Friday, November 04, 2011


We hadn't originally planned to go to Tongatapu. We were hoping to just leave for New Zealand from somewhere in Ha'api but we weren't seeing the weather window we wanted and Shalimar had some problems so we decided to go into Nuku'alofa (the largest town in all of Tonga) to repair, resupply, and wait for a good weather window. While typing this, I realized that people might not know where this stuff is so here's a map that I borrowed from the lonelyplanet website (hopefully they don't mind):


We had heard some not so favorable things about Nuku'alofa. It was kind of crowded and a bit on the dirty side and some of the locals looked a bit scary (in a gangsta kind of way) but we had a good time and found that people were really friendly - even the scary looking ones. Apparently California has the largest population of Tongans outside of Tonga and we met a lot of people who'd lived in California and spoke english very well. (English and Tongan are both official languages in Tonga but, English seems to be running a distant second in many areas). We met one guy who told us he'd lived in Oakland, California for several decades but had been thrown out of the US for drug dealing. He definitely had that Oakland drug dealer look about him but was super friendly and we had a long talk about Oakland (I lived there for a couple of years) while we were waiting for the bus. On a different day, two rather large, somewhat drunk, and heavily (and not very skillfully) tattooed guys were blocking the sidewalk with a bicycle as we approached. Once they noticed that the bike was in our way, they immediately moved it and apologized profusely. My favorite example of the disconnect between the tough-guy look and the friendly demeanor were the guys that I photographed in their car (see the picture in the slide show). I was in the harbor parking lot trying to get a photo of Architeuthis tied up on the other side when those guys saw me with the camera. The driver got out of his car, ran over to me, and in broken english asked me to take his picture. He then ran back to his car, got in, and assumed the most 'gangsta' pose he could manage. I showed him the picture and he seemed a bit dissatisfied and asked me to take another. When I showed him the second picture, I told him he looked totally gangster and he broke out in a huge smile. Right after that, I had two other groups of locals come over and ask me to take their pictures (the guys on the sinking boat and the three little kids - also in the slide show).

We spent a lot of time tied up in the harbor fixing things on our boats and going into town to buy supplies for the crossing. We took one bus trip out to the western side of the island to see the blow holes but for the most part we stayed near the harbor. I'm sure I could think of more stuff to write if I tried but I'm trying to get caught up so the pictures will pretty much have to do. Once we had done the necessary repairs and shopping and were reasonably confident that a weather window was on the way, we went out to anchor at Atata island near the pass that we'd take to get on our way to New Zealand.

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