Tonga – Day 6

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.

Tonga 347 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;

TONGATAPU mao 

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;

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Tonga 386 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.

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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;

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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;

 

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We then found our way in Hammer’s Bongo Friendee Taxi to Ha’Amonga ‘A Maui, the ancient stone trilithon, this was super cool;

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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.

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These are some random shots; Little strip-mall found everywhere
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Tonga 388 I have never seen SO many churches in such a small area; we called this one the rainbow church and it had so much more spirituality than the concrete block LDS (Mormon) churches that were every 5km or so.
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Tonga – Day 5

Though we weren’t at the beach, Friday was one of the most special days of the trip.  Two of the cooks at the resort, Betsy and Latu told us about how Ha’apai would be grinding to a halt on Friday as it was Sports Day – the 6 or so primary schools were having the Athletics Day at Ha’apai High.  They  invited us to come and spend the day with their families and community in Pangai.  On Wednesday the ride took us an hour one way, but we were running late due to Ethan’s numerous cuts, scrapes and prickles which needed doctoring up at the last minute (he doesn’t seem to notice the correlation between painful feet and the ever-present refusal to wear shoes!) – so anyway we had to haul ass and made it to Pangai in 30min!

Sports Day was amazing and totally worth the fact that I had to wear pants! (modest dress is required at ALL times).  The kids were amazing runners and Ethan made so many friends he could barely take a break.  The kids had filled up plastic bottles with rocks and used them as noisemakers whenever they were cheering on a runner from their school, the pride the kids had in their schools was inspiring!  We were supporting Faleloa Primary School, they were easy to spot in the races as all of the girls had their long hair immaculately french braided with shiny green ribbons tied in the ends. 

Lunch was a long time coming but so worth the wait; we ate sweet and sour fish, roast chicken, fresh corn, yam (which was so good!  Described by Dave as mashed potato shaped into a big roll then roasted in the oven – but it was really just one big vegetable) and watermelon for desert.  This was the first Tongan meal we had eaten in 5 days (aside from the raw fish last night) and we really appreciated it.

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  20c pa’anga homemade icies
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Ethan’s race E-man pinning his ears back!
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is fun but kinda scary, I saw the size of the bugs in daylight
and that was bad enough!

Tonga – Day 4

Thursday was the hottest and most beautiful day thus far.  Not a cloud in the sky, and we made the most of it.  We were swimming by 8.30am!  Ethan had made friends with a lovely little guy called Harrison who kindly lent him his inflatable boat, so we all just hung out, snorkled, and got really brown!  We had an awesome treat as an appetizer for dinner, Ota Ika or raw fish marinated coconut milk.  A similar dish to mexican cerviche, only in the fact that the fish isn’t cooked.  Needless to say, as it was fish, all three of us loved it!

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Baby Harry

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Tonga – Day 3

On Wednesday Dave set up one of the fabulous beachcrusiers with the toddler seat and we set of to explore the islands.

haapai  This is a great map showing the Ha’apai group of islands which are located in the middle of The Kingdom of Tonga.  Tongatapu is to the south and the island chain of Vava’u is to the north.  As you can see there are only two resorts there, Matafonua Lodge where we stayed is located at position #2.

Between the two main islands you can see the narrow causeway which is Faleloa’s link to civilisation – the small town of Pangai in the south.

So on Wednesday we rode from point 2, to the end of the island, south of Pangai, just over an hour each way.  The ride was super fun, mainly flat and so beautiful!  You had to be really careful of roaming pigs and feral dogs but aside from that, no worries.  The road is the only sealed road on the island and is one lane in most places, so we had to pull off and shelter in the jungle fringe a couple of times as the crazy local drivers hauled ass passed us.  Ethan loved bike-riding, he got to see heaps and really enjoyed yelling hello to all of the locals, we were the ONLY palangis!  Can you believe that?  Going on holiday and riding for two hours and seeing no other tourists!  So rad.  Along the way you can literally reach you hand up and grab a banana off the trees as you cruise past.

So we got to Pangai and stopped in at Mariner’s Cafe for a Fiji Bitter (very good BTW).  Mariner’s is the only cafe in Pangai and run by some eastern european palangi chick.  The food was ok, but we were hoping to eat Tongan food.  As we were to find out there isn’t really any Tongan run eateries catering to the very few tourists that come through Ha’apai.  We then crusied south a bit further, checked the very elaborate graves,Tongan’s are buried in mounds above ground as you can’t dig through the coral obviously! (Thanks Jo for this info).

After a few hours of exploring we got way too hot and bothered, (it was 28 degrees) and rode home for some beach time before dinner.

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Loading up at the cafe. This is the only road to the resort!
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Very simple, burial mound. Note:  Large roaming pigs!
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The amazing causeway!  
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Crossing the airport runway! Yup, no planes – all clear!
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Dave couldn’t believe his eyes!  
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Tonga – Day 2

Tuesday dawned as hot, sunny and picture perfect as Monday, so after a nice sleep in we headed back to the beach in front of the resort, for swimming, kayaking and fishing; and that is all we did all day!  Dave caught a rock cod which was very exciting and we had lobster for dinner!!!

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Tonga – Day 1

After a very early start (4am) amidst the worst rainstorm Auckland had seen since last winter, we were on the plane and Ethan was enjoying the first marvelous wonder of our Tongan holiday – “breakfast on a plane, how strange!”.

It was a short easy flight, 2.5 hrs to Tongatapu, the main island in the Tongan Kingdom. In what we were to come to expect as very typical island-style, our next flight to Ha’apai was not delayed, but brought forward 2 hours! Where on earth does that happen but in Tonga? The flight to Ha’apai was a short one, 45min, in the smallest plane any of us had flown on before – only 15 seats! The heat was insane though and Ethan fell asleep during the final 2 minutes of the descent, although we suspect he probably passed out from heat exhaustion. The views were unbelievable as we flew over the island chains, Ethan was glued to his window as the atolls and islands passed beneath us and he took almost as many pictures from the window as Dave and I did.

New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Travel Tonga New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Travel Tonga
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Travel Tonga New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Travel Tonga
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Travel Tonga New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Travel Tonga

Upon arrival in Pangai, Tonga, our hosts Dave and Sally were waiting at the airport, and were were loaded into their truck within 5min of walking across the tarmac from the plane. It was a fairly quiet, 30min drive as Dave and Ethan and I were pretty gobsmacked at our surroundings. The one lane road, pretty much the only sealed road on both islands, is bordered on both sides, by dense jungle, dotted with banana and papaya trees and millions of coconut palms. A causeway connects Panagi to Foa Island where Matafonua Resort is located. Crossing this skinny, one lane link for the first time was quite breathtaking as it is barely above sea level, and the shallow coral reef is metres from the car.

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New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Travel Tonga

When we arrived at Matafonua Resort at 2pm we rushed to our Fale and we stoked to find out that we had been upgraded to the ‘family fale’ for free! Ethan would have his very own coconut palm-walled room complete with mosquito net for the next 5 days.

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New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Travel Tonga

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After we saw where we would be staying we literally ran to the beach and remained for the rest of the afternoon. I don’t think I have ever seen Ethan smile as big as he did that afternoon – well I did, but that came later in the trip…..

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New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Travel Tonga New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Travel Tonga

We dragged ourselves back from the beach to have a rest before dinner, which inevitably turned into exploration of the area surrounding our fale.  We found a scorpion, heaps of hermit crabs (the fales are all built on sand), coconuts and papayas right on our doorstep!  We enjoyed a wonderful dinner that night of fresh snapper and met the other guests, only 3 fales out of 10 were occupied so it was such a peaceful trip.  The Tongan trench was immediately to the east of our fale and the sound of the waves crashing on the atoll was like thunder, after we got used to that and the sound of falling coconuts we slept so well!

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New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Travel Tonga New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Travel Tonga
New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Travel Tonga New Zealand's Top Mummy Blogger Parenting Travel Blog Family Summer Travel Tonga