finally go to a big city! And since the flight left very early in the morning, we needed to have someone pick us up at 5 am. Not the time to call a taxi in Tonga had something gone wrong! But everything was completely fine … until we were at the check-in counter.
Here they told us that Carla was not allowed on the flight. There was a problem with her visa. It said she was born in 1914! PANIC! The weekly flight to Sydney was about to leave and we had to find internet and apply for a new visa for her. And since none of us had any phone connection, and we basically hadn’t had internet connection for a month, we had to ask other passengers if we could use the internet on their phone. Luckily one guy borrowed us his phone, and we managed to apply for a new visa – and get it.
Carla was back on the passenger list, and we were on our way to Sydney 🙂