TNS460 23/05/2016
Here we are having a huge variety of experiences in the extraordinary
island of Tonga, off to take samples from a new island before heading North
through the Tongan islands.
So Friday night the majority of the voyage crew and Ali (cook) and Tracey
(cooks ass) all headed off to Oholei Beach and Hina cave.  We were welcomed
onto the bus by Simana and Agnes who had spent time in Australia but
returned to run the business his father had started of a small resort with
the twice weekly entertainment – his wife and family all took a big part in
the show, doing all of the following…serving drinks, food and singing and
dancing. We arrived and sat down and Sam and Kyle and Bill managed to snap a
bench in half which was rewarded by a free round of drinks!!  That was after
getting access for Mislav and his wheelchair – down a cliff and then on
sand.  Grace was evangelical and taken seriously by all- religion is such a
major part of life here. Then a feast served on the stem of a banana leaf
including delicious seaweed, and shellfish and suckling pig and much much
more.  Then we moved to the cave where there was a stage and we witnessed
traditional Tongan dancing finishing up with a fire dance – one of the male
dancers was under 10 and performing the fire dance for the first time – his
face was a mixture of anxiety, pride, horror and pain. They learn to dance
as soon as they can walk.  Lastly I have to mention the dance that Kyle and
Bill did – they looked incredible and so serious – then were intercepted by
two local girls who clearly enjoyed the experience . Sadly Louise didn’t
manage to catch American Steve who seemed to not relish the opportunity of
showing his dancing skills.
Saturday arrived and many voyage crew opted for tours of either the East or
the West of the island (or indeed both). Others of us, after the success of
the cycling on Bora Bora opted to hire cycles. Tourist information suggested
a guest house – past a church with a massive funeral, but the bikes were old
and rusty and unused for many years so off we trotted to Air NZ office where
there was 1 pink bicycle in full working order and another which was
eventually reluctantly hired out with dodgy handlebars and later the
bearings went so had to be pedalled even cruising down hill. We were still 2
short so we went to a labelled ‘cycle hire ‘ shop which sold used shoes only
and sent us onto the suburbs to track down an infamous garden shed and the
third bike. He then escorted Jimbo and Michelle to another neighbour’s
garden in a different suburb for the 4th one – between the 4 we had one set
of gears but if you changed gears the chain came off and brakes on one bike
was metal on metal.. so the 4 of us ( Jimbo, Michelle, Captain Chris and
myself – Ruth) to see fish eating pigs, after 3 hours of cycling and no
leisurely lunch with a beer (just a snack at a shack style shop) we arrived
at Captain Cook’s lookout complete with pig wallowing in black mud and
eating something.  Chris had to pacify Jimbo’s mutinous intentions to
continue this direction to see pigs  and we backtracked and headed to the
south coast beaches and resorts. After heading through wonderfully fertile
areas all planted with diverse crops with flying foxes overhead (and spiders
and caterpillars in Michelle’s way) we hit a road. Ruth was wisely guided by
Chris this time and so we headed right not left and found a small sign
saying beach. Up the road  came a pick up truck with a flat bed who stopped
to make sure we knew where we were, he invited us to his beach and Ruth
asked where we might find a truck to return us to the ship.  Isiah offered
so we swam on his beach with 2 of his 6 kids born in UK when he was
playing rugby in Worcester and then Llanelli. The bikes’ brakes completely
failed on the track down to the beach almost resulting in a maimed captain
but he lives to tell the story. Pictures of Isiah and his kids on the helm
will be forwarded in due course. Chris’s resilience in face of an adverse
bike and his staunch refusal to let anyone else ride the awful steed, only
confirmed of it’s recalcitrance once Chris gave up (having shot it twice ,
stamped his feet and threw it in the ditch) and allowed Jimbo to sample it’s
delights… Chris has recovered from the ride but feels he was mis-sold the
trip by Ruth… heigh ho. Others managed to see blow holes, fishing pigs and
the abel tasman lookout.  Saturday night found F’ward port all having a meal
out together (Minus Matt who planned to try the bars with the bench breakers, however he missed them but found a great bar with only locals and people
watched including the rugby 7’s) . Mislav insisted that Terry took pictures
with a waiter and further photo as he bidded a fond farewell.
Sunday – a day of Church and rest in Tonga – and many headed off to the huge
collection of churches on offer. The Kings church was particularly splendid
with 30 choristers in at least 4 part harmony and a brass band of 30 too.
The ladies dresses Michelle says were beautiful and made of silk with their
grass skirts over the top. Mislav wants it noted he would have liked to have
gone to church but felt that mess duty was more important in respect of all
Ali and Tracey do. Others headed off to an island – Pangaimotu which has
more relaxed expectations so swimming, snorkelling (till the wind got up
and visibility went) walking around the island, drinking beer and the
leisurely lunch was the order of the day.
Meanwhile all permanent crew managed at least 1/2 a day on shore including
Alice and Ben on the pink and black bikes . However the engineers are
struggling with challenges of Tongan water delivery – problems with the
wrong sized hoses and alarms from blocked drains all night and a port
geneator with a failed alternator (horses are fine but the donkeys feel
ill). Chris and Rowan enjoyed showing the scouts around the ship and can
quote their prayer – sung in Tongan and English  ‘Read your Bible and pray

With that we’ll sign off as we pass the newly formed
volcanic island with a big swell
Love to All
Matt (helm) Mike w/l , Mislav , Terry, Michelle, Michelle, Jimbo and Ruth