Having fun in Vava’u, Tonga

Wednesday we did a few boat jobs and spent the day on board before we headed into the Aquarium Cafe for sundowners where we met up with a few other cruisers.  We had a lovely evening….stayed longer than planned…and ended up having dinner out too. We were delighted that dink managed to stay inflated while we were out – yay!

Thursday morning we were up reasonably early and sorted out the washing – dropped it off at Bubbles Laundry – and then wandered the market looking for fresh produce. The supply ship had come in on Wednesday so we were treated to a much wider range of vegetables and made the most of it buying a big bag of goodies including squash, courgettes, tomatoes, onions, green beans, carrots, peppers and potatoes. We also went to the bakers for fresh bread and to Digicel for a top up on the SIM card. This didn’t work out too well so we had to wait for it to be activated.   Eventually, after about half an hour, we were good to go.  Afterwards we spent an hour or so in the Tropicana cafe catching up on line and bumped into the guys from the marina in Opua, New Zealand, that we have reservations for. They have travelled here looking for business as they are sponsors of the upcoming Blue Water festival. Mid afternoon we returned to Morphie and thoroughly enjoyed a salmon and roasted vegetable dinner onboard as the sun went down before having an early night.

Friday morning we awoke to a strange glow in the sky….all very eerie. There was lightning in the distance and then suddenly we were hit with winds (up to 42 knots apparently) and the sea picked up even inside this mega protected anchorage giving us a fair amount of fetch. The rain was torrential and the thunder and lightning got closer. So we quickly got dressed, put on our foulies, and sat in the cockpit armed with a hot chocolate to keep us warm while we waited just in case.

Most cruisers were in the cockpit doing the same thing just in case the moorings gave way (although most of them, apparently, are built to withstand a cyclone) but we were surprised how many crew decided to stay in bed.  We heeled over quite dramatically and the VHF was alive with chatter – and it continued for about two hours.

This storm was not expected as only very light winds were forecast with a little precipitation and apparently this element of unpredictability is a significant feature of the weather here.   Great!   We were very pleased not to have been anchored in any of the outer reef-strewn anchorages.  Many people dragged and returned to Neiafu during the morning so every mooring ended up being taken with many having to anchor off.

Suddenly it was gone….and the sun came out….and the sea flattened….and it was like another day. Amazing!  We headed into town to pick up our laundry and then came back to Morphie and relaxed for a little while before heading ashore to the Aquarium Cafe at 12.30 where we met Chris (SV Sea Bear). We had a couple of beers while waiting for the complimentary minibus that was picking us up to take us to The Boatyard. This was the unofficial start of the Blue Water Rally and we were treated to a sausage sizzle bbq, free cold beer, and traditional music including kava which Richard tried again although is not convinced of its alleged calming properties! I think it looks like dirty dish water LOL.

The Boatyard event was popular and we enjoyed looking around the new haul-out facility. It is pretty elevated and a long way up the Vaipua Lagoon and tucked in behind some pretty impressive hills. We think this will be a very popular option for people during the cyclone season although I did notice no hard standing which probably means mud in the rains!!!!  Nice place though and we hope that the owners make a success of it – certainly the little on-site chandlers seemed to have something for everyone as most cruisers purchased a few items whilst there.

Having enjoyed socialising for most of the afternoon we returned to Neiafu and jumped out at a local hostelry where Richard was enticed into a game of pool by a very drunk local! He won two games on the spin and the guy staggered off up the street…. Was quite funny to watch. We then wandered back down the hill to the waterfront and ended up having dinner in the Aquarium Cafe. Was a lovely day.

Saturday we did some hand washing and just generally lazed around. Later in the afternoon we headed into the Mango Cafe to watch a cup final in Australian rules football. Was a fast and furious match and there were a few Australians supporting both teams so there was a pretty good atmosphere. Great fun!

Sunday morning we were up at a reasonable hour and headed across to the dock to be picked up by minibus as we were going to a Tongan Feast. Feasts are a big part of Tongan life so we were excited and were hoping for a real cultural experience. Well….we arrived at the Botanical Gardens and met the retired Minister of Agriculture whose had devoted his life to the flora and fauna of Tonga. Was an interesting guy to talk to….

We also chatted with an Australian who had come on his own as his wife had been taken ill. Richard also tried the appropriately named local brew Maka as that is what some of his friends at home call him….

Sadly the ‘feast experience’ didn’t live up to expectation. Well, actually, the food did. It was a huge buffet – including a sucking pig that had been cooked underground in a traditional pit – and there was lots for everyone. Absolutely delicious.

The surroundings were lovely, sitting above the beach overlooking a nice bay…. But we didn’t see the pit or the food preparation, there was no interaction with locals, this was just a nice Sunday buffet put on for tourists. Never mind, we thoroughly enjoyed it anyway, despite the huge numbers of mosquitoes that decided to feast on us.

Coming back to the dock we stopped off at the Mango Lounge for a presentation on local anchorages here in the Vava’u group of islands. This was interesting and we will definitely be visiting some of them…. We then wandered back for a pontoonie to the Aquarium before heading back to Morphie. So completely stuffed we didn’t even eat any dinner….

Monday morning we headed into town. We picked up some more fresh produce from the market, some more drinking vouchers from the ATM, and then onto customs. We wanted to ask about the inter-island clearance rules – hoping that we could get our clearance, go off exploring and then head south to the Ha’apai group. Sadly that isn’t the case, we have to return to Neiafu, organise the clearance, and then have 24 hours to leave….. Oh well, thought that might be the case.

I blogged for a while as Richard got in the water to clean our waterline and hull again…..completely covered in green slime….this is a never-ending task!   Later on we cleaned up and headed over to Serenity of Swanwick for afternoon tea with Sarah and Phil. What we didn’t know was that it was Sarah’s birthday so glad we took a bottle of wine gift with us!  We were joined by a number of other cruisers to a traditional Devon tea including home-made scones with cream and jam. Was lovely.

Afterwards we headed to the Mango Lounge where we registered for the Vava’u Blue Water Rally.  We had a couple of cold ones while we waited for the festivities to start.

Well, the first surprise, was the Catholic School’s brass band turning up and entertaining us with their music, their beautiful singing voices and even their dancing. And yes their school uniform includes a traditional skirt for the lads. Was a great start…followed by rum punch and a bowl of cava.

Then we had the welcome chats followed by a great buffet dinner…. There was some dancing by one of the staff dressed as a woman which was hysterical and the Minister of Tourism even did a bit of karaoke. Another good evening.

Tuesday morning we were up early and headed to the Bella Vista for breakfast. This included a talk by the Bay of Islands Marina, Opua, New Zealand (where we have reservations), a weather / passage briefing, and a chat by the bio-security guy. Was very informative. There were a few quiz questions and a random drawn – I can’t believe it but we walked away with a $10 booze voucher;  a voucher for a free pizza and bottle of wine;  and, best of all, a voucher for five free days in the marina.  We never win anything so was very pleased!

We are now in the Tropicana Cafe catching up on better-speed internet. More festivities planned for tonight and the rest of the week so looking forward to that.

Bye for now