Much like our first day, our final day in Tonga started in the dark, check in for our 45min flight from Ha’apai to Tongatapu was at 6.30am. All was going well until we got the causeway. As I mentioned earlier, it is barely above sea level and the night before a large swell had hit and the one lane causeway was strewn with rocks and boulders. There was already a truck stuck in the middle so the path had to be cleared by hand by those wanting to get to the other side.
|On the road again! This was a little stressful as we were due to check-in in a matter of minutes, but we made it on time.|
So we made it to the main island, the flight was sweet and after chatting with some other travellers who also had a 12 hour layover we decided to split a rental van for the day and explore the island. A taxi driver at the domestic terminal / small hut (jk!) said he would drive us to Avis in Nuku’alofa, though he did tell us that they would be very expensive and he ‘had a friend’ who would rent us a car. After driving about 30min we were getting a bit uneasy about ‘Hammer’s’ friend and where exactly we would have to go to pick up our rental, when Hammer simply pulled over jumped out and said we could take his taxi for the day for a measly 80 Pa’anga and he would see us back at the airport before our plane departed! We were all stunned – no insurance, paperwork, deposit????? No, Hammer waved us off at said have a good day, sweet!
We had breakfast and set off to explore Tongatapu;
After brekkie at Friends Cafe we did some laps at the Saturday morning market in Nuku’alofa, I think the locals were a tad confused by the Palangi’s who had obviously kidnapped Hammer and were driving his taxi all over town! Our next stop was the blowholes (south-west side of the Island). They were amazing, as far as the eye could see the coast was jagged and consisted of shallow tidal pools that exploded when the waves rolled in;
|The blowholes were a little too much dangerous temptation for Ethan who was dying to get down into the pools to explore, but they were very sharp volcanic rock so we had to be careful.|
Next we drove north to the Christianity Landing place and Ha’atafu Beach where we swam and Ethan snorkled for the first time!!!! The amazement on his little face as he saw the underwater world that he loves so much for the first time was the best part of the whole holiday for Dave and I. He simply could not believe his eyes as he saw ‘Dorys’, butterfly fish, goatfish and the elusive ‘striped fish’ swimming around his toes. Honestly, swimming anywhere in Tonga is akin to swimming in a tropical fish tank, it’s mesmerizing.
After we had cooled off we headed to the bat sanctuary. It took us ages to find it it as we were looking for a sign that said ‘Bat Sanctuary’, after driving back and forth and asking 2 lots of people, we finally saw the bats. They were simply hanging in two trees in someone’s front yard! It doesn’t sound very funny but it was quite hilarious;
Ethan loved the bats, it peaked his interest so much we thought for a split-second that bats might be a challenge to fish and sharks!……but it was all a dream…
After lunch and accidentally touring the very sad Nuku’alofa shanty town where people live on top of the rubbish dump, which coincidentally is on top of the mangrove estuary, we made it to the 300 year old stone burial tomb and pyramid for a former Tongan king, it was closed! Gutted, but we were able to snap some pics over the fence;
We then found our way in Hammer’s Bongo Friendee Taxi to Ha’Amonga ‘A Maui, the ancient stone trilithon, this was super cool;
That was the end of the main tourist spots, we toured around for a bit longer and found some gorgeous spots, but the day was just about over and it was so nice to fill in a layover with some seriously good sight-seeing!
Upon arrival and check in at Fu’amotu airport we had another stroke of good luck, the new Tongan king flew in on the Air NZ plane we were leaving on so we were fortunate enough to witness the whole royal she-bang! Brass band, super nanny king-mobile and police escort, plus the king-to-be himself perusing his peeps! It was so cool, how many Kings do you get to see in you life?
Tonga was amazing, we all want to live there, and none of us wanted to leave, Ethan was meant to be a feral little island palangi, he was so at home there. It is a place to which we would definitely return.