Life goes slowly on the Tonga Islands
The Kingdom of Tonga is an archipelago of 176 islands in the Pacific Ocean. Only 52 islands are inhabited. The capitol Nukualofa is on the biggest island Tongatapu and is like a big village, quiet and calm. The low pace is a challenge even though we are here on holiday and are supposed to relax. If you want to go shopping in one of the few shops in the capital you must be prepared to find the staff sleeping behind the counter. And they are not interested in being awakened!
In spite of this, our week in Tonga was an experience for life. Beaches are fantastic and the opportunities for diving and snorkeling are great. There are not many tourists. We were the only guests at Good Samaritan Inn half an hour north of the capitol. Not a place to recommend, there are better accommodation on the islands.
We had booked online and received a mail saying they would meet us at the airport. But when we arrived late in the evening, no one was there! After some struggle we found a taxi, but when we arrived at Good Samaritan Inn there were no one there either! We walked around the place and managed to wake up one of the staff. He claimed he did not know about anyone arriving this day. But problems were solved – we got a small hut nearly on the beach and Olli, they guy we wake up, went to get some biers. It was not possible to get anything to drink or eat at the premisses this late. After some biers and a quiet time in the moonshine on the beach, we were ready for a good nights sleep
Next morning in daylight, all our worries were forgotten. When the white coral beach and the blue ocean appeared in front of us, we could breath a sight of relief. We believed we could have a nice time here for a week. We had to wait a long time for breakfast but when it came with a lot of fresh fruits, it was just delicious. They gave us a lot of really good food the whole week. The food was the best thing about this place and made up for the worn out state. Olli told us it had been even worse! Hurricanes destroy periodically a lot on the island. Olli did a great job. He showed us around on the island and told stories all the time about the island and its culture. Among many stories he told was the local myth about Tuitatui. The 11th king had a big stone as a throne and sitting behind the stone he felt safe for ambushes. With a stick he attacked the knees of everyone approaching him from front. He was an enormous man with a huge head. He raped his sister and sent his children in exile.
Tonga is a paradise for divers, snorkelers and bathing angels. The beaches are made of corals and shells and a walk on the beach always gave us a great catch of beautiful shells that we took back home. When I snorkeled, small blue fish always surrounded me and they snatched my face carefully and curiously. The corals where colorful and almost magic.
One of the highlights of our stay was a big party Friday night at Good Samaritan Inn. The preparations went on the whole week and early Friday morning the piglets were prepared and pits were digged in the ground for cooking vegetables. This is the normal way to cook in Tonga.
We rented 2 bikes and cycled around the island. In the villages the children run after us laughing and shouting – why and what thy where shouting- we never found out! They probable thought we looked very strange. All over the island there are churches of all kind. Big and flashy buildings that seemed quit out of place in this humble and poor society. But the strangest thing was the graveyards. They were decorated with big quilts hanging out in all sorts of weather. Around the graves there were also put down bier bottles up side down
The Kingdom of Tonga was a very strange experience. The strangest place we have ever been in. It was also one of our most exciting trips, because of its exotic and different culture. People are friendly, but reserved. They take good care of their culture and even in the capitol many are dressed in traditional grass skirts. Not as in the cartoons, but they look very stiff and uncomfortable to wear. The food is lovely and the possibilities to relax are unlimited. So if you want to experience a true Pacific island were life mostly consists of sitting under the palm trees and wait for food to fall down – Then Tonga is still the right place even if there are some development and more tourist are coming.
Read about funeral rituals on Tonga in this recent post: Funeral rituals on the Island of Tonga