Friday 26th August 2016
I awoke Wednesday morning to an amusing sight. We are anchored off the beautiful island of Vakaeitu and the sun is finally shinning but fantastic as the view is, what tickled me this morning, was the sight of the husband and wife who live on the island wandering along the beach with the pet pig trotting along behind them. This pig thinks he’s just another one of the family dogs. Not only does he go for a walk each morning, he sits at the family’s feet as they work creating handicrafts and when you land on the island he runs up to you for a stroke.
David, his wife and daughter live in a small house made from a wooden frame and corrugated iron panels, set just off the beach in the shade cast by the magnificent trees that grow all around. They are the only inhabitants of the island that has been the family home for a hundred and fifty years, a clearing in the hill with a cross, marks his Grandfather and Great Grandfathers graves. David worked for the national Tongan airline but has recently moved back to the island and now lives a subsistence life growing and harvesting from the land and sea. They make handicrafts to sell and prepare a Tongan Feast for the yachties anchored in the bay.
We joined one on Monday night and had great fun, despite the rather makeshift organisation, wonky chairs, disparate collection of plates and bowls and a selection of dogs and pigs around our feet. Along with the essential spit roast suckling pig his wife, an ex-chef, cooked a delicious fish curry, sweet and sour fish, a crab salad and a dozen other dishes. To accompany the food they entertained us with traditional songs, David played his guitar and his daughter, with a touch of teenage shyness, gave us a demonstration of Tongan dancing. At the end of the meal they made an appeal for any mechanics to look at their outboard that had broken down, without their small boat they are dependent on others to get off the island. Rick dingied accross to help Tony from s/y Cetacea have a look, they both concluded it was the carburettor and unfortunately needed more skill than they could provide but we did at least manage to charge his phone for them.
Vakaeitu is semicircular in shape and with the other islands in the group were once the edge of a volcanic crater, so we are completely surrounded by wooded islands and are protected from the brisk winds that have at last cleared out the rain. We spent our first days here windows wide open, everything from curtains to mattresses on deck, drying out the damp and cleaning away the mould that had suddenly appeared on items and spots through out the boat.
With Raya fresh and clean we started to explore. The beach has a shallow band of rock and coral running right around it and with over a metre of tide, runs ashore have to be timed well to avoid either stranding our dingy high and dry or having to wade thigh deep to retrieve it. So yesterday at twelve, an hour before high tide, we anchored the dingy a few metres out and tied to a tree. Behind David’s house is a trail through the tropical forest, up over the ridge, to a stunning secluded beach on the SE coast of the island. The trail took us through a tangle of countless species of trees and shrubs, tropical bird song filtered down with the sunlight from the canopy above, tiny lizards with luminescent blue tails skitted through the thick leaf litter at our feet and bright burnt orange butterflies filled the air.
As we reached the crest of the hill we were hit by the cooling breeze from the southeasterly wind and carefully decended the steep muddy path down to the delightful beach below. The white sand was soft, our feet sinking deep as the waves lapped around our ankles, we regretted not bringing our snorkelling gear, reef stretched out from the rocks.
On our return David was waiting for us with an opened coconut to quench our thirst. With sun back out the true Tonga is shinning through.