Tuesday evening we went to the Aquarium Cafe to watching a talk about the humpback whales. This had been billed as ‘famous, entertaining and informative’ and not to be missed. Well, I beg to differ. The (English) presenter clearly knew her stuff but she thought she was funny. Her infantile attempts at humour and style of presentation was just plain annoying and irritating. Very poor and such a shame as we were keen to learn more, particularly about the migration routes and timings, but that was completely missing from the presentation. I think I could have done a better job using google as my resource. Rant over…. We had a nice evening chatting after the talk was over.
Wednesday morning and we headed to the Tropicana Cafe to meet up with our fellow Blue Water Festival participants. About 90 of us had registered for this event. We wandered up the road to the Hosea Primary School. The path up to the school was rough but the kids were lining both sides singing and dancing and dressed up in traditional costume to welcome us. Richard and I went up and down the line to shake hands and say hello to the kids and their parents and one of the taller lads gave me his flower lei. How nice!
We went to sit under an awning and were introduced to the kids by the headmistress. All the teachers and parents were dressed in their traditional finest and this was clearly a big day for them. The school is for children who are not in mainstream education – usually because they are not up to the standard required for joining or have learning difficulties – so this bridges the gap. Sadly it is not government funded at all so this little place is doing some fantastic work completely unsupported and running on school fees alone. The buildings are falling apart, the three classrooms have to have tarpaulin inside to stop the kids getting wet when it rains, and the latest project is to secure funds for roof repairs.
We sat down to be royally entertained by the kids singing and dancing – some in English – and some in Tongan. They were all absolutely amazing! The headmistress thanked us for our support as the annual Blue Water Festival and its hosts – Whangarai Marine Group and Bay of Islands Marina, New Zealand, plus some local businesses such as the Boatyard and Tropical Tease. This is clearly a special annual event for the school – she actually broke down in tears at one point. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house at this point!
We then carried on watching the kids and eventually joined them doing ‘disco’ and the ‘train’ dance. What fun… These kids are quite shy and retiring, which is true for most Tongans that we meet, but their faces lit up when you encouraged them to join in, helped a little by the odd parental push in the right direction LOL.
After the show we then were treated to an amazing buffet lunch which had been supplied by the parents for us – ranging from suckling pig to chicken to sandwiches to cakes to fruit. We all ate our fill and then, sadly, it was time to leave. The majority of us donated some cash to the roof fund as we left and the headmistress cried all over again. As we were walking back to the waterfront all the kids and their parents were being driven away and they were all shouting and waving goodbye and wishing us safe sailing as they left.
We returned to Morphie feeling quite emotional. The school visit was certainly one of the highlights of our trip this season and showed us how generous and kind these people are despite the fact that many of them live in relatively poor conditions. Apparently the average wage here is Tongan $150 per week which equates to around £50 – and then you realise why the locals do not eat or visit the waterfront bars and restaurants as the pricing is way beyond their means.
In the evening we returned to the Aquarium where we were treated to a pizza evening and had some interesting presentations by the Whangarei Marine Group and a representative from the New Zealand biosecurity team. We found out that there was lots of misinformation out there about what is allowed on our arrival into New Zealand. Basically we are just going to go with what we have left – food wise – and they’ll take what they want. Was another fun evening with more goodies – this time free New Zealand sim cards…. Certainly getting our money’s worth out of this festival LOL.
Thursday was the day of the Challenge Cup fun race but we decided not to join in. So Richard did some boat jobs while I tackled the New Zealand information pack to complete the necessary forms. Some can’t be completed until we actually leave Tonga but after a few hours I had made a good start!
Later on we went ashore for the After Race Party at the Basque Tavern where we were treated to a great BBQ and some free drinks….. There was some prize giving too for the competing boats and much laughter and frivolity. The music was blaring and as the drinks flowed the dancing started….. The music was an interesting mix of pretty old stuff and reminded us of a wedding DJ trying to cater to all tastes. Anyway…..it went on pretty late…..and we were almost the last people to leave…..suitably refreshed LOL.
Friday morning we got up at a reasonable hour and headed into town for the Treasures of the Bilge Swap Meet.
We wandered around but didn’t really find anything we needed so headed off to the market to top up on fresh produce.
We got some more drinking vouchers from the ATM before we headed to the Bella Vista for breakfast overlooking the bay and admired the (listing?) tall ship on the town’s main wharf.
The full traditional English went down very well and the huge pot of Ceylon tea certainly aided in our recovery from the excesses of the night before. On the way back up the street we popped into Tropical Tease who were making the Festival shirts. We weren’t keen on the ‘dirt’ shirts being dried in the sun so went ahead and purchased just ‘normal’ ones which were printed to order.
In the afternoon we had a lazy time before getting ready to go ashore to the final Closing Party. When we arrived we were allocated to a table and ended up with the Bay of Islands Marina guys. Was a fun evening with a three-course meal, an auction, some more spot prizes and Tongan dancing.
The auction had another 10 days berthage in the Bay of Islands Marina so Richard bid hard…..and we were the winning boat. We now have 15 days total pre-paid and Paul, the manager, thinks we are trying to bankrupt him LOL as he had donated this (along with the 5 days we had won at an earlier event) and the money we paid went to the Vava’u Blue Water Sailing School to teach kids to sail and to swim. Another great evening…..with tunes by DJ Cue.
This morning, Saturday, and I’m blogging while Richard has filled up the diesel tank from the jugs on the rail. We need to go ashore later to get some more drinking vouchers as we spent lots at the auction….otherwise probably just a lazy recovery day from all the festivities of the last week.
Tomorrow, Sunday, we are planning on leaving Vava’u to go visiting some nearby islands – this archipelago comprises 60 islands – and we have identified a few that we fancy seeing before returning here to Neiafu to get our inter-island clearance to move to the next island group in the Kingdom of Tonga.
Bye for now