Thursday, September 25, 2008

O'ua and Lifuka

O’ua was a really neat little anchorage that we had all to ourselves. I think this may be a seldom visited island as two of the teenage boys who live in the little village rowed out to the boat to welcome us, but were very shy and spoke and understood very little English.

Shayna swinging in the bosuns chair.

We saw that our great country has funded the school in this little village, it makes us very proud to be Canadian.

All of us, excluding Jenny because of her broken ankle, visited the village which was very poor and in ill repair. On O’ua, all of the yards are fenced to keep the pigs out which we thought was very odd but we later learned that it was unlawful to pen the pigs.

We visited the home of Kafoa and Eliki, the two boys who came out to visit, and were amazed at how undeveloped their place was but they were obviously very proud of their home which was kept very clean. The villagers seem to really value photographs and we left them with many.

We have been making balloon animals for the village children who watch in wonder as their little gifts are created. It has been such a joy to bring smiles to the faces of the young ones.
It was at O'ua that I did my first real scuba dive! It was cool and I even let go of Jay's hand for a little steps!

We sailed on to Lifuka where we spent the weekend and Celebrated Jenny’s 15th birthday with a pizza lunch at Matafanua and a two hour horse back ride (bareback!) through the Tongan jungle and along the beach. You should have seen the HUGE spiders in there!! YUCK! I’m certain it will be a day we’ll remember for a long time. Our rear ends remember, that’s for sure!

In Lifuka, we attended Sunday morning service at the Weselyen Church and were moved by the angelic voices lifted in praise to God, however, we couldn’t understand the message at all as it was delivered in Tongan. I found it very interesting that the image of Christ was caucasion and that the participants in the church were all women. Another unusual thing we noticed was that when the offering was taken, there was an announcement to let everyone know who gave and how much – weird.

Jay & Steve with a big wahoo.......wahoo!!!

We’ve now reunited with O’vive and Orca III in Neiafu in Vava’u and are enjoying the camaraderie of the other cruisers once again.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Welcome Aboard!

We arrived in Faua Harbour, Tonga on September 7th just in time to get ready for the arrival of Steve, Mary and Shayna. It was very strange, as there was only one other cruising boat in the harbour, everyone else was up North in Vava'u. Tongatapu reminded us a lot of Mexico and was quite different than we expected. We were able to purchase loads of fresh vegetables and watermelon at the Talamahu market and found many wonderful woven and carved crafts there.

The Grose's arrived on the 9th after close to 24 hours of traveling. I met them at the airport and Maka, our driver for the day, took us back to the boat but not before giving us a taste of what it's like to be in the Indy 500! Since we do everything on foot, I asked him to stop off at the market on the way back so we could pick up a big watermelon $8 and a huge stalk of bananas $3.50 - with the Canadian dollar worth close to twice as much as the Tongan pa'anga, I think we did very well.

Marg & Shayna writing a poem for Jenny's birthday.
We spent a few hours on Wednesday exploring Tongatapu, but with Jenny still on crutches, we couldn't go very far so we focused our exploring near the market, where Maka dropped us off. The Friends café is an excellent little restaurant were we enjoyed burgers, paninis and marlin for lunch. Jay stayed behind to do an oil change, something that can't be done while people are on board, but he doesn't like shopping anyway and I'm sure he enjoyed having the boat to himself for a while.

We have since been exploring the Ha'apai group and have visited the remote little island of Kelefesia which is inhabited by only one man and his assortment of inquisitive dogs, nonchalant pigs and finicky cat. This was our first taste of solitude in a long time as we were the only boat in the anchorage.

Next it was off to Nomuka iki which we hoped would be a less rolly anchorage, and it was. We explored the beach and jungle finding a shipwreck, and abandoned jail, papayas and even a coconut crab which Steve cooked up and ate - very brave!

We've since been at a quaint little island called Ha'afeva that is inhabited by approximately 1000 people. When we went ashore and were welcomed by what seemed like all the village children who fought to hold our hands and when I took their picture, I was swarmed when they all wanted to see themselves, a very sweet and memorable experience indeed. Yesterday the rain and wind stopped and the clouds parted so we hopped in the water for a snorkel and were treated to a view of thousands of assorted reef fish and many different varieties of live coral, it was very beautiful.

Here's a pic of us outside the storein Ha'afeva.

The village kids in Ha'afeva.

The Grand sendoff!
Mary snorkeling in Ha'afeva.

This morning we're getting ready to sail to a little island called O'ua where we'll spend a couple of days before moving on to Lifuka to celebrate Jenny's 15th birthday. We're all anxious to reunite with O'vive and Orca III who are currently up in Vava'u but we are enjoying showing our friends a taste of the peacefulness of the more remote anchorages, something we won't really experience further North.

John, Kafoa, Shayna, Jocelyn & Jenny on board Malachi in O'ua.

Steve & Jay checking out the cooking hut at John and Kafoa's house.

Little boys in O'ua village with pandanus drying in the background. Pandanus is used by the village women to create the beautiful baskets that Tonga is known for.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Fakaalofa Lahi Atu! - Welcome to Niue!

Niue has proven to be one of our favorite stops so far with its unusual geological formations and wonderfully friendly and welcoming people, it's hard to beat.

Kids at the Niue Yacht Club - we're now members!

In 2004, Cyclone Heta devastated many of the coastal homes and businesses. Waves reaching higher than 30 meters crashed into the West coast of the island.

Once we cleared customs, we were greeted by Keith, the commodore of the Niue Yacht Club, and given a special tour of Alofi, the main village on the island. Keith explained to us that Canadians are always honoured visitors here on the island because following Cyclone Heta in 2004, the Canadian government stepped up to plate and provided monetary assistance to help the islanders rebuild. We were shown the school, where the funds were used to build overhangs and supports.

The welcome brochure for Niue says this is NOT the place for retail therapy….how true! Just a few little shops. We did, however, have an excellent lunch at this cool little restaurant called Crazy Uga's!

As on many of the other islands in the South Pacific, the graveyards have a prominent place within the villages. It would appear that in Niue, most are right outside the churches. During Cyclone Heta, the water level was all the way up to the level of this one.

We recently learned of a GPS treasure hunt and were very excited to locate our first two treasures right here on Niue. GeoCaching is world wide and is a lot of fun. If it weren't for our search for the first cache, we would not have met Stephan, the owner of a lovely little hotel overlooking the sea.
Yesterday, the crews of Malachi, Tin Soldier and Orca III rented a 15 passenger van to take a tour of the island. We started our day at 8:30 by lifting our dinghy out of the water with the crane - this is the first dinghy dock of this type that we've encountered.

Then it was off to see some caves and viewpoints. The walk out to the caves was very rugged, as the island is all coral, the trail was very chunky and good shoes were required.

There are many sites around the island where you can climb into the coral caves and see all stalactites and stalagmites, very interesting. The water around the island is crystal clear and makes for some beautiful swimming and. We're tied to a mooring in 130 feet of water and the coral on the bottom is visible.

This morning, we watched as several humpback whales blew and surfaced around the boats in the anchorage, as close to us as 300 feet! It was remarkable. Niue is a refuge for humpback whales and spinner dolphins; I hope we get to see more of them. Check out Upps' blog to see their awesome whale pix, swimming right in the anchorage beside their boat.

Tuesday was rainy and windy, same as the past few days, but there was an early market where fresh produce could be purchased as well as some weaving. Unfortunatly there wasn't as much produce as we had hoped for but it was fun, nonetheless. Later in the morning, the kids all came ashore to join us moms and some local ladies at the town hall for weaving lessons. Everyone had a great time and the ladies even served us lunch! It was so casual and comfortable. Another fine example of Niuen hospitality.

We spent our last night in Niue at the Pacific Way which hosted a Bingo night to be followed by Karaoke. We thought Bingo would last maybe an hour or two, but as it turned out, it was a four and a half hour event. The cards are different from Canadian cards, but it's basically the same concept. The fellow who calls the numbers, calls them very quickly repeating each one twice, when you've filled your card you holler "YEAUP!" then they validate your numbers and you win a prize. Jenny won a 10.5kg Tuna! But traded it for a box of 10 chickens - too funny! The grand prize of the night was three large tuna's 1 box of 10 chickens, 1 pig, a huge bunch of bananas and three huge bundles of Taro root. It was a really fun way to end our week long stay on the island.

Now it's off to Tongatapu, Tonga to meet Steve, Mary and Shayna who are flying in on September 9th - we're all looking forward to their arrival.