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  (Lesley writing) After leaving Pago Pago, we were heading in the direction of Tonga to the Vavua group. Unfortunately the winds were a bit southerly, which meant we were sailing  harder on the wind. This made the passage very uncomfortable, so we opted to enter Tonga at one of the northern islands, namely Nuietaputapo, or New Potato  (for those who get tongue tied). Entering the reef there was very spectacular, and we made it in before sunset. There were about 8 yachts there, so we were not alone. Some local fisherman approached us in a dug out canoe and wondered if we had any cigarettes, as there were no more  cigarettes on the island. We traded some beers for bananas and coconuts, but told them to ask the other boats, which couldn't help them out either. Once cleared in, we were free to go ashore and explore the island. We noticed how much poorer these people were compared to other islands we have visited. Because Tonga has never been colonized, they are left mostly to themselves with a ruling king living in the capital. Money and help does not reach these far off islands and the only form of income is through trading vanilla and "tappa" cloth ,woven from the Pandannus tree.

       arriving in the lagoon

We were very fortunate to witness the arrival of the supply ship, which apparently came  only once every 3 months. Everyone turned up on the dock and helped off- load animals and goods. Fuel barrels were rolled into the main street and pigs in wooden crates were left standing in the heat, awaiting the next leg of their passage.

     the supply ship arrives

The local shop owner, Sia, invited us all to a fund raising venue at the church, where a traditional feast was laid out on the grass. The church elders collected money, while the women sang and beat sticks on the walls (typical for fund raising). The food was  laid out on leaves and everyone seated themselves in long rows . Whole roast pigs (and piglets) were decorated with ribbons and sausages and there was lobster and fish, baked in leaves.

       church fund raiser and feast

The next day was the last day of school, and all the boat kids were invited to the local school for a day of dancing and singing.

    last day of term

An excursion up to the top of the mountain was arranged by Vienna, the school teacher, who's six siblings accompanied us. The girls off Ruby Slippers joined us and the walk took everyone through the jungle and farmland to the famous fresh, water pools, where a cool swim was welcomed. From the top of the mountain one could see the volcano island of and we even saw a humpback whale breaching!! On the way back the kids were able to borrow two horses for the ride home, although it meant they had to ride two-and two....bareback.


 One cannot help but notice that the general hygiene of the islanders is lacking, and they had diseases and illnesses , such as infectious sores, threadworm and lice. We were also shocked by the amount of pigs and dogs roaming the island. Pigs slept under hammocks, dug under the thatched houses and ran along the beaches in their search for food. Dogs roamed everywhere, puppies of all shapes and sizes, ghastly thin. We picked up a little puppy at Sias house, that was in a very poor state, and offered to nurse it back to help in the days we were there. We took "Dobby" as she was called, back to the boat and de-wormed her, de-fleed her and fed her. After 5 days she was back on her feet and full of energy.

        Camilla and "Dobby"

Having spent eight days in nuietaputapo, we left in the morning and headed out the pass. We were met by about six humpback whales, some with babies. We were given a spectacular show by a humpback that breached right next to us, sending up a huge splash of water. Although we only saw a tiny piece of Tonga, we decided it was one of the most primitive and traditional place we have seen so far, and with all its poverty, it had a certain amount of charm.

News letters

This site was last updated 02-09-2007 09:39:28