Welcome to the Lau Group

Some claim the Lau Group to be one of the top cruising grounds on a circumnavigation, and we’re not inclined to disagree. Even though we are still only halfway on our own global spin, we believe this place to be very memorable. The Fijian friendliness stretches out to this far-eastern group and is only surpassed by the villager’s gratefulness for us coming to this remote part of the world. The day before we planned to sail south, we were approached by some fishermen hoping for fishing lures. We were gifted a branch of bananas and a box of pawpaw despite our decline of offering anything of value to them. Unbelievable generosity to people unknown to them. These fruits were treasured as we drifted deeper into isolated waters.

The Lau Group is the row of small islands down the right hand side of this picture

 

The turquoise waters of the Bay of Islands in Vanua Balavu enticed us into to take a swim after an all-day passage from Qearea, an island in the far north-east of Fiji. Immediately an inquisitive turtle surfaced for a breath near us and then calmly swam away. Surrounded by limestone pinnacles covered with bonsai type growth, Qi was provided with one of our most unique anchorages.

This bay was so tranquil

It was paddling and swimming heaven as we were tucked out of the wind in this picturesque harbour. After the first night, we joined ‘Georgia’, an American boat, along with the crew of two other boats, to deliver our sevusevu to the chief of a local village. The ceremony was brief as the village spokesperson – the Turaga ni Koro, let us know that the chief was away and he would accept our sevusevu on his behalf, (our bundle of Kava is gifted in exchange for use of their iQoliqoli – their fishing and farming areas- a custom that is entrenched in the Fijian culture and law). A friendly exchange of pleasantries, gifts and the purchase of freshly baked bread and some fruit finalised the village formalities and allowed us to return to our rocky paradise. With caves and bommies to explore and friendly cruisers to socialise with, we knew this magnetic place would be difficult to leave. Only the promise of more beautiful places drew us further afield. 

 

We headed north along with some of the other boats where we tucked into a large bay. Thomas went on a long hike with the others while I stayed back on the boat due to my continued limp. My leg still tired easily and I wasn’t wanting to risk further injury. I spent the time getting some washing done. The swimming and exercises were still building up the strength in my leg and I was grateful for the peace.

The Bay of Islands taken during Thomas’ hike

 

We moved off on our own the next day and discovered a gem in a small harbour called ‘Small Bay’ which was tucked in between two cliffs and protected by a narrow pass surrounded by coral. A small beach curved around one side and mangroves lined the other. A canyon heading inland enticed us to explore. A swift current sent us dodging coral heads as we were sucked into a large lake on our kayak and paddle board. It was quite exciting, but daunting at the same time as we contemplated the return to the boat. The return passage ended up being quite enjoyable as we had time to look up at the scenery instead of curving around the obstacles in the water and the current wasn’t as strong to the side. The cliffs were rugged and evidence of Cyclone Winston showed with bare trees on the hilltops. The waters were filled with large fish and turtles. We felt well protected from the weather and swell in this little paradise.

Thomas paddling up the canyon in Little Bay

 

The following day we headed towards the capital of the island to restock with some fruits and vegetables. The shop had nothing of interest for us as the monthly ferry was due the following week to restock their uninviting wares. When I requested some fruit the shopkeeper walked outside and brought back one pawpaw which was given to me for free. We headed across the bay to a small village called Susu’i. Here we needed to do sevusevu once again. Once again, the Turaga ni Koro, this time a man by name of Jakob, accepted our gift. He spoke with us about his village and took us for a walk to the other side of the island after taking a list of all the fresh produce we wished to purchase. The village was quite devastated by Cyclone Winston and they’re wanting to rebuild their church so they’re making money by selling fresh produce to the cruisers. For a reasonable amount of money, I became well stocked. I’d bought canned goods for this section of our journey, which rather disgusts me, and now we had plenty of fresh food including a beautiful watermelon. I guessed the cans would be returning to New Zealand with us. Only after I’d purchased my goods did the fishermen approach us with more produce. Later I shared our abundance with other cruisers who’d missed the village.

The children of Susu’i loved playing with the bubbles that I brought to the school.

 

It was school holidays when we arrived and the principal and teachers only arrived back on the island with the ferry delivering the stock to the shops, the day before we left. Late in the afternoon, I headed over with some books that I’d purchased and my bubble blowing equipment. Regina, the principal invited me into her small cottage and was very pleased with the books. We went outside and set up the bubble blowing equipment. It wasn’t long before the squeals of delight were wafting over the village and harbour as the children blew and ran after bubbles. A few hours of laughter and joy came to an end when the detergent mixture ran out and Regina told the children to go home and bathe and get their uniforms ready for school the next day. Her air of authority exuded from her as the children obediently turned on their toes and ran off laughing towards their homes. Then Regina went about giving me more fresh produce from the family garden that her father tended. 

Regina’s father had a wonderful crop growing and was so willing to share.

 

The next leg of our journey took us on an overnight passage to an uninhabited group of islands inside a large reef. There we tucked out of the northerly winds in an area that wasn’t identified in any of our guides as an anchorage. We were drawn to this area by other cruiser’s accounts of unspoiled reefs and plentiful wide life. One of the main features of all the Lau Group is the bird song. The barking pigeon resembles the haunting sounds of the howler monkeys, small swallows twitter away and sea birds freckle the skies. These uninhabitable islands offer a sanctuary of breeding holes in their jiggered limestone cliffs. The snorkelling offers a variety of walls and bommies throughout the lagoon. Turtles pop up all around the boat and paddle board. Whales greeted our friends on ‘ Georgia’ with fin slaps as they entered the pass later in the day. For a short time, we were alone in this divine paradise.

Our friends Jess and Danny sailing along. Their small engine meant that they had to tack in some pretty tricky places close to the reef. They were going in side a reef at this time.

outcrops of rocks and reefs in the Bay of Islands

The crew of Renehara joined us for a hike and a dinghy trip around the islands surrounding Susu’i

The old custom of placing the bones of their ancestors in a cave was evident in Susu’i and throughout the Lau Group.

Bay of Islands Anchorage

 

 

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Chasing the Sun

Traditional drumming signals the beginning of the school day. With the exception of the giggling, singing voices of the children in the boat passing Qi an hour earlier, you wouldn’t believe this huge bay was home to so many young Fijian treasures.

The sounds of singing and giggling echoed through the bay as the school boat went past each morning in Viarni Bay.

We arrived in the bay late Friday afternoon to see many of our friends bouncing around in the swell and had a visit from Marina, a German dive instructor who, with her Fijian husband, have begun an eco-dive resort in the secluded bay and were promptly invited onshore for a pot luck dinner. There are no roads here. You either walk in or use a boat. We had no idea where the 60+ students came from to attend the four-teacher school. I took some science experiments and my favourite children’s book, Wombat Stew, along with cardboard puppets that my last class had made on shore on Monday morning. The principal was a little put out for the disruption but sent his students out to join me after I’d explained that I’d arrived too late to see him on Friday. Once he saw the joy the children were having and how much they were learning, he couldn’t stop smiling. He took lots of photos for his newsletter to the parents. I had every class visit me for bubble blowing, the story and messing their hands up in cornflour goop. It was a fun day.

A lali, a tradition Fijian drum doubles for the school bell.

Our arrival in Fiji was delayed due to the late cyclones lurking in the Pacific. Many braved the seas and took their chances with some successes and some horror stories. We were in no rush. We left late in May and headed towards Minerva Reef where several friends were anchored. We spent a few days snorkelling and walking the reef. It was a social time. Pete and crew from Havachat went out each night hunting lobsters and Thomas was lucky enough to score an invite to lunch. Well, I was there too, and enjoyed their hearty salad to the max. Those guys knew how to set a table, napkins and all. You wouldn’t believe we were miles away from civilisation. It was so pleasant.

Snorkelling at Minerva on the wreck of an old fishing boat that dragged its anchor some years ago

Our plans to head to Savusavu on the northern main island were rescheduled when Sam, my daughter, decided to join us after her uni exams had finished, and we headed towards Nadi for an easy pick up and to show her some touristy places such as Cloud 9, the floating bar, and some of the resorts. “Mum, I want to sip cocktails on a tropical island” was her only request. The weather is better on the western side of the island too as the rain brought in by the trade winds is dropped on the mountains of Vitu Levu, the main island. We had a wonderful time with Sam. It was the first time that she and Thomas had really got to spend time together and they seemed to enjoy each other’s company. We went snorkelling and sailing. Sam wasn’t too keen on the reef sharks and freaked out a bit when we mentioned them. This is understandable with the diversion to sharks that Australians have. Most of them aren’t the friendly type there like they are here. They even dive with tiger sharks here. Not me. I don’t need to do that. I was really proud of the way Sam adapted to boat life. She helped out and never complained of the inconveniences of being at sea. Even in some quite big seas. It was lovely to spend quality time with her. Can’t tell you how much love I feel for that girl.

Happy faces after a wonderful holiday together

Our birthdays were spent surrounded by friends and great outings. We had a very social time. At one stage we had our head sail in the sail maker’s workshop having a tidy up and we decided to head out to Musket Cove while we waited for the repairs. It was like a German community and we had a great time socialising with them. Thomas went for a dive with a group and I snorkelled overhead as we only had one bottle filled. I saw a small shark and swam with a turtle for some time. One night we went to ‘Green Duck’ and watched a movie on a big screen. I became good friends with Elke off Green Duck and hope to catch up with her again in New Zealand.

Thomas had plenty of beautiful company at his birthday dinner with the arrival of Kate’s, from Havachat, friends

Everyone began to head off to Vanuatu and we headed north to fulfil our plans to visit the Lau group, a far eastern set of islands that people say are the best part of Fiji. We’ve missed them each time due to the problematic point of sail directly into the trade winds. So we headed off to Viarni Bay to visit our friend Jack Fisher and head north to Rabi island when we had the opportunity to do some tours of Taveuni, a large island to the east of Viarni bay.

The crew of Qi, Jack Fisher and Yuki, a Japanese sailor who joined us for the day

That’s when I had my mishap. We visited the highly acclaimed waterslides, a cascade of waterfalls over smooth, curved rocks. There was no one else there so Thomas and I decided to just have a refreshing swim instead of going down the falls as we weren’t sure of a safe path. I slipped and fell on the rocks and twisted my hip flexor. The pain was instantaneous. I knew it was bad.

Before cascades with rocks that deserve respect

Thomas couldn’t believe it. He’d only taken his eyes off me for one second and I’d only fallen a small distance. He helped me down the slope with the aid of a young Fijian lad and I rested in the cool pool for a moment. A waiting taxi got us back to the boat. It was agony getting on board. Thomas decided to get me back to Savusavu where the hospital and anchorage would be suitable for a long stay. An x-ray revealed our hopes that there was no break. It had taken four big blokes to lift me off the boat into a wheelchair borrowed from a 91 year old female sailor. Thomas has now borrowed crutches from a one-legged sailor. “What about him?” I asked. “No worries, he has a fake leg” Thomas replied. It took me five days to get into the cockpit and I’ve been ashore once for a shower, but a wayward sneeze has set me back a bit as I stretched the muscle again during the action. They say it may take four to eight weeks to heal depending on the severity. I’d say mine was fairly severe so I’m resting up and not trying to do too much too soon. More pics below

Caught up with our beautiful friends Lynne and Eric. We hadn’t seen them since the Caribbean

A sunset at Savusavu

I haven’t been writing much but I’ve been making flags for my grandson, Charlie

Sam doing selfies underwater

This whole bommie is covered in giant clams

Cloud 9, the floating bar on the reef outside of Musket Cove

My vego curry at Thomas’ birthday dinner. Such variety. delish.

Thomas and I caught this Mahi Mahi as were approaching Vanua Levu. I’d only just put the line in after checking it after a strike. Lucky I got the bungy chord out in time. Thomas took over as we approached the reef. We couldn’t waste anytime. The fish was a golden colour before the life ran out of it. Made me a bit sad but I knew Thomas would have fish for a while with this one

A nice pic of my bum that Sam captured as we snorkelled off Beachcomber’s resort

Sam’s feet framing the Octopus resort after a snorkel on the reef out in front

Thomas was bought a drink by all sorts for his birthday

Sam paddling towards Qi

Sam preparing for a snorkel. Probably checking for sharks knowing her

Sam and I walking on a deserted beach near the site they were filming Survivor

Sam sipping cocktails on Cloud 9, the floating bar near the famous surf break Cloud break

Rainbow Reef, known for all the rainbows. You can see one between Thomas and Jack. Jack is happy if he’s driving the boat.

My beautiful gift basket from Jolene, who used to run Waitui Marina, and we weren’t even staying there this time

My sunset on watch while crossing the Pacific

More party goers for Thomas’ birthday

Sammy’s taste of resort life

The beautiful Lauri off Free Spirit made this delicious cake for Thomas.

Thomas had good company on his birthday

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Fishing for Smiles

I can’t believe the cruising season for 2016 has nearly come to an end. We have enjoyed Tonga, Samoa, Wallis and now Fiji. Once again, we hope to return to Fiji. We’ve been here for two months and still have so much to see. The topography of the islands reminds me of Treasure Islands. There are tall, rocky mountains with green lower slopes. Two weeks ago, we sailed the same area and we were both reminded of Egypt because it was so dry. After a down pour ten days ago, the islands have sprung to life. It was a miraculous transformation. We are on the western side of Fiji in the Yasawa group, but heading to Lautoka to check out for NZ.

Trying to keep out of the hot tropical sun on our travels. We've had some magnificent day sails in calm waters.

Trying to keep out of the hot tropical sun on our travels. We’ve had some magnificent day sails in calm waters.

We first arrived in the small port town of Savusavu on the southern side of Vanua Levu, the second largest island in Fiji, two months ago. It was great to catch up with some cruisers we’d met in New Zealand and Tonga, but we’d taken too much time and missed others. We enjoyed the superb Indian cuisine from the local restaurants before heading off to Viani Bay where we had the pleasure of meeting Jack Fisher – Dive Instructor, Ship’s Skipper, Tour Guide and all round great guy. For five days we snorkelled, dived, swam and enjoyed the company of other cruisers willing to share Jack. We saw some of the most spectacular soft coral and extraordinary reef fish that we’d ever encountered. We felt that we’d learned so much about Fiji from Jack and certainly were in awe of the places he showed us. ‘It was a real treat’. (Just one of many of Jack’s idiosyncrasies that endeared him to us).

Jack enjoying his lasagne that I made him.

Jack enjoying his lasagne that I made him.

Despite Jack’s continued supply of paw paw, we were running out of supplies and needed to return to town. On the way, we called in to Fawn Harbour where I went on the hunt for the rumoured hot springs. The Navionic charts showed the Pickering’s house and we made our way through the mangroves and visited Lema, the matriarch of the clan.

These Pickering kids know how to pose.

These Pickering kids know how to pose.

She invited us in and offered us a cup of tea. However, my longing for the hot springs spurred me forward and she told us to grab one of the young lads to show us the way. Abraham couldn’t escape my determined scouting. He was a shy young lad who after one year in New Zealand studying engineering had opted to return to the sanctuary of the family farm. As he led us along a winding path through a lush jungle, he opened up with my questioning.

The creek that we crossed several times on the way to the hot springs.

The creek that we crossed several times on the way to the hot springs.

We arrived at the hot spring after 30 minutes. I asked him for the cost. There was none. “You’ll know your own way next time,” he responded as he said a friendly goodbye and headed back the way we’d come. A Fijian couple was disturbed from their afternoon sleep on the ground near the clear pool. They told us they’d been there all day but would leave us in peace. We settled in for a relaxing afternoon, alternating between the cool crystal clear creek and the hot pool to the side of it. We couldn’t have asked for a more tranquil surrounding for relaxation after the ‘stressful’ pace of the week before.

Rocks with palm trees growing on them. This is from the bus on the way to the hot springs.

Rocks with palm trees growing on them. This is from the bus on the way to the hot springs.

Our return to Savusavu marked the beginning of an extremely social week. I hooked up with Tawn, an American lass staying alone on her boat while her husband returned to the States for work for a while, and we journeyed off on the bus to find the hot springs. It had been an excursion that we had planned before we’d left for Viani Bay, but thought we would need to hire a taxi driver as a guide. That would have been quite expensive, but I knew my way there now. So we caught a local bus, which was a social event in itself, with the locals taking turns to engage us in conversation. The bus wound its way along the coast road for an hour and a half. Tawn was impressed with the hot spring. It was a long day, but a lot of fun.

The full moon shone over Viani Bay

The full moon shone over Viani Bay

Martina and Lisa, whom we’d met in Tonga, had returned to their boat Havachat after having the school term back in Australia. After a lively, emotional reunion, we all headed out to Namena Reef for some diving together. We had a girl’s night on their boat on the second evening and all the men went on Qi. Once again the diving was spectacular. I saw my first giant Napoleon fish. I’d seen smaller specimen in French Poly but this one was as long as I am tall. I hope to catch up with Martina and Pete for New Year’s Eve in Whangarei.

A fun group exploring Namena Island. After us it is Phil off Silhouette, then Sally, Martina, Ruby, Pete, Lisa off Havachat

A fun group exploring Namena Island. After us it is Phil off Silhouette, then Sally, Martina, Ruby, Pete, Lisa off Havachat

From Namena, Thomas and I went west and Pete took his wife, daughter and crew member, Sally, east again to visit Jack in Viani Bay before they flew back for the final term of the year.

Thomas and I had several bays to ourselves until we met some new cruisers in the northern part of the Yasawa group. We delivered the sevusevu to the local chiefs along the way, but had not yet participated in the full welcoming ceremony involving the Kava.

Long white beaches met us along the way. We called into Sawa-li-Lau to see the underwater caves. Determined not to repeat the events of our Samoan cave diving we decided to give the caves a miss. The cost was ridiculous as they were busy stinging the tourists who caught a boat in from various resorts in the vicinity anyway. It didn’t stop us from enjoying the unique rock formations. Like miniatures off the set of Lord of the Rings, limestone pillars reached for the sky. Dragons slinked back into their lairs as they kept a watchful eye on us as we paddled past. Gargoyles overtly mocked us with their jeers as they guarded the overhangs. It was a delight for the overactive imagination of a happy cruiser.

A mini set off the Lord of the Rings. Amazing rock formations.

A mini set off the Lord of the Rings. Amazing rock formations.

Our passage south was speedy with brisk winds off the beam. After visiting the Blue Lagoon half way down the Yasawas, we called in to Octopus resort tucked in on Waya Island. This was our first snorkelling experience that equalled our experiences on the eastern side of Fiji. From there we headed to Vuda Point Marina to prepare for the arrival of our crew, my brother Alec.

Blustering gusts whipped through the marina on Alec’s day of arrival. We were happy that his appearance coincided with the worst weather we’d seen as we were safely moored up instead of being out on anchor. Others had unsuccessfully waited at the mouth of the marina grappling for a berth at the prediction of high winds and heavy rains. Horrid weather in Melbourne had caused a delay in his departure so he actually arrived after the worst of it.

Thomas delivering sevusevu to Abraham in Sawa-i-Lau.

Thomas delivering sevusevu to Abraham in Sawa-i-Lau.

Alec fits smoothly into life on Qi. His relaxed persona and love of the outdoors makes him a great candidate for crew. He brought along his fishing lures that he’d purchased in New Zealand at the beginning of the year. Wanting to feed the poor deprived Captain, who is usually on a vegetarian diet, some protein, he went into action.

From Vuda Point we headed out to Mana Island where a friend of mine was staying to attend a wedding. It was great to see her and we got to meet her husband George. We’d met on a tour through Mexico in February, 2012 when I first began my travels.

Julie and me at Mana Island Resort

Julie and me at Mana Island Resort

Dragons and gargoyles watched over us as we paddled about the rocks.

Dragons and gargoyles watched over us as we paddled about the rocks.

Thomas was determined to take Alec to Cloudbreak, the world class surfing spot. The weather was perfect and the break was meant to be pumping. We had to organise a board for him and this was done through one of the locals at Musket Cove. Upon arrival out at the surfing Mecca, Alec’s guide assessed Cloudbreak as overcrowded and took them to some other breaks. Thomas and I followed at a slower pace in Qi and arrived about an hour later. Alec got some great waves and was shattered by mid-morning when he was returned to us. Thomas had gone out in the dinghy to try and film the action but he on the wrong angle to the wave.

Naumotu Island. Leased by an Aussie. He's made it into one of the top destinations for surfers.

Naumotu Island. Leased by an Aussie. He’s made it into one of the top destinations for surfers.

A selfie as I'm paddling along.

A selfie as I’m paddling along.

We spent the remainder of the day exploring and relaxing. I went on shore at Naumotu where I met a fellow masseuse and we arranged for an exchange. This is the place where Mick Fanning hangs out when he’s here for a comp. On the way back to the more secure anchorage at Musket Cove, Alec caught his first huge mackerel. I was late getting back from my massage so Thomas wasn’t slowing down much. He wanted to get back before dark. Alec had to use his muscles to bring it in quickly. Lucky he’s pretty fit at the moment. He’s caught three more since then.

We headed north stopping at various anchorages where we trekked cross-island to collect mangoes before we returned to Sawa-i-Lau. Thomas and Alec went and delivered the sevusevu to the lady chief at the village on the far side. Several local kids showed them around and took them to the school. Alec entertained them with his juggling prowess and SUP manoeuvres bringing on plenty of smiles and giggles. Thomas kindly arranged some school time for me and I spent the next morning presenting an English lesson.

Qi from 'Monkey Mountain' on Waya.

Qi from ‘Monkey Mountain’ on Waya.

amediving

Swimming in the Rainbow Reef in the Somosomo Strait, Fiji.

awayahill

The kids of the village told us that is was Monkey Mountain because it looked like a monkey’s head.

Further down the island chain, we called into a small village on Waya. We all went to present the kava to the chief. Smiling children swam out to greet us with ‘Bulla Bulla!!!’

The party crowd was already having fun celebrating their participation in the finals at a local football tournament. So we finally got invited to a full sevusevu ceremony. I wasn’t too keen on the kava and immediately felt my throat and mouth go numb and my head go a bit woozy. The wooziness was gone as quickly as it hit me. I only had a small cup and then moved to the ‘dancing’ part of the party. After my dancing I was thanked for the entertainment. We were invited into the village and told that we were welcome to enjoy their surrounds. We chose to climb the hill nearby and swim in their clear fresh waterfalls rumbling down the valley. We liked being a part of this village. More Pics below…

We had a beautiful swim in this cool freshwater pool after our hike up the hill. What a joy!

We had a beautiful swim in this cool freshwater pool after our hike up the hill. What a joy!

ahardrockcafe

Thomas and Jack in Somosomo’s version of a Hard Rock Cafe.

awashday

Wash day on Qi. Like my friend Cara said, A boat is just a clothes line.

amangrove

Me exploring up a mangrove channel.

awillyandsam

Sam and Willy looking after the dinghy in Somosomo.

arichard

Richard and Jude off Sarita were happy to host us on their boat to share Jack.

adivecaptain

The Captain getting ready to dive.

acoraldream

A few shots of Rainbow Reef. A must if you’re a diver visiting Fiji.

agoldfishbowl agoldfishbowl2aparrotfish

Jess and Neil from The Red Thread joined us on Sarita in the Somosomo straight so we could share Jack.

Jess and Neil from The Red Thread joined us on Sarita in the Somosomo straight so we could share Jack.

Amazing bright colours in the soft corals.

Amazing bright colours in the soft corals.

Found some nice spots along the way on our hike up Monkey Mountain on Waya.

Found some nice spots along the way on our hike up Monkey Mountain on Waya.

Al kept the protein up for the Captain.

Al kept the protein up for the Captain.

Sea planes landing all around us in Mana lagoon and again in Blue Lagoon. Saw some very clever landings.

Sea planes landing all around us in Mana lagoon and again in Blue Lagoon. Saw some very clever landings.

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Where’s Wally? (or Wallis)

A reef enclosed island with several crater lakes and the remains of a 3000 year old fort was given the name Wallis by an English navigator, Samuel Wallis. Its partner island Futuna is some 300km to the south, giving the French colonised country its complete name; Wallis and Futuna.

There are a few beautiful crater lakes on the island but you can't get down the cliffs to swim without abseiling.

There are a few beautiful crater lakes on the island but you can’t get down the cliffs to swim without abseiling.

For such a small island there seems to be a few political hot heads and there are the occasional embargos sanctioned over different parts of the land due to one king disagreeing with the other king. Yes, this small island has two kings. Futuna also has its own king and they get a bit cranky when the Wallis kings are disagreeing because flights to Noumea are interrupted. Everyone speaks French and a local language similar to Tongan. In Futuna, the local language is similar to Samoan. It’s difficult to find anyone speaking English.

This fort is 3 000 years old and is spread out over a few fields.

This fort is 3 000 years old and is spread out over a few fields.

Thank goodness for the Captain’s seven years of French in high school. The 3000 year old fort wasn’t just to stop Tongan invaders but to protect the southern king’s people against the northern king’s attacks. Despite this internal aggression, the people are friendly and we’ve had no problems hitch hiking to town. Like French Polynesia, there are no taxis or public transport. Everyone is sporting a 4WD pickup truck, courteous of the French government.  It is only 26km to circumnavigate the island.

We’ve had no problems hitchhiking into town as the locals are really friendly but it is a tiresome and hot excursion. The locals all wear leis in their cars. We figure it’s kind of a personal air freshener. Healthier than deodorant and probably cheaper too.

When the weather was good we would slip out to the outer islands

When the weather was good we would slip out to the outer islands

High winds kept us tucked up in protective harbours for a few days but as the winds died down, we headed off to the outer islands around the barrier reef. Here we found clear water and coral filled lagoons. Fantastic for paddle boarding and kayaking. Unfortunately mosquitoes and flies were abundant onshore and the only relief was to sit or swim in the water. Thomas ventured across the island through thick jungle to explore the windward side. There, a small lagoon lay before the roaring swell hitting the barrier reef. Such violence in comparison to the leeward side with the calm lagoon.

Every village has a huge church but they don't have enough priest for them all so they only get used once or twice a year. But you gotta have the best one in your village.

Every village has a huge church but they don’t have enough priest for them all so they only get used once or twice a year. But you gotta have the best one in your village.

Me relaxing in my new bath on the back deck.

Me relaxing in my new bath on the back deck.

Looking for a weather window to reach Fiji has been a bit of a challenge as the convergence zone is upon us, making conditions unpredictable. It appears a bit rough out there for the passage so after restocking the pantry, we are returning to the outer islands to explore some more.

 

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S.O.S.

S.O.S. or Smiles of Samoa

I highly recommend a journey to Samoa. We have never encountered people more willing to share their culture and being so organised to do so. Even a couple of near death experiences didn’t alter our perception of these friendly islands. The islands perse, are beautiful to behold. Lush green mountains with beach side villages adorned with carefully maintained gardens of colourful leafy plants create picturesque scenery. We were given two different reasons why the villages were so neat and tidy. The first explanation give to us by our Samoan guide was that there was a competition between the villages with substantial prize money on offer. The second sounds just as believable for receiving productive results. That is, every village has a women’s committee that inspects the yards and will fine the families if their yard is unkempt. The village and families play a powerful role in the politics here.

Almost every single household is made up of two structures. A house with sleeping quarters and a fale out the front where the family spends their days and sometimes their nights. What a wonderful way to live outdoors. This would be a great option for our Indigenous Peoples in Australia too.

Almost every single household is made up of two structures. A house with sleeping quarters and a fale out the front where the family spends their days and sometimes their nights. What a wonderful way to live outdoors. This would be a great option for our Indigenous Peoples in Australia too.

Now back to those near-death experiences. Thomas and I were invited to join a solo cruiser, Chris, on an island tour. We were both happy to revisit the parts of island that we had initially toured on the first day here. We especially wanted to swim in To Sua, the lava tube that opened into the ocean, again. We hadn’t taken our snorkel and mask on the previous visit and there was a cave leading to the ocean that Thomas was keen to explore. As we didn’t take our fins, I wasn’t so keen. Chris discussed the logistics of the cave with people returning from the other side. So off Thomas went closely followed by Chris. I dove down and saw that it was a fair distance before light appeared and was happy not to venture in. After a while, Chris returned without Thomas and explained how Thomas had missed the middle cave where you got a second breath of air before heading out to sea and had swam straight through. Upon surfacing outside, Thomas was gasping for air and was visibly shaken. Feeling his underwater cave exploration days were over, Thomas decided to climb the cliff to return to the trench. This resulted in a treacherous climb over steep and slippery rocks over a raging surf. Maybe the cave would have been the better option.

To Sua trench is a collapsed lava tube and is open to the sea. It was a long climb down.

To Sua trench is a collapsed lava tube and is open to the sea. It was a long climb down. But the swim through this cave was nearly deadly for both the Captain and myself.

We continued to swim around the trench for a while and Chris continued to tell me how easy the swim was as long as you went up for the second breath. He ended up talking me into having a go and assured me that he would be close behind. So foolishly I headed off – but in the wrong direction. As I was clawing my way along the top wall, I began desperately looking for the surface. Finally, I saw a tiny glimmer of waves and swam quickly towards it. I found myself in a tiny air pocket and thought it was much smaller than I’d imaged. Next I thought I saw Thomas swimming past and was calling out to him. But it wasn’t Thomas, it was Chris and after a while he called out to me. I swam my way around a wall to join him and found him in an enormous cave. He explained how I’d gone in the wrong direction and was lucky to have found my air pocket. I agreed and Thomas and I have both decided that our cave free-diving days were over. We’d had our lucky escapes. Done is done. (Although there are some nice caves in Fiji we might have to explore).

Local transport is very inexpensive in Samoa. These bus drivers rely on divine intervention to get them safely through the winding mountain roads.

Local transport is very inexpensive in Samoa. These bus drivers rely on divine intervention to get them safely through the winding mountain roads.

Our social life was enjoyable on Samoa with most local people speaking English. Fiauu and Tavita came for visits and we had Chris over for lunch and dinner on our last night. Sue and Glen off the Australian yacht, Dione, joined us along with Tavita and Fiauu. We ended the night visiting the fire dancing once again. Very enjoyable. Fiauu brought the boys in the morning to say farewell to us. They were excited to visit the boat again and we promised them a sail the next time we visited. We checked out and headed off for the neighbouring island of Savai’i.

Our beautiful Samoan family. If you visit Samoa, we can send you into the loving arms of our family.

Our beautiful Samoan family. If you visit Samoa, we can send you into the loving arms of our family.

We ended up sailing through the night to reach the main bay, Asau in the far west of Savai’i and chose, wisely, to heave-to until daylight would help us with eyeball navigation through the reef. We had one exciting moment when the depth sounder screamed at us with an alarming depth of 1.6m. (our draft is 1.75m but this is set 60cm higher so we had a little bit more room). Rocks were just below the surface of the bow and we quickly pulled up and veered off close to a rock wall on the other side of us. Hearts thumping hard, we made our way across the deep water bay and anchored in front of a tropical resort with fales and palm frond thatched umbrellas lining the beach. Sue and Glen from Dione arrived and we booked a rental car to tour the island. We visited a canopy tree top walk, an ambiguous giant footprint in lava, some lava caves, a waterfall cascading over lava rocks onto the beach, but the attraction that was most enthralling were the blowholes. Outstanding and the best that we have ever seen.

An Australian Work Place Health and Safety nightmare. No safety fences here. Common sense is all that's needed to avoid stepping over these blowholes to see if they send you up in the air!!

An Australian Work Place Health and Safety nightmare. No safety fences here. Common sense is all that’s needed to avoid stepping over these blowholes to see if they send you up in the air!!

Probably the best blowholes - ever!!!

Probably the best blowholes – ever!!!

These waterfalls fell onto a black beach from a crystal clear stream sourced from a spring high up in the mountains above.

These waterfalls fell onto a black beach from a crystal clear stream sourced from a spring high up in the mountains above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A fellow dropped coconuts in them. A few seconds later they were propelled into the air with the massive rush of water. As the pressure built up is was as deafening as if you were standing next to a jet engine. Savai’i was a beautiful island. We soon all sets our sights on heading off to Wallis. Where’s Wallis you might ask? Heaps more pics below…

Sue and Glen from Dione and a few local lads, strutting along with us.

Sue and Glen from Dione and a few local lads, strutting along with us.

I was as sick as a dog but I still wanted to see the island.

I was as sick as a dog but I still wanted to see the island.

A sea arch along the way

A sea arch along the way

Yes, we climbed up here.

Yes, we climbed up here.

Locals enjoying the cool waters on a hot day.

Locals enjoying the cool waters on a hot day.

Bureaucracy, bureaucracy!!! Thomas had the cruising papers taken off him for cruising Saavai' but the police who came to inspect them didn't mind as long as they got some pics for their FB page.

Bureaucracy, bureaucracy!!! Thomas had the cruising papers taken off him for cruising Savai’i but the police who came to inspect them didn’t mind as long as they got some pics for their FB page.

Thomas took this picture inside the shell of an old church on the sea front.

Thomas took this picture inside the shell of an old church on the sea front.

Samoan engineering at its best. The rainforest canopy walk.

Samoan engineering at its best. The rainforest canopy walk.

Fulfilling his family responsibilities, this young lad is using a bamboo fishing pole to catch the evening meal.

Fulfilling his family responsibilities, this young lad is using a bamboo fishing pole to catch the evening meal.

Samoa says goodbye with a beautiful sunset...

Samoa says goodbye with a beautiful sunset…

 

 

 

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Call to Action

Dancing with the first mate seems to be about a biannual event but last night as we were enticed across the road from the marina by the sounds of a Samoan band, that frequency might be on the increase. Unable to resist moving to the beat I jumped up and joined the few locals on the dance floor. It wasn’t long before I was sandwiched between two well-built heavily tattooed young Samoan lads swaying rhythmically to the swooning reggae beat. It was almost a claustrophobic situation they were so close. Did I mention how muscly they were? Anyway, the Captain shocked me on the next dance when he jumped up and said, “Let’s go.” “Where to?” I enquired. “The dance floor of course.” He was called to action when he realised that if he wasn’t going to dance with me, then there were plenty of hunky Samoan lads who’ll oblige and – who don’t have a proximity issue. I love it when the Captain dances and wish it was more often, but he’s not a disco remnant like myself.

Samoans love love love to dance

Samoans love love love to dance

The music, the people and the culture are everywhere here. Passionately maintaining their traditional way of life with family being the centre of their world, the Samoans love to share with visitors. A free three hour performance at the nearby cultural centre introduced us to many facets of this island. In the evening we visited a local club where they take the children selling items off the street and teach them the traditional skills of Samoan fire dancing. The performance began with the little guys beginning with a modern hip hop routine and morphing into a traditional dance. The age of the performers increased along with the intensity and skills with the fire.

This was the best fire dancing I've ever seen in my life. Awesome. Didn't know it originated here.

This was the best fire dancing I’ve ever seen in my life. Awesome. Didn’t know it originated here.

One particularly disturbing routine was the Volcano Dance which had a fellow hopping over a brazier with flames licking at his undersides. There were a few breathtaking moments when his skirt made of palm fronds caught alight. Some gentlemen in the audience turned away, unable to watch the spectacle. To lessen the heart rate, a troop of beautiful Samoan ladies wooed us with their sensuous traditional dance in between the different fire dances.

When we first arrived in Samoa we discovered that we had anchored in the dark next to Cetacea, a boat that we had first encountered in the Marquesas two years ago. We managed to catch up with Gail and Tony and found out that they were on their way to Tonga. There are a lot of items for purchase here in comparison to Tonga so we went halves in buying Peggy a whole lot of sporting equipment for the school where she teaches.

Gail and Tony helped us buy lots of sporting equipment for Peggy and Melissa and they're delivering it for us too. So lovely to see them again.

Gail and Tony helped us buy lots of sporting equipment for Peggy and Melissa and they’re delivering it for us too. So lovely to see them again.

We also managed to get enough basketballs for Melissa in Nuku’alofa to help with her basketball coaching. The ladies are thrilled that they’re on their way.  Tony and Gail will make the delivery. It was wonderful catching up with these fun-loving happy Americans.

Junior, aptly named as he is in line to be the next chief of his village, runs a taxi service focusing on giving cruisers a tour of the island. We took the road that splits the island in half, over the mountain range to the southern side of the island. On the way we visited the tree houses. What a funky creative place to stay. We were tempted to book in there but the price of $350 USD put us off.

This is the one bedroom treehouse. Someone was staying in there so we were shown the 2 bedder.

This is the one bedroom treehouse. Someone was staying in there so we were shown the 2 bedder.

Thick jungle lined the road and we stopped to admire a long drop waterfall at the head of a valley renown for pig hunting. It is a tropical paradise.

Papapapai-uta Waterfall. Named because Papa was called four times.

Papapapai-uta Waterfall. Named because Papa was called four times.

Once on the coast we visited a resort so we could access the beach and then continued to a waterfall where we could swim amongst the fish. We lunched at a beach resort where inexpensive fales line the shore. Prices of the fales range from about $15AUD to $50AUD and many include food and all your bedding. The beach was white and protected by a rim reef. We have decided to explore this option of accommodation as we do a land tour of the other half of the island.

The bedding and mosquito nets are only put into the fales as they are hired out.

The bedding and mosquito nets are only put into the fales as they are hired out.

My other call to action has been about the promotion of my book. I know it won’t be everybody’s cup of tea but I would like to get it out there to the people who can learn something from it. I appreciate all those supportive friends who have already purchased it and I know some have finished it already and given me positive feedback. Thank you. Now I am trying to share more information via linking a Facebook group to my web page where I hope people from all over the world can connect and meet up traveling somewhere in the world or just share ideas.

My first go at publishing. Proud that people are enjoying it.

My first go at publishing. Proud that people are enjoying it.

I also have a Facebook page for the book which I am promoting. This it has been fun creating it and I’m enjoying the short bursts of writing that I’m doing to add information. So my call to action for you is to help me with spreading the word about my book, Backpacker’s Practical and Spiritual Guide to the Universe, so people can benefit from my experiences in the realm of budget travel. Hopefully, it will also raise some funds to go towards our traveling.

Continued…

Scooting around the other half of the island was the best option for us to continue our exploration. The roads to the east were less busy so it wasn’t too dangerous. The drivers here aren’t used to people on bikes. The danger actually lay in going through the villages where some naughty kids threw stones. Just showing off I guess. One young fellow got a fright when Thomas stopped the bike and went towards him asking him if he was looking for trouble. Both his mates quickly pointed at the culprit and said it was him not them. Otherwise the scooter was great because we had a good view of everything.

To Sua trench is a collapsed lava tube and is open to the sea. It was a long climb down.

To Sua trench is a collapsed lava tube and is open to the sea. It was a long climb down.

We took a bush track down towards a resort and ended up staying the night at Matareva Beach Fales. Stormy weather forced us to take a bungalow instead of a fale. We were a bit disappointed about that as waking up watching the surf rolling in would have been quite spectacular. We were given a huge evening meal with lots of salad and local vegetables and breakfast was almost as large. Talking with the family gave us an insight to the dreams and aspirations of the Samoan family.

Matareva Beach Fales. A beautiful peaceful location.

Matareva Beach Fales. A beautiful peaceful location.

Tavita, the matai, (chief) of his family plans to refurbish the resort, help restore the reef to create a coral garden, open up a lava tube near his farm and build a market garden. All big plans to help create financial security for the family and the youth of the village. We are calling people to action who have the skills and knowledge to assist them. They are offering free accommodation to anyone who would like to come and stay and work at the properties. You can connect with the family on helpx, an exchange site where you can find places to stay all over the world.

A crazy light beam was so concentrated that it felt like you could grab it.

A crazy light beam was so concentrated that it felt like you could grab it.

Tavita took us to the lava tube and we hiked through for a few hundred metres. It was pretty cool. There were stone platforms where families had stayed; perhaps during Tongan invasions years ago, evidence of cooking areas and maybe even a grave site. On the way out of the cave, there was a crazy concentrated light beam. It was so strong that you felt like you could put your hands around it. It appeared to be solid. We felt honoured to be shown through the caves. The family is of the Baha’i faith and they invited us to the temple on Sunday and then back to their place for lunch and to stay the night. We agreed as we were enticed by the promise of beautiful singing and we weren’t disappointed.

Thomas repaired a frozen laptop for them and they were pretty happy as they needed it for their coral presentation to the village chiefs that night. They were wanting to get approval to make a marine protected area. Their presentation was fantastic and after only three minutes they had an approval. Plus approval to open the resort on a Sunday. It was interesting watching the process of village politics in action.

Fiauu with three of their boys, Tom, Walter and Bill

Fiauu with three of their boys, Tom, Walter and Bill

While the meeting was going on, three of their five boys were playing with the bubble blowers that I had brought along for them to play with. They were extremely successful and ended up playing with them for nearly three hours. After the meeting we played cards and different games. Just my type of evening. We were made to feel very welcome and they now call themselves our Samoan family. We’re happy to have been adopted and wish them all the success for the future.

 

 

 

More pics below…

You weave your own plate and headband at the cultural centre. They then feed you with traditional umu - the Samoan's way of cooking. Delicious.

You weave your own plate and headband at the cultural centre. They then feed you with traditional umu – the Samoan’s way of cooking. Delicious. All free!!

Lava islands off Matareva Beach

Lava islands off Matareva Beach

These guys could really dance.

These guys could really dance.

 

We got to see how coconut milk is made.

We got to see how coconut milk is made.

Me going down the entrance of the lava tube.

Me going down the entrance of the lava tube.

Our made mate Paul volunteered to climb the tree after the demonstration.

Our mad mate Paul volunteered to climb the tree after the demonstration.

Bill - cute kid and champion bubble maker

Bill – cute kid and champion bubble maker

The Samoan Bahai temple is the only one in the South Pacific. Wonderful singing.

The Samoan Bahai temple is the only one in the South Pacific. Wonderful singing.

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Qi Magic

Qi is the name given to the life force in Chinese. It is pronounced ‘Chi’ as in Tai Chi. It is also the name of our boat. There is always a bit of magic happening on our boat but that’s because we feel our life is charmed and magical. However, one would have to raise an eyebrow or two in the miraculous attractions and magic going on around here of late.

Taking a stroll around Mounu Island where the owners have created a garden with well raked paths.

Taking a stroll around Mounu Island where the owners have created a garden with well raked paths.

Electrical equipment rarely gets thrown out if it hasn’t worked for a while as quite often lights, computer parts and cameras suddenly breathe back to life. This is has been occurring a lot lately. As far as attractions go, we have been meeting the most wonderful people and had an amazing encounter with whales as one came within five metres of the boat whilst at anchor. Disturbingly, when we removed the SD card from the camera to moon over our photos, the camera said ‘no SC card present’. We hadn’t captured any of our shots. With a quick wipe and some ‘encouraging’ words, the SD card was readable again. Unfortunately, no photos of friendly whales smooching up to Qi. Just a moment captured in our mind for us to ponder over and tell whale tales over sun downers and a lesson that magic isn’t always positive.

Took my breath away...

The last time we were here. Took my breath away…

After six months of meditation about how to approach the failing water maker, the Captain decided it was time to give the problem his full attention once again, only this time, the water maker burst into life and is now nicely pumping fresh water from salt once again. We’re absolutely delighted at the prospect of having fresh water in Samoa as we’ve heard the water there is quite suspect and we are not questioning the water maker’s return to the land of the living. I’ve been reading far too many Zombie stories lately to question that… and am hoping for something a little more earthly at the book swap today.

A kite surfing destination with the lagoon behind.

Mounu Island Resort – A kite surfing destination with the lagoon behind.

The attraction of Vava’u is obvious. We have had beautiful sails to crystal clear anchorages, beach parties on shore with interesting people, both locals and other cruisers amongst coconut lined islands. We finally explored the eastern lagoon tucked in behind the island of Kenutu which we explored along well-worn pathways to the rugged coast line where the trade winds lash the shores. Some people have obviously spent some time here with driftwood towers facing seaward standing erect on the cliff, ready to be lit to warn off adversaries. We have stumbled upon a playground.

This lookout held Thomas so it was strongly built. Looked a bit flimsy to me. Someone must have camped here for quite a while.

This lookout held Thomas so it was strongly built. Looked a bit flimsy to me. Someone must have camped here for quite a while.

One that the Tongan’s have protected ruthlessly for thousands of years, warding off colonisation. Proud of their heritage and way of life, the Tongans strive hard to protect it. During our stay, there has been a clamp down on Sunday trading. Swimming, fishing and any other type of exercise is forbidden. It includes riding your bike.  Until some bright spark produced the 2010 amendment that allowed a certain number of licensed premises to feed and water the visitors, the villages felt like ghost towns. With exception of the churches which were filled to the brim with harmonious choruses, everything was empty.  Some keen kayakers were chastised by the local police chief for daring to disobey the orders of rest. Haled and shamed by loud speakers, they were allowed on their way to return to camp, heads bowed in prayer.

It hasn’t been all fun and games here in Tonga with several tragedies occurring during the course of our time here.  A few weeks ago there was an all-night rescue launched after the skipper of a boat bringing eleven contractors back from one of islands was lost at sea. After the engines failed the men adrift were rescued by a cruiser from South Africa who left the harbour when he realised nobody was out there looking for them. There was a lot of confusion about the actions of the police and if it hadn’t have been for the support helicopter radioing in coordinates and the actions of the said cruiser, the men would have been lost. We have only just heard about a murder that occurred here last weekend. One cruiser apparently killed his wife. We’re not quite sure of the circumstances but I guess it is a stark reminder about not to argue with the Captain. In amongst all this we have felt a few earthquakes including one that was during one of my lessons.

Getting up from the sitting position was the hardest thing to do when the earthquake hit. My classroom was small but the size of the class always seemed to be expanding

Getting up from the sitting position was the hardest thing to do when the earthquake hit. My classroom was small but the size of the class always seemed to be expanding

Early the following morning I was woken by the neighbourhood dogs going crazy and ten minutes later, I felt a jolting feeling as Qi was moved radically to the side three times. I never would have imagined that you would be able to feel an earthquake on a boat – but you can.

I was lucky enough to meet Peace Corp Peggy who was qualified to observe my English lessons. I visited her village of Toua over three days where she arranged children to meet in her small library after school for the lessons. The children were bright and keen to participate. I had a wonderful experience. Peggy is working extremely hard to provide literacy to the community and is setting up a small library.

Peggy opens the little town library most evenings after school. The local children can come and read and borrow books. The village allocated a small old shop for her to utilise. She's spreading her magic big time.

Peggy opens the little town library most evenings after school. The local children can come and read and borrow books. The village allocated a small old shop for her to utilise. She’s spreading her magic big time.

As many Tongan children have to leave the islands for work and study, it is important that they are fluent in their second official language. This gives them the most opportunities abroad. If you’re reading this and can send resources to her, they would be greatly appreciated. Peggy has certainly added some magic into our lives as well as the community where she is posted. She’s just so efficient and gets things done. She’s a magical gift to the world.

Thomas’ birthday was spent biking the hilly countryside of Vava’u and Pangamotu islands and then Thomas visited some other cruisers while I went to teach my lesson out at the village in the afternoon. I was grateful for the taxi driver waiting for me. The driver had a snooze so I didn’t worry about hurrying, but I wanted to quickly get back to the birthday boy. In the evening we socialised with other cruisers after an inexpensive meal at a Chinese restaurant called Pandas. I had a booking at the Reef Resort for the following evening for a romantic dinner. A chef from Austria was ensuring that our meal would be perfect as I was required to book 24hrs in advance. It was worth the wait.

We were greeted with fresh coconut juice for the Captain's birthday dinner.

We were greeted with fresh coconut juice for the Captain’s birthday dinner.

Maybe it’s magic or maybe it’s just Thomas’ amazingly good luck, but when the outboard motor decided to fail, we were within ten metres of the boat and I just had to paddle that small distance to reach the bathing platform while the Captain chanted sweet nothings over the motor. The day before we had been out in the open swells for a dive nearly 2km away from the boat. That could have been disastrous, but no, we were safely close to Qi. Now the Captain is hoping that the magic continues so that back toilet miraculously fixes itself. Guess he’s holding his breath – literally.   Next stop…Samoa

more pics belowanexcursionakayaktour

 

German efficiency - Thomas' paddle board doubling as a table for an impromptu beach party

German efficiency – Thomas’ paddle board doubling as a table for an impromptu beach party

Youshi and Useme, the only Japanese sailors currently here

Youshi and Useme, the only Japanese sailors currently here

Martina and Pete off Havachat, Newcastle

Martina and Pete off Havachat, Newcastle

Tongan dancers at a Tongan feast

Tongan dancers at a Tongan feast

Thomas getting the Kava story.

Thomas and everyone getting the Kava story.

Great expectations from the Kava

Great expectations from the Kava

Looking for a bit of magic at the bottom of the kava bowl

Looking for a bit of magic at the bottom of the kava bowl

Thomas and Stefan struttin their stuff. (German Playmate)

Thomas and Stefan struttin their stuff. (German Playmate)

The rugged eastern coast has the fallen boulders from the pounding seas littering the seabed.

The rugged eastern coast has the fallen boulders from the pounding seas littering the seabed.

Three regular faces for the lessons. These girls are a stark reminder that little girls are little girls first of all with hopes and dreams all over the world. Loved spending time watching their love of learning.

Three regular faces for the lessons. These girls are a stark reminder that little girls are little girls first of all with hopes and dreams – no matter where they are in the world. Loved spending time with them and watching their love of learning.

Even the babies came to the classes!!! Finally he slept...

Even the babies came to the classes!!! Finally he slept…

And we do the Hokey Pokey... did I mention that we got a tub of Hokey Pokey ice cream... what a treat on the boat.

And we do the Hokey Pokey… did I mention that we got a tub of Hokey Pokey ice cream… what a treat on the boat.

The class that grew and grew...

The class that grew and grew…

 

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Vava’u Ventures

Having a birthday on a Sunday in Tonga means no swimming, no paddling, no drinking, no fun, just rest. But we did have a much appreciated visit from Emma and Owen off Dulcinea, a kiwi boat, bearing gifts of pineapple lumps. They arrived in the lull of a five day patch of bad weather. We spent the rest of the day lazing and cuddling – not sure if cuddling was on the list of what not to do.

Working on the front deck

Working on the front deck

The following evening Thomas took me to a local restaurant. We’d scooted over a reef to Ha’apai Beach Resort before another shower was about to open down on us. As we ran into the open aired restaurant we dodged the warning droplets of what was about to come. For the next three and a half hours we chatted to NZ helicopter pilots who’d been commissioned to support telecommunication teams erecting a tower on a nearby extinct volcano, enjoying a spectacular freshly made meal, under the roar of a monsoonal type downpour.

I made myself a bath out of the kayak and had a cooling spinal bath on the front deck.

I made myself a bath out of the kayak and had a cooling spinal bath on the front deck.

We couldn’t even see the anchor lights of the yachts in the harbour, let alone hear the other side of the conversation. We prepared ourselves to rent a room for the night as the task of returning to the boat seemed like embarking on a perilous journey but we averted that when we made a quick dash back to the boat during a lull in the onslaught. Sometimes even going out to dinner is an adventure when you live on a boat. We were delighted with the level of our water tanks as we had unfastened the opening letting the water roll in off the decks. All in all, it was a nice birthday outing.

Making the most of a rare bit of sunshine in our week of bad weather as we waited it out in Pangai

Making the most of a rare bit of sunshine in our week of bad weather as we waited it out in Pangai

We’d hunkered down in behind a reef close to the Pangai airport for a week as we waited out the bad weather. Our patience ran out and we decided to make the most of the wind shifting from the north to the east to make our day long passage to the next group of islands. Wanting to leave our reef infested nest in daylight, we waited until we had a bit of sunshine to reveal the danger patches. Qi loves a close reach and soon we were sailing along at high speeds under a full suite of sails. We made in nicely into our anchorage in the Vava’u group just before sunset. We’d had an incredibly fast sail and were relieved to finally be in the sailing Mecca of Tonga.

An 'arrival' rainbow in Vava'u. we were hoping for clear skies - but this was a beautiful welcome anyway

An ‘arrival’ rainbow in Vava’u. we were hoping for clear skies – but this was a beautiful welcome anyway

Desperate for fresh produce, we made our way to the town the next day. Delighted by the range of fruits and veg, I stocked up and enjoyed making a menu plan in my head that would finally have some nutritional value. Other than the fruit given to us in the Ha’apai group, our produce net was rather bare. The capital of this area, Neiafu, had appeared to have gone through a bit of a facelift since our visit in 2014 with the construction of a large white hotel positioned on the water front. This area is the starting point for many tourists coming to Tonga.

Our friend's drone took this shot of us in Hunga Lagoon

Our friend’s drone took this shot of us in Hunga Lagoon

The islands are different to the lower two island groups with these been formed from the rising of the seabed during ancient rumblings of the Earth’s crust. Caves and tropical jungle adorn rugged grey islands with an occasional white sandy beach to add contrast to nature’s masterpiece. However, land formation isn’t just a pre-historical occurrence in Tonga with the latest addition of an island appearing just off to the west in January of this year. Certain locations in the ocean between here and Fiji are considered dangerous waters due to the volcanic activity in the area. Tsunami evacuation procedures are clearly spelt out as various points around the islands. The layback life style of the Tongans reflects the locals ease with living in such a vulnerable environment. We chose to adopt their attitude.

Team Med from Monash University joined us for a day out.

Team Med from Monash University joined us for a day out.

We met up with Team Med, a group of young Australians from Monash University volunteering in the town, and offered to take them out for a sail. They enthusiastically accepted and we had all six of them out for a day of sailing, paddling, snorkelling, kayaking and swimming. We took them to Port Maurelle, an idyllic palm tree lined bay with a white beach stretching across its rim on the shore. It was great to chat and hear the dreams and aspirations of this group of substantial young men and women. We returned to Neiafu under sail in the evening and the day was declared a welcome relief to their routine.

The ladies from the Peace Corp. We had a beautiful three day sail with them.

The ladies from the Peace Corp. We had a beautiful three day sail with them.

During a visit to one of the local cafes we met a group of young Americans chatting over their beverages. I inquired about their reason for visiting Tonga and they announced that they were teachers. Needing to complete the final four in a sequence of six English as another language lessons, I asked if any of them had TESOL qualifications so they could observe me. Peggy, a young east coast girl told me that she did and added that she would be happy to supervise my lessons. As a grateful gesture I offered a sail amongst the islands. It so happened that her two friends who taught in Tongatapu were arriving to spend a week with her and she asked if they could accompany her. We found out that they were a part of the American Peace Corp and enjoyed hearing all about their adventures and responsibilities. They are doing amazing things in the islands from setting up libraries so there are on-going resources for education to teaching English directly in the classrooms. We ended up taking them out for three days.

Sea Runner in Port Maurelle

Sea Runner in Port Maurelle

The first of our days was spent enjoying the waters of Port Maurelle – gotta love that bay. Then we moved to an anchorage where we could access the Coral Gardens. The process for accessing the gardens is a little complicated. We needed to assess the conditions of the sea and the tide level to ensure a safe crossing of the reef to get to the deep side. Several sets of large breakers were coming through and then there was approximately 2 minutes of slack water. I took the kayak over to support the group as they snorkelled. Only Thomas and Melissa made it over between the breakers. After a bit of a snorkel I decided to return to the other side after delivering some fins to Melissa over the reef. I was getting a bit cocky crossing the reef and took a bit longer than I should have to return to the shallow side. A large set of waves came through and caught me mid-journey.

Coral Gardens. It was worth the trip.

Coral Gardens. It was worth the trip.

Our kayak is terrible in a surf and I quickly realised that this wasn’t going to end nicely. The kayak slid sideways and then rolled in the white water. I stretched out flat to ride the surface as I was washed overboard to avoid getting cut to pieces on the reef. Thankful for swapping the fins for Melissa’s reef shoes, I found my footing on the rough reef and stood my ground as the next few breakers washed over me, relatively unscathed. I noticed the blue snorkel that Melissa had also given me, floating under the water and reached for it while I was hanging on to the paddle. Triumphant on its retrieval after several attempts between breakers, my heart sank as I looked to the end of the paddle to see that it was no longer attached to the kayak and the kayak was floating about 3 metres away. I madly lunged towards it then realised that my desperation was an exaggeration as the break between the sets had arrived and so I could casually retrieve it.

Swimming in Mariner's Cave the first time.

Swimming in Mariner’s Cave the first time.

Being no stranger to danger we decided to take the ladies to Mariners Cave where you swim under a 4 metre wide cliff to reach inside. Once again, the tide is important and we aimed to go on low tide to lessen the distance of having to swim down to the entrance. We had an outgoing tide but it was only half way down. We had previously gone on a low tide and figured on that occasion that it wasn’t too hard and we could manage. Peggy asked to borrow my fins for the activity and I agreed with slight doubt niggling me and tried to evaluate what this meant. I hadn’t done any deep water swimming just with bare feet since I was a kid at the Jim Gardner pool in Ipswich. Still my lungs are pretty good after diving on the bottom of the boat so often so I didn’t give it much more thought. Thomas stood by with Qi and Melissa, Peggy and I swam over to find the entrance. I took a big breath and headed down there. I found it difficult to go deep enough and scooted along the roof of the tunnel clawing myself inwards. The entrance slopes up for quite away and as my lungs were nearly bursting, I was horrified to see the surface of water way above where I expected it to be. I’m not sure if it was an optical illusion or the water level was actually higher inside the cave. A kicked madly to reach the surface and gasped for breath in the musty air of the cavern. There I waited. I wandered how I would be able to return without fins and thought that the tunnel may be a bit too much of a challenge for our visitors. There I waited. No sign of the others. I relaxed and focused on the magical blue light sifting in through the water and the mouth of the cave lighting up the sparse stalagmites. I waited. Finally I decided that they weren’t going to be coming through. I took big gulps of the tainted but precious air and returned to the world. It was much easier going back.

Looking out from the inside of swallow's cave

Looking out from the inside of swallow’s cave

They apologised as after several attempts the task became too daunting for them. I agreed. Melissa said she would go in if I went in again. I kindly declined the offer. I decided that the cave was better attempted at a low or rising tide. We visited the Swallow’s cave where we could swim in on the surface. Here, all the ladies took advantage of the acoustics and belted out a song from the Little Mermaid. They sounded amazing and Thomas could hear it over the chugging of the engine as he stood by this cave as well. This cave was much more spectacular than Mariner’s Cave anyway. Schools of fish swam in the depths and the formations were much more impressive.

The crew of Persuasion inside the Swallow's Cave

The crew of Persuasion inside the Swallow’s Cave

Amongst all of this adventure, we have met some wonderful people. The crew of the boat Sea Runner is here in Tonga delivering health care and repairing electrical and technical equipment in schools. We had a wonderful campfire with them on the beach in Port Maurelle where we played the drums, danced and chatted.

There are a number of inspirational people giving up their time and holidays to do amazing work in the islands here. Kudos to them. We have been glad to meet them and support them by sharing wonderful times with them and giving them new experiences. I look forward to my lessons next week with Peggy in her little village on the other side of the island. Lots More Pics below

Selfie in mariner's cave

Selfie in mariner’s cave

 

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Qi sailing into Neiafu, The capital of the Vava'u Group

Qi sailing into Neiafu, The capital of the Vava’u Group

Paddle boarding into the sunset in Pangai

Paddle boarding into the sunset in Pangai

Kinnsy, Me'lissa and Peggy from the American Peace Corp. Doing a great job for world peace.

Kinsey, Me’lissa and Peggy from the American Peace Corp. Doing a great job for world peace.

The crew of Sea Runner giving us a wave.

The crew of Sea Runner giving us a wave.

And she said, "Never in my life did I think I would go sailing!" and here she is steering the boat.

And she said, “Never in my life did I think I would go sailing!” and here she is steering the boat.

Swimming in Mariner's Cave

Swimming in Mariner’s Cave

Thomas enjoying Swallow's Cave

Thomas enjoying Swallow’s Cave

Swimming in Mariner's Cave. Thomas went in and out several times the week before

Swimming in Mariner’s Cave. Thomas went in and out several times the week before

 

 

 

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Island Time Again

We left Nuku’alofa expecting good winds for a northerly sail and we weren’t disappointed. We had one of our quickest and consistent sails ever. Qi was making the most of her freshly painted underside and tuned rig.

The captain and Qi both in fine form

The captain and Qi both in fine form

We arrived at our destination of Numuka, over 60 nautical miles away, in under 9 hours. We anchored between two small islands with a reef protecting each entrance to the pass. After settling in among 3 other yachts, I paddled ashore to explore the closest island while the Captain had a nap. A fishing camp was set up with drying racks made out of driftwood. In the other direction, half-way along the beach, was an old yacht’s mast doubling as a flag pole to mark the designated position for a future yacht club. Thomas had read that this was a prison island back when his 1993 cruising guide was written. “Fancy doing time here,” he’d wondered out loud, “More likely you’d pay a small fortune to stay in this paradise”.

Good to get back into exploring and hiking

Good to get back into exploring and hiking

We later found out that it was no longer commissioned as a penal colony and besides an old hermit running some pigs and cows, the island was mainly uninhabited. An Australian had leased half of the island from the crown-prince- the owner, (only the royal family can actually own the land here), to build a yacht club – hence the flag pole.

We took the dingy to the far island of Numuka to explore the village and meet the inhabitants. Here we met the wife of an Australian guy whom we’d met on Tongatapu. She directed us to her place as she said it was a nice hike. She and her daughter were off to do art at the local primary school. We caught up with her husband working on a large RIB and learned about their island resort offering swimming with the whales, hiking the nearby volcano island, paddle boarding and snorkelling the caves and reefs. Their teenage children appeared happy in their island paradise. The village itself was small but we couldn’t find the local shop. It must have been disguised as an ordinary house.

Even in this tiny village, the church is substantial

Even in this tiny village, the church is substantial

Once back at the boat we went snorkelling towards the other island and then walked the old penal colony and visited the hermit who requested some sugar from us. We had plenty to share as I rarely use it. Thomas made the delivery. We later found out that the crew on another boat nearby watched and announced that it looked like we were doing the ‘sugar run’. They too had had the same request and we smiled as they relayed this story to us later. These people need to make the most of the rare visitors that come their way.

Another brisk sail took us to the next island of Haafeva where we decided to attend a church service with some other cruisers, we’d heard the singing was a real treat. The amazing unaccompanied singing echoed through the small wooden building. Afterwards, we were promptly invited to lunch at a local’s house. The makeshift outdoor kitchen and dining room was very basic and it was humbling to think of the family’s generosity.

Mama loved to sit on the porch with her cruiser friends. She regularly invites people into her home

Mama loved to sit on the porch with her cruiser friends. She regularly invites people into her home

I tried hard to explain that I was vegetarian but I couldn’t get the message across. The dish was served with generous helpings on an exotic concoction of corned beef, spicy chicken with the local spinach – pele mixed in. There was my fork dug into the corn beef. I tried to work out how to get it out but without napkins to wipe it on I decided just to eat the vegetables of manioc and breadfruit with my fingers. Thankfully, we had been served watermelon beside the meal and I ate this with enthusiasm to demonstrate my appreciation. Nothing went to waste as the waiting family of boys gladly devoured the remaining cuisine.

This church on the island had a real bell. The church we went to used a dive tank as the bell - sounded quite musical.

This church on the island had a real bell. The church we went to used a dive tank as the bell – sounded quite musical.

No expectation of payment was made but the family asked kindly if we had any movies, perfume, fishing gear and rope. Peter, the son, collected papaya for us to take back to the boat. Thomas was talking to him about fishing when he explained how his boat had many holes and he couldn’t go out at the moment. He asked if we had anything we could fix it with. We told him that we would be there the next day with something.

Peter and his brother came to the boat for a visit and I collected some of the items requested. The other cruisers who had gone to lunch supplied the perfume and some more fishing gear. The following day as Thomas and I repaired his boat with fibreglass and epoxy, Peter’s eyes grew wider and wider. He had everything he needed now to supply the family with fresh fish. The whole family was very appreciative. We were given more papaya, a unique type of local banana and some shallots. We felt very content with the exchange of good will and were delighted with our cultural exchange.

The Captain and Peter - good mates

The Captain and Peter – good mates

Our next island hop required skilled navigation between reefs and islands while negotiating squalls. Thomas became extremely frustrated with the changes in wind direction and speed because he was hauling sails in and out to keep the boat at a safe speed. Our destination was Pangai,  but we saw a nice bay about 5 nm south of the capital of the scattered island group and decided to rest up in there.

Qi at anchor off Uoleva. This island was girt by sandy beaches

Qi at anchor off Uoleva. This island was girt by sandy beaches

It was on the island of Uoleva which ended up being an absolute delight. Five different resorts around the beaches co-exist and are well spread out to give everyone enough space. The centre of the island was thick jungle. There wasn’t a village so there were no shops to stock up with provisions. I was running out of lettuce and tomatoes. Thomas had a snooze while I paddled ashore to meet the inhabitants.

Firstly, I met Craig, a South African at the Uoleva Yacht Club. He’d just had a big crate arrive and had gear spread out everywhere. We had a nice chat but he told me he was too busy for customers that evening as he didn’t have the place looking at its best.

Maree showing me the funeral mat she's been weaving - just in case someone in the family dies she explained. Funerals cost a lot of money in Tonga because people fly in from all over the world to attend and you must feed and house them for the duration of their stay.

Maree showing me the funeral mat she’s been weaving – just in case someone in the family dies she explained. Funerals cost a lot of money in Tonga because people fly in from all over the world to attend and you must feed and house them for the duration of their stay.

I paddled along the beach to a little backpackers. Here I met Maree, a Tongan lady who managed the resort. We had a wonderful chat and she taught me how to make an umu – the Tongan equivalent to a hungi, (although this is almost like a microwave as it only takes an hour to cook instead of the 4-5 hours of a hungi), and showed me her weaving and through the resort. She entranced me with her stories of Tongan family life and tradition. She gave me a pile of passionfruit and wild lemons before I returned to the boat.

Thomas was delighted with the arrival of the passionfruit as it’s one of his favourite connections to a tropical paradise. The following day we returned to the backpackers so I could introduce Thomas to Maree. She promptly gave him a cup of coffee and continued to share her wealth of local knowledge. The crew from another boat joined in and after a good chat and a search for more passionfruit we all headed off through the jungle on a quest to find the windward side of the island. Maree armed Thomas with her machete to pave the way.

The machete welding captain had nothing to fear.

The machete welding captain had nothing to fear.

Trudging through the bush in bare feet armed with what turned out to be a blunt machete was hard work. We’d just about all had a turn of leading the way along various animal made tracks in amongst the undergrowth. The trouble was the tracks shot off in all different directions from numerous coconut groves along the way.

The view at the eastern lagoon was quite beautiful.

The view at the eastern lagoon was quite beautiful.

The view of the island’s reef lined lagoon with its different hues was spectacular and we all decided that the walk was worth it. Thomas swam and we relaxed awhile before deciding on taking the 5 km hike along the beach back to our forms of transport. We wandered quite a way when I noticed that no one was carrying the machete. Thankfully one of the other cruisers enjoyed a jog and he volunteered to return to the spot to retrieve it.

Mutiny is not an option. Owen running back to the group - the new holder of the machete

Mutiny is not an option. Owen running back to the group – the new holder of the machete

A windsurfer shot past us in the lagoon as we enjoyed the firm sand and lively conversations that always exist when cruisers get together. We stopped and chatted to people in two of the other resorts along the way. We met Glen who had hand built his dedicated kite surfing resort along with his wife and a friend. At the next backpackers we met a German family taking their 10 and 16 year olds on a 6 month journey of New Zealand, Tonga and Thailand and Thomas got chatting to ‘Lefty’ a Delaware man dedicating his time between his abstract art work and studying his bible. We thought he was in the right place for both as he showed us his latest brightly coloured masterpiece of a reef fish.

The crew of Dulcinea, Emma and Owen and Owen's dad Bruce joined us on our romp to the other side of the island.

The crew of Dulcinea, Emma and Owen and Owen’s dad Bruce joined us on our romp to the other side of the island.

As supplies were low and bad weather was predicted we moved on to Pangai. Totally disappointed with the lack of fresh vegetables and fruit in the 3 shops in the village, I was shocked back into the reality of only getting perhaps two or three items on a grocery list – and paying exorbitant prices for these. This unfortunately is the reality of cruising in amongst the islands and you learn to survive on what you have available or you move on.  On the positive side, the water tanks will be filled and the café owner sold me a spare pumpkin – pumpkin soup and snuggling in the wet weather with my darling. It will be a lovely birthday.

More pics below.

The dogs and the pigs all hang out together. Here's a pig who thinks he is a dog - could be a movie in that...

The dogs and the pigs all hang out together. Here’s a pig who thinks he is a dog – could be a movie in that…

Thomas took a dip in the lagoon before walking the 5km back to the kayak and paddle board

Thomas took a dip in the lagoon before walking the 5km back to the kayak and paddle board

A fale at Captain Cook's Hideaway - very inexpensive accommodation in the islands

A fale at Captain Cook’s Hideaway – very inexpensive accommodation in the islands

That's what happens in a mutiny eh Captain?

That’s what happens in a mutiny eh Captain?

A kite surfer zoomed past us on the windy side of the island

A kite surfer zoomed past us on the windy side of the island

The kite surfing resort was a little bit more up-market

The kite surfing resort was a little bit more up-market

 

 

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Royal Brush

Having a relatively clear social calendar, we stayed on in Nuku’alofa for the celebrations of the Tongan Queen Mother’s 90th birthday at Big Mamma’s yacht club. Extra furnishings and shade were put in place for the royal appointment. The Tongan Navy boat was commandeered to bring the guests to the island. Unfortunately the Queen Mum was exhausted from her week of celebrations and gave us the brush off.

Qi with the flags over the top for the Royal visit. Four of the five boats at anchor did this.

Qi all dressed up with the flags over the top for the Royal visit. Four of the five boats at anchor did this.

Her daughter Princess Salote Mafile’o Pilolevu Tuita and her husband Lord Tuita were in attendance. I got a friendly ‘hello’ from the princess and her husband shook my hand and told me that it was nice to meet me. That comprised my entire brush with the Tongan royalty.

The Princess of Tonga - in green

The Princess of Tonga – in green

Floral arrangements and extra white table cloths and chair covers gave the impression that Big Mamma had drawn out the big guns. The food was lovingly prepared on over-sized plates and presented to the guests.

The feast on the day

The feast on the day

There was a roasted pig, hams, roasted yams and pele, the Tongan’s spinach type green. Entrée was the Tongan’s style of spiced raw fish in coconut milk and dessert was a coconut and tapioca fried ball soaked in syrup. Needless to say I didn’t eat there. Top ups of Big Mamma’s own rum punch were flowing freely. A Tongan girl-boy was flitting about with a parasol protecting distinguished guests from the harsh sun, looking as though she belonged in some southern plantation at an afternoon tea. Later, after the royal party had returned to the main island, the parasol was discarded as she danced seductively to some traditional tunes. Music, dance and laughter rippled through the club. Tongans know how to party.

Quite a special place on a little island just off shore from the capital of Tonga. Big Mamma's Yacht Club

Quite a special place on a little island just off shore from the capital of Tonga. Big Mamma’s Yacht Club

On our first day in port a taxi driver had fed the crews of the waiting boats with fresh bananas and watermelons. It was his way of offering a Tongan welcome and drumming up business. His offer for an island tour was almost half the price of all the other taxi drivers. He wasn’t greedy. We decided to take him up on this offer and shared with a German couple off the boat Meerbear.

Tongatapu is a relatively small island but the majority of Tonga’s inhabitants resides there. Highlights of the island tour included the landing sites of both Abel Tasman and James Cook. Quite unspectacular after all these years as captains usually choose a quiet easily accessible point of landing. However, the natural features of the island were far more interesting and beautiful to behold. We stopped at a beach carpark and wandered inland about 200m to view a large piece of boulder-sized coral that stood unceremoniously in the middle of a field. Our guide informed us that it had been placed there during a tsunami dated 1200 years before. Once back at the beach, we could see in the reef where it had been broken away.

You wouldn't want to be in the way of a tsunami uprooting this piece of reef

You wouldn’t want to be in the way of a tsunami uprooting this piece of reef

acaveswim

A cool swim in the fresh water stream in the cave.

ablowholegoingoff

A long coastal view of blowholes. Quite spectacular when an enormous wave struck the coast.

Rugged reef protects the south-west coast line and what looks like a natural cathedral organ of spectacular blow holes has been created. A symphony played before us as the swell crashed against the rocks. Further along caves near the coast had been created by underwater streams eroding the limestone away. We had the opportunity to enjoy a freshwater swim in the dark.

Most of the fresh produce is grown here on the main island. The countryside was dotted with small farms of cabbage, taro, bananas, watermelon and papaya. Animals were few and far between. Land is not owned in Tonga, only shared out by the chief of an area. The land is owned by the royal family.

A natural arch near the rugged east coast

A natural arch near the rugged east coast

Our guide described a peaceful and relaxed way of life. Unfortunately, many of the youth have to move away for careers in business, health or education. Demand is low on the island for the amount of talent that they are producing. Tongans are keen travellers and parents wouldn’t hesitate to visit the new country of their children. Family ties are very strong and most families have between 4-7 children. Most of the education is provided by different denominations of the church. Healthcare is free and the cost of living very low. Our guide told us that crime is so low because there is nowhere to hide.

They call this the Pacific Stonehenge. It points towards another single stone with a legend about one of the kings leaning there all the time because he was so fearful of being assassinated. There is a hollow where his head sat.

They call this the Pacific Stonehenge. It points towards another single stone with a legend about one of the kings leaning there all the time because he was so fearful of being assassinated. There is a hollow where his head sat.

More royal celebrations were planned for the opening of parliament on the Thursday but our wind for travelling north had arrived and we departed. That wasn’t before we did several loops of the bureaucratic circuit to check out of this island group and obtain paperwork to hand into the next main port.

Qi got her name on the honour board at Big Mamma's Yacht Club

Qi got her name on the honor board at Big Mamma’s Yacht Club

 

ablowhole

We kept waiting for a big wave but of course it didn’t happen for the camera. The waves beforehand were wetting us at this spot and looked amazing.

acarwash

The local carwash was more expensive than back in Australia.

More pics below

A nice cave with so many different features to enjoy

A nice cave with so many different features to enjoy

The captain is back to wearing sunnies being back in the tropics

The captain is back to wearing sunnies being back in the tropics

A huge tapa mat. This takes hours to make.

A huge tapa mat. This takes hours to make. This was taken at Captain Cook’s landing site.

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