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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Friendly Islands....finally!

TONGA | Friday, 22 August 2008 | Views [2080]

Tonga's coat of arms

Tonga's coat of arms

As we were flying into Tonga, I noticed the island is dotted with coconut palms. I had brought a coconut with me, but when I went through immigration they took it. The official told me I can get tons of coconuts here. Grant wasn’t able to get me a ride into Nuku’alofa, so I got in the van to go to Toni’s Guesthouse.

The driver’s name is Tohi, and his girlfriend, Elice is visiting from New Zealand. Tongans were very patriotic; there are banners everywhere celebrating the coronation of King Tupou V. Let me tell you a little about Tonga. It is the only monarchy in the Pacific, and the only country to never be formally colonized by another country. Its currency is the pa’anga and 1 pa’anga = 100 seniti. However, many people frequently call it “dollar.” At Toni’s I put my stuff in a room and got two mini bananas. They’re sweeter than what I’m used to. I was absolutely excited to be here in Tonga. Last year I would have never even thought of coming. I was itching to go into town, so the attendant, Leni gave me a ride. She dropped me off outside of the post office and told me about the Friend’s Café. I went inside and used the internet and I emailed everyone about going from the Fiji Islands to the Friendly Islands. Mr. Hanley emailed me warning me to beware of falling coconuts, and my mother emailed me saying she spoke with my girlfriend to let her know I’m alright. At the café I met a pretty lady named Vanessa and she just got done with a 10 day cruise around Tonga. Afterward I walked up to the Royal Palace. Tonga has a very colorful coat of arms, and it is depicted on the palace gate. I walked around the outside of the palace premises and took photos. I walked with some locals and then asked the guard at the gate if I could check out the palace grounds, but no visitors are allowed. At a restaurant up the street, I got a bottle of water and as I was walking out a young man asked if I’d like to eat with him. His name is Mateaki and we ate lamb curry and mashed cassava.

He said that Tongans share everything, and he even offered me to stay at his house for free but I had already made a booking at Toni’s Guesthouse. I told him I’d take up the offer tomorrow night. The people here are extremely friendly and there are smiles all around. After eating I walked around the Talamahu Market. They sell everything including coconuts, pineapples, peppers, cucumbers, and lots of other fruits and vegetables. I got a big coconut and then walked through the market. I was talking with the locals and I wanted to get some 1 and 2 seniti coins, so a gentleman directed me to the bank and I got some. Mateaki was hanging out at the fruit market, so I hung out with him for a bit. Across the street at a little shop, I met a pretty girl named Cecile from Switzerland. She’s going out to a club tonight and she invited me, so I got her phone number. She’s here for like six months and is trying to get work as a teacher. My coconut cracked as I was holding it, so I cracked it open on the street and shared some of it with Cecile. I love coconut but it’s so hard to scrape out of the shell. As I was walking, I gave half of my coconut to a local girl about my age who asked for it. I’m really impressed with how friendly people are here. I hung out with some local guys and took photos with them. Tongans are very photogenic! As I was hanging out, I met a gentleman who’s been to South Georgia and Antarctica. He said he got a good deal while he was in Ushuaia. I’ve been trying for three years to go to Antarctica. A girl working at one of the shops was going to get me a ride back to Toni’s but she instead got a ride from someone else. Someone then let me use their cell phone so I could call the guesthouse. I waited for like a half hour until the Leni showed up. As we were driving, we saw the king drive by. Leni knew it was the king because the police block off the road when he’s driving by. She told me about the dinner show at the Good Samaritan Inn tonight for T$30, so I opted to do that instead of joining the group for kava. Back at the guesthouse, I relaxed for about an hour and then Toni picked us up. I nearly forgot my camera, but the girl brought it to me. Toni is originally from the U.K., but he’s been living in Tonga for the past 18 years. He has a rather dry sense of humor and considers himself an “old bastard.” By then it was dark out as we were driving to the northwestern tip of Tongatapu. Going to the show were three other guys from the U.K. They just came here from Samoa and said that there “isn’t much” here in Tonga. I can’t disagree more because I’ve only been here about eight hours and it’s been very rewarding. I sure would love to go to Samoa. At the inn, we paid for our food and then had to get a few minutes until it was ready. It was an all-you-can-eat Tongan feast. There was sweet and sour chicken, sweet potatoes, chicken curry, and even a whole roasted pig, among other things.

The dessert though was really good; a slice of pineapple pie. At 9:00 the show started. There were dances from Tonga, Samoa, Tahiti, and the Cook Islands being demonstrated, and later we got to go up on stage and dance with one of the dancers. The most impressive dance though, was the fire dance. The dancer actually put fire in his mouth and used his hand to light the other end of the stick. It is quite incredible and I got a full video of the dance!

The finale was a demonstration of the Tongan version of the haka. It is a great show that is totally worth the price! At 9:45, Toni picked us up and we were on our way back to the guesthouse. There is a German kid (about my age) staying here and he doesn’t want to pay for anything, therefore Toni didn’t pick him up. Getting stuff for free is part of the fun in traveling, but there are many times where you have to pay for things. It’s not worth being rude about; you can’t expect everything for free. Another factor is that you miss out on so much when you’re trying to save money while traveling. On the way back, Toni stopped at a roadside stand so we could get food for tomorrow. I got some Weet-Bix, spaghetti in a can, and sugar. It was getting dark, and I sat at the guesthouse and was talking with a girl named Vickie while making a cup of tea. She is leaving tonight and going back to New Zealand where she’s traveling around for three months. She recently visited the Vava’u Islands, which are a prime destination for sailing, diving, and other water activities. I’m probably not going to have time to go up there because I’m only here seven days. I then took a shower and lay down. In all, it has been another great and fun-filled day. Tomorrow I hope to go snorkeling or visit Ha’amonga ‘a Maui trilithon. I’m exhausted and I’ve been up 19 hours today, so I’ll see you tomorrow.

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