Yesterday we arrived in Neiafu, the main city in the Vava’u (vah-vow) island group in the northern part of Tonga.
There are an amazing amount of islands here — I think I read somewhere around 30, of which just over half are inhabited. It feels a lot like being back in the Puget Sound and sailing around the San Juan and Gulf Islands. The mountainous terrain is covered with lush, green foliage and there are more than 40 protected bays tucked in behind majestic cliff sides. The only difference is that it’s warm here — some might even say hot. And it’s wintertime. I might melt in the heat and humidity of summer… We’ll definitely be testing the stamina of the air conditioner on the boat.
We checked in with customs yesterday afternoon, a four-hour long process that involved various officials boarding our boat — Customs, Immigration, Health, and Quarantine/Agriculture. For some reason, one official can’t leave the boat before the next arrives, so we chatted idly and drank a few beers to pass the time while while we waited.
Last night we were invited to a Kava party hosted by one of the officials — George, I think. It’s a fundraiser that they throw each Friday night to raise money for the next week’s allotment of fuel for the school bus. At nearly $3/liter here, it’s too much to ask one person to supply the fuel, so the entire village comes together for the party and helps raise the funds. Unfortunately, there was a death on the island yesterday evening so the villagers are in mourning for 10 days, during which time no Kava parties can be thrown. I’m not sure how the kids will get to school next week… Everywhere on this small island is deemed “too far to walk.”
With no Kava to drink, we caught up with our friends on Oso Blanco and Totem, and had a great dinner at a Swiss-Tongan fusion restaurant with a view of the bay and the boats gently tugging at their moorings. There are more than 50 boats in the bay right now, all tied to one of the mooring balls because it’s too deep to anchor. Right now, there’s barely a ripple on the water and the breeze is just a whisper.
Tonight we’ll have dinner at one of the many charming restaurants that sit on the hill above the bay. We’ve been promised a local string band and more good food. On Sunday we’ll leave our peaceful bay and explore one of the 40 anchorages that are just a few hours away from town… It might be too soon to say this, but we’re loving our new home.