|The orange line represents our trip south from Neiafu to Vaka'eitu, then on around the corner to Hunga Haven.|
After hanging out in Neiafu for about a week we decided to head south to one of the top rated islands in Tonga, Vaka’eitu. After a pleasant two-hour motor sail we rounded the corner of Vaka’eitu Island, ever mindful of the small islands and reefs dotting the seascape. There were already four boats anchored, so we squeezed in at the north end of the bay close to an Italian catamaran on one side and a shallow reef on the other.
It was a beautiful classic crescent-shaped bay, but with a very shallow reef on the beach side. We snorkeled towards the beach and then explored the reefs on the south side of the bay, not tons of fish but enough to make it interesting. In many areas of Tonga the water is not crystal clear like in Bora Bora so snorkeling is kind of hit or miss.
David, a Tongan whose house is on the beach, stopped by the boat and mentioned he was having a Tongan Feast that night and if we’d like to attend. It would be a unique opportunity to try Tongan food and meet the other cruisers in the bay so we signed on.
|Everyone had their backs to the fire since the weather was on the cold side, even though we in the South Pacific.|
Since it was only about one foot deep a 100 yards out from the beach getting the dinghies in was a challenge for everyone. We were warmly greeted by David and his wife and shown the BBQ area where a pig was slowly turning on the spit. It seems sometimes the pig is cooked in an underground oven (an emu) or roasted over an open fire. Either way, it smelled delicious.
We meet with cruisers from the other boats, a group of Italians from Milan, Australians from Sydney, and an American couple, Cliff and MaryAnn from San Francisco and MaryAnn’s sister. They were in the market for a larger boat so we talked about the features of Flying Cloud (they came over later the next day to tour the boat).
|David and his family with the sumptuous feast.|
David’s wife laid out a blue checkered tablecloth covered with local foods, including breadfruit, taro leaf wrapped pork, cole slaw, beef vegetable, calamari, baked fish, potato salad, and a variety of local vegetable dishes. The variety of nationalities you meet at these cruiser functions always amazes me, so many different lifestyles and experiences.
Leaving the feast in the dark was a challenge given the low tide, leaving all the dinghies high and dry on the beach. We had to shanghai Cliff to help us drag our dingy over the coral to a spot deep enough to row back to the boat. A 125 lb. dingy with a 100 lb. outboard plus gas and anchors is not much fun to drag up or down beaches. There are so few sandy beaches in this part of the world that having wheels on the dingy is hardly worth it — except for tonight.
|This picture doesn't do the entrance to Hunga Lagoon the justice it deserves|
|Here's the view from the foredeck where Meryl is on watch for bommies and reefs. You need to squeeze between that large rock on the left and the rocks on the right.|
On July 3rd we sailed due south from Vaka’eitu to avoid a long line of reefs, then headed north around the south end of Hunga Island and about one half way up the north side to find a minuscule opening in the rock cliffs to an inner harbor. This is another of the “not for the faint of heart” entrances with a large rock about 30 ft to the left and a reef an equal distance to the right. You then need to turn to a course of 115 degrees magnetic where the depth immediately drops from 35 ft. to 12 ft (at high tide). Definitely another pucker factor entrance, although the depth quickly increases after to about 100 yards.
|The indominatable Barry at Hunga Haven. Barry does the weather on the Cruisers Net each morning and helps everyone in a million ways.|
|Flying Cloud laying just outside the reef.|
We took a buoy just off Hunga Haven, home of Barry and Cindy, two ex-pat Canadians living out their fantasy at this beautiful inner lagoon in Paradise. Best described as a sunken caldera from an ancient volcano, the lagoon is surrounded by green topped cliff faces and low hills. We meet Barry and Cindy the next morning when we went for a short hike into Hunga Village. They are both former real estate agents from Winnipeg enjoying the ex-pat lifestyle and escaping from the Winnipeg winters. Cindy works at an e-commerce web site out of Bali and Barry’s time is fully occupied keeping the back forty free of roaming pigs who dig up everything, kind of like nature’s own rototillers.
|Va'ha made this dugout canoe for one of his children but still uses it to commute from the village up to Hunga Haven to trade with the cruisers.|
An older Tongan had come by earlier in the day looking for things to trade. His name was Va’ha and he was paddling a homemade dugout canoe. Several times a week he takes his larger boat outside the lagoon for fishing, or works on his plantation where he grows a wide variety of fruits. He returned later in the day with a stalk of bananas, limes, and papayas in trade for some fish hooks. We later met his granddaughter when we walked into the village. She was such a great little salesperson that we bought some more papayas from her.
|The trail down to the village and to the Blue Lagoon (the opposite direction).|
|Tongans live a very modest lifestyle and subsist mainly on a cash economy of farming and fishing|
|This is Va'ha's granddaughter who chased us down the road to sell us some papayas.|
While our first day in Hunga was sunny and warm, the persistent overcast sky and squally weather returned, making our next day’s hike down to Blue Lagoon less than a pleasurable experience. We had heard the King would be stopping in Hunga Lagoon for an event, but after waiting all the next day he was a no show. I don’t think I’d want to venture out in the stormy weather, either.
We had tried to arrange a whale swimming trip with a local provider but the thought of bouncing around in 20-25 knot winds and 8 ft. seas dissuaded us. We’ll try again another day when we return to Neiafu.
We had to get up at 6:00 am the next morning to catch the high tide out of the lagoon for the motor sail back up to Neiafu. It really reminded me of Pacific Northwest sailing except the temperature was still in the low 70s.