Saturday 20th August 2016
The sky was dark and heavy with clouds, the air enveloping us was totally windless, thick and damp, the water was a dark green mirror, Raya drifted aimlessly around her anchor chain, nothing else moved. It felt strangly like we existed within a bubble that had been dropped into a world that had stopped. We were anchored off Aisea beach, deep inside another of Vava’u’s convoluted inlets, we were the only boat. The quiet stillness continued into the evening and then suddenly the wind picked up, a cloud opened and the rain came down, the world outside had started up again.
Sailing around these islands with their associated coral reefs in bad light is not a good idea, so Tuesday we grabbed a brief thinning of the clouds to move from Port Maurelle a few miles around the corner for a change of view. I’m sure the view at Aisea Beach is normally beautiful, as I’m sure is the rest of Tonga but we unfortunately have had only short glimpses of this pacific paradise with the sun shining.
It is now Saturday and the rain is still tipping down. We thank our lucky stars that we are not just here on holiday, there has been little sunshine for two weeks, just rain and more rain. At least we have not be feeling up to doing very much, yes of course, I caught the cold too.
We did have one day of nice weather, keen to get off the boat despite feeling a bit fragile, we took the dingy out to snorkel and explore the cliffs around the area. The geology here results in amazing shoreline features, Vava’u is comprised of 60 low lying coral limestone islands, that sit on volcanic bedrock. Most of the shore is formed of steep wooded cliff faces that plunge straight down into the sea making for deep coastal waters, where there are no reefs it is often 50m deep right up to the shore. As the sea erodes the relatively soft limestone, over millennia a notch has appeared that runs all around the islands, it is punctuated with caves some of which run far under the cliffs. Close up the rock is heavily pitted and looks quite soft but is actually razor sharp, as we discovered trying to investigate under one of the many ledges, ouch!
Looking up through the woodland we spotted a colony of fruit bats hanging from the trees above us. Each bat is a good foot long with a much larger wing span, when flying they are rather spectacular and live up to their common name of flying foxes. Asleep however they resemble bits of decaying leather tangled in the branches. On the rocks were a pair of white Black Naped Terns. We must have been a little too near to thier nest as they squawked loudly flapping their wings at us, refusing to move from their spot while we past by. Terns of various varieties have been entertaining us since we arrived in Polynesia, their flight is extremely graceful and often performed in perfect formation with a second or third bird. With no sign of a let up in the weather we returned to Neiafu, using the rainy days to stock back up with fresh food, so we can spend the sunny days that must arrive soon out at the more remote islands. We also went to immigration and extended our visa for a further two months which will take us to the end of October and our departure for New Zealand.
Bumping into friends we were persuaded to join them at the Thursday night quiz at the Bounty Bar, with considerable help from the two youngsters off the catamaran Do Over, our team was victorious. Our prize made us feel as if we were in the tropics even if the weather didn’t, free rum punches all round.