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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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