Tonga-time: why hurry when you’re ahead of the rest of the world anyway?
Maartje and I have known each other since we were three and we thought it was time for an adventure as far away from home as possible.
So why not try something different and travel to Tonga without doing any research or bringing a guide book? Why not indeed, so travel to Tonga we did.
Air New Zealand was once again great, providing us with food, drinks, and in-flight entertainment that works straight away, not just after take-off. And this is essential if you want to watch a two hour movie during a two-and-a-bit hour flight.
So there I was up in the air (which was also the name of the movie that Maartje watched, what a clever title), between New Zealand and the Kingdom of Tonga, watching the hardships in the life of The Young Victoria, accompanied by Schubert’s music and Dutch actors speaking English with German accents. Ah, it was wonderful. And not altogether as different from Tonga as you’d think: unsealed roads, women in beautiful dresses, pigs running around freely, and quite a few white men speaking English with German accents.
Anyway, as I said, we were unprepared, and after a taxi ride during which we probably asked the driver a whole bunch of stupid questions (“Do you have crocodiles here? Or monkeys?”. “No crocodiles, but a lot of monkeys sitting around watching tv and doing nothing all day”), we decided to walk into town to find something to eat. Unfortunately it was dark and we couldn’t find the town centre. We asked the Chinese people that ran the little store that we did find, but they didn’t speak English. So, stepping over the dead cat in the gutter, we returned home and went to bed.
The next day it all looked better and we found the centre and a nice cafe. Amazingly Tonga is still free of fastfood chains, no McDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, nothing, which adds to the charm. They do have Coca Cola of course, and Heineken, though both are frequently past their sell-by date.
In short, we walked around (and sweated), cycled (too far), hitchhiked (and made a friend), went swimming at a beautiful beach (where we were the only ones), drank watermelon juice (delicious), waited (for everyone and everything, but mainly for the ferry), saw dolphins (from the ferry), were amazed (at how friendly the people were, and how big the guys), went hiking (to a look-out that we never found because the guide got lost), and relaxed (at a resort where we could hear the waves from our bed and once again had the whole beach to ourselves).
Other things I discovered:
1. Tongan bananas and pancakes taste good
2. Eating Vegemite (with lots of Vit.B) and liberally spraying myself with Off! doesn’t repel the Tongan mosquitoes.
3. An open sea ferry ride at 5.30am without breakfast makes me feel horribly seasick, and
3a. I can’t vomit while the captain and his friends can see me and
3b. once the worst of the nausea has gone down, it’s pretty nice to sit out on the deck surrounded by living pigs in potato sacks that are being transported from one pig-inhabited island to the other.
All the Tongan girls wanted to find Maartje and me a nice Tongan husband, but we politely declined and boarded our plane back to New Zealand as scheduled.
New Zealand: where every backpacker speaks English with a German accent. Typical, you go to the other side of the world and run into your neighbours.