Oct. 15 – Tonga on the map

The Kingdom of Tonga is comprised of several island groups.  We checked into Tonga in Niuatoputapu in the north.  Then we sailed down to Neiafu in the Vava’u group, then into the Ha’apai group, and down to Nuku’alofa where we checked out of Tonga.   The red marks on the map indicate approximately where we were at each point.  Neiafu, where we are now,  is the largest town in Vava’u and is surrounded by smaller islands offering a mix of terrain and snorkeling options.

After spending a lot of time in small anchorages with a handful of boats and minimal radio check-in, our arrival into Neiafu harbor was sensory overload.  Radio check-in takes half an hour between the huge number of boats checking in and the announcements for the day and plugs for local businesses.  Neiafu  is a mecca for cruisers so it was like a reunion, seeing all the familiar boats we’ve crossed paths with through the South Pacific.  After grabbing a mooring ball we began to sink into cruiser mode.  It’s a small town with plenty of restaurants, a few markets and great bread at Rooster’s Cafe.  We endured an intense rain followed by thunder and lightning (a nightmare for yachties).  For about a week we buried ourselves in books waiting for the weather to improve.

Finally we left to explore the surrounding islands.  Wonderful.  Incredible.  We were watching flying foxes (bats) return to the motu near us, and at 6:45pm just now the noise level cranked up several decibels when all the crickets (?) started singing.  Sunset was slow in exposing color across the sky.  We snorkeled around  huge discs of coral and lots of small unidentifiable fish.  Friends of ours are anchored around the corner.  I made papaya chutney, sautéed green papaya (bought from a guy in his dinghy), and rice for dinner.  We love this area and wish we had more time to spend here.

We took the dinghy over to Swallows Cave, a cleft in limestone where swallows nest.   About 3pm the light shines in and you can see the stalactites. Yesterday we visited The Art Ark, a couple who cruised thru here in the 80s and loved it so much they came back and settled permanently.  She’s a painter and opened up the ark gallery which is their floating houseboat/studio.

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