The Vava’u Group In Tonga

Well, we left Niue at 0420 on a Thursday and arrived at the entrance to Faihava Pass on Sunday just as the sun was peeking over the islands. The golden rays of the sun were dancing on the water and as we made the turn we looked off to the port side to find two whales playing near the shore. Just a bit further along we came across a pod of dolphin heading out of the pass. It was an amazing a beautiful welcome to the Kingdom of Tonga.

It takes a little over an hour to go from the entrance of Faihava Pass to the anchorage located in the Nieafu Village area. The landscape is simply spectacular. Everywhere you look there are mountainous islands rising from the sea. Some have sand beaches while others are pure rock. It’s almost indescribable.

We arrive in the anchorage and through radio communications with some people Dan knows that are there we locate the Customs dock. There are already several boats tied up so we have to go to another dock on the wharf. This one, however, is not nearly as friendly looking and is quite honestly a bit scary. The tide is out and the top of the wall is about two feet above my head. There’s these large rubber bumpers attached to the wall but they would be far above the hull of the boat. We see a spot where a couple of the bumpers are missing and it looks like we can fit Dazzler there. We take a quick run by to make certain. We can get it but getting out will be tough as the water shallow within just a few feet of where the bow will be. I’m on pins and needles as we pull in. There so much that could go wrong here. Our fenders will barely be high enough to be between the boat and the wall. Add to this the swell is coming in and bouncing us up and down. Of course Dan’s calm as a cucumber and he slides Dazzler ever so perfectly into the spot. There’s some construction workers not the wharf and one nice young man comes over to grab the line for me.

With Dazzler safely tied to the wharf Dan grabs our documents and heads to ashore to find the Customs Office. I stay behind to keep watch on Dazzler and make sure we stay off the foreboding concrete wharf. Within a few minutes Dan arrives back with a stack of forms for us to fill out. As he fills them out I continue my watch. Soon one of the Custom’s officers shows up and we go over the formalities. Since it’s Saturday they can’t do all of the paperwork but we get enough done to allow us to stay in the anchorage and go ashore.

From here we have to find a place in the anchorage. Most of the boats here are on mooring balls but we can’t seem to locate a free one so we find a spot near the shore where we can drop the hook. It took a few tries as there’s a lot of coral and rock on the bottom but we finally get the anchor to set and of course, it’s time for an anchor down beer.

It’s not long before our dear friends, Lutz & Gabi of SV SuAn show up on their dinghy to say, “Hello” and offer us a ride into town.  We gladly accept their offer and head in to see what Neiafu has to offer.  We dock at the Mango Cafe and stop in for a beer or two. Then it’s off to explore the village.

It turns out that Tonga has some of the best cell phone and WiFi in the islands.  Digicel turned out to be a great deal. For $50 Pa’Anga (approximately $21 US) we could get 10 gigs of data and it was quite fast considering what we’ve become accustomed to in our travels. Of course in this day and age it doesn’t take long to burn up 10 gigs but it did allow us to check emails and do some surfing on the net. 

Provisioning in Neiafu was not as easy as we would have expected. It’s a fairly large village so we thought we’d be able to find most of the things we wanted but that was not the case. There are many stores, most run by Asian folks who seem to be pretty unhappy about being there. They weren’t very helpful or friendly. The Tongan people, however, were wonderful.

We went to the local fresh produce/craft market several times and there was this lovely older Tongan woman who was selling her crafts. She was adorable and worked very hard to teach us Tongan. The entire time we were there she kept saying, “Mālo e leila, Fēfē Hake” (Hello, How Are You?) Then she’d make us respond with “Sai pē, Mālō” (Just fine, Thank you). She was more concerned with teaching us Tongan than she was to sell us something.

We did seek out Kava while we were there. Kava is used in various types of island and religious ceremonies. We’ve been told it has a bit of intoxicating effect, however, we’ve yet to try it. It took some doing to locate it and when we did it wasn’t the root, rather the processed powder. Not knowing how much to get or what is proper to present to a chief when asking permission to visit their island Dan purchase a kilo of it. Well, it turns out that you would literally give about a half a cup so it appears we can please all the chiefs in Tonga!

We ended up spending 10 days in Neiafu. We actually hadn’t planned to do so but our brand new, four month old generator decided to stop working. Dan spent days and days tearing it apart and checking every component. He  finally decided it needed a new spark generator which we could not get until New Zealand. I’m not a huge fan of Honda right now I can tell you that!

But, we tried to make the best of our stay in this quaint village. Our favorite place is the Hideaway Bar. It’s a floating bar in the anchorage and is owned by a Canadian couple, Barry and Char. They only serve drinks and fish & chips. It’s a great place to hang out and enjoy the views. Plus, they are two awesome people. They also have their own meat store and sell excellent quality meats. We stocked up on some sausage, steak and other tasty treats.

Finally the time came to move on so we hauled anchor and began working our way south through the islands. 

Until next time,

Jilly & Dan

Author: Dan & Jilly

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