Jay & Steve with a yellowfin tuna.
Our passage between Ha’apai and Vava’u was a very nice sail although the seas were a little lumpy. Upon arrival in Neiafu we received a royal welcome from many friends we haven’t seen in a while and for the Grose’s, it was quite a contrast to the solitude of the Ha’apai group. Our friends made reservations at the Aquarium Café for the night we arrived so all the adults enjoyed a nice dinner out while the kids had dinner and a movie on O’vive. Steve, Mary and Shayna are sure getting a taste of many of the different aspects of cruising and sure seem to be enjoying themselves and we’re sure enjoying their company.
Vava’u has a moderate sized market where you can buy some fruits and vegetables as well as a good selection of handicrafts. The stores; however, have a very poor selection of groceries and the meat supplies are terrible. The Tongans seem to eat mainly tinned corned beef and mutton flaps (sheep – yuck), while us Canadians would really prefer steak and boneless skinless chicken thighs which are difficult to impossible to find, we’ve been eating a lot of rice and pasta.
We spent two nights in a nice anchorage where there was a tiny little gallery called the “Ark Gallery” where I purchased a very sweet painting of two Tongan boys drinking a coconut.
On thing we had all been looking forward to was a Tongan Feast which we finally enjoyed last Saturday at Ano Beach. The evening started with a browse through the handiwork of many local artisans and was followed by a dance show put on by a local family, followed by the feast. We tasted pig on a stick as well as many other interesting Tongan foods that were cooked in the umu (oven in the ground) such as banana bread pudding, corned beef/chicken/pork wrapped in banana leaves. Many other dishes graced the table: clams, octopus, fish cakes, crab salad, chicken salad and poisson cru. Thankfully, the Tongans broke tradition by serving the food on a table but they did adhere to tradition by not having utensils. It was quite a culinary adventure.
Yesterday was the best day of all as we spent the entire day swimming in the ocean with the humpback whales. It was such an awesome experience that my words will never begin to touch on the all encompassing emotional exhilaration that we shared. It’s so amazing that these huge mammals would tolerate humans in such close proximity allowing us a glimpse into their serene world. We loved watching the mom gently nudge her calf to the surface, teaching it how to breach while the male escort observed from a deep distance.
After about four hours straight of swimming with this pod of three whales it was time for our day to end. As if on cue, each of the three whales we had been swimming with breached one after the other in an exciting and dramatic finale! It was a very moving experience as the whales seemed to be bidding us adieu after a day of play, everyone on our boat cheered and applauded this rare display. As we were all back on board and preparing to depart we looked out and saw all of ‘our’ whales slapping their pectoral fins on the surface, something they hadn’t done all day, as if to wave goodbye and everyone instinctively waved back. It was an outstanding encounter which will be hard to beat in this lifetime.
We've had a really great time with Steve, Mary and Shayna and are sad for them to leave, but we've just sent them on their way and they'll have one day back in Tongatapu before flying to Fiji where they have about 10 hours to explore.