2008 Tonga/Fiji Journal Notes
Ed Van Liew
Amy Van Liew
-There’s your problem!
-Ed’s Cooking Motto: when in doubt add fat, sugar, and/or salt.
-Sorry, we’re all out of pink….
-Your estro buddies are turning on you.
-Undercarriage scrub buddies
-rounding up to XX:00
-<fill in the blank>-itation; eg; sailitation, scrubitation, foamitation
-This is the best <fill in the blank> EVER.
Picked up Bryan and Collette. We’re finally on our way!
The flight to LA was uneventful. Sally dropped us off at the SMF terminal, and then turned in the rental car, while Dan waited impatiently! Got to LAX and walked over to Tom Bradley intl. terminal. The lines for EVA Air were out the door, but no lines at all at Air Pacific. Sally and I got pulled out of the security line and went through the fast track line--- good thing, because they really searched her bag.
Met Ed and Amy at the gate, and talked about what we would do if our luggage didn’t arrive. (hopefully not!).
The flight to
Wow! We flew from
Upon arriving in Vava’u, we got our boat; Sapphire Seas II, a 44’ Beneteau (3 cabins, 3 heads). Right away, it began to storm, so we decided to stay moored in Neiafu harbor.
While Bryan, Dan, and Ed scoped out the local bar’s beer stocks, the girls went out foraging for provisions.
We had dinner at the Mermaid restaurant. The highlight of dinner was that the power went out just prior to serving, so the meals were served by the light of the waitress’s cell phone.
Overnight we had a great storm blow through. Lots of lightning and tremendous thunderclaps, sounding like lightning hitting the masts of different boats! We thought that it rained about 6 inches, based on the amount of water in the dinghy. (Bryan and Ed later determined that the dinghy had a leak, so it was probably only a couple of inches of rain). The vent above Bryan’s and Collette’s cabin leaked, so they got drenched.
While Bryan, Collette, Ed
and Amy sat through
What a difference a day
makes! We woke to blue skies and
wonderful weather. After a quick forage
for last minute provisions, we sailed off.
We snorkeled off of Nuku island, off the main
Sally and Dan made dinner… cold spicy noodles and oyster beef. After dinner we tried kava for dessert. Didn’t know if it had any effect, will have to try again tomorrow without wine in advance. Let you know tomorrow…..
Amy’s saying for the day: “I love kava, kava is good” According to the travel guides, kava has the effects of alcohol, without the hangover. One drink makes your mouth tingle, and if you have enough, you can’t move. The locals call it “brown label”.
We did find the Southern Cross, and had lots of discussions about alternate uses for Chloraseptic…..
Dinner recipe (to compare against the real recipe later)
Cold Spicy noodles:
- Rice noodles
- Peanut butter
- Sesame oil
- Chili paste
- Rice wine vinegar (oops, not in real recipe, that explains the additional tang!)
- Franzia box wine
- soy sauce
- crushed peanuts over the top.
- Red and green peppers
- Garlic cloves
- Ginger slices
o white wine
o Corn flour (instead of starch)
- Oyster sauce:
o Oyster sauce
o Soy sauce
o Corn flour
Went to bed at , (rounding up to ).
Friday, 9/5- Another wonderful day.
After toast and jam, Collette had us leave our mooring while under sail, sailing Southwest through the passage between Katafanga and Tounga. We anchored off of Euakafu island. While Bryan and Collette watched the ship, Amy, Ed, Sally and Dan went for a hike, looking for the tomb at the top of the island. Took a while, but we found it!
We then headed North between
Oto and A’A
We then headed to Swallows cave, but there was a snorkel boat already there, so we skipped it for today. We then headed over to the Tonga Resort. But they were full for the evening. After trying the Mala resort (watch out for the black mooring ball !), we gave up when the dinghy excursion couldn’t find signs of life. (we later read that it had closed). So we headed back to Mooring for dinner at the aquarium restaurant (phone ahead!).
Saturday, 9/6: Yet another wonderful day!
We headed back out for
provisions on shore. (got lots of
cinnamon rolls) and scored some cheese (
We stopped at the Ika-Lahi game and fishing lodge, but were turned away, so we anchored over by the local village and walked through town. Hunga village has ~350 residents, one town building (with the phone), one primary school, and 6 churches. We met a lady named Cia who invited us to church tomorrow. We also bought 12 vanilla beans from a local lady for 40 pa’anga.
After returning to the boat, a local trader, Vaha, stopped by our boat (in a dugout outrigger) to sell us some local necklaces. After a beer and about an hour of chatting, we purchased several of his necklaces. He then invited us to attend his church the next day but we told him he had already accepted Cia’s invitation. He then invited us to his house for a meal after church to which we accepted. He departed to greet an incoming catamaran.
Ed ended up making “Tongan Enchiladas”, with steak, Canadian bacon, cabbage, sweet chili sauce, homemade tortillas, a wonderful cream sauce made of butter, flour, 5 spice, coconut milk, chicken broth, mango juice and an eel sauce. Delicious! The drizzle (yes, he did make a drizzle) was made from soy sauce, ginger, honey and a little sugar, reduced down.
We voted Ed’s dinner as the best so far- “game on” for Bryan and Collette!
Some local sayings:
-O Fa tu (oh fa too) -cheers, literally, love from the heart.
-Malo Le Lei –hello.
Malo alpito - thank you.
Fei Fei Hake – how are you?
Koa ai ho hinga – what is your name?
No fua – good bye (if we are leaving)
Alwa – goody bye, (if we are staying)
We awoke to church bells ringing. Hunga village has six churches competing for 350 folks. After a breakfast of coffee and cinnamon rolls, and a warm shower, we headed into shore and church. Cia met us and walked us over. There were a total of ~30 folks at the service. Her husband was the speaker (minister?). The service was in Tongan, which meant we couldn’t understand a bit of it!.
During the service, little kids would wander up and down the aisles, with the adults giving them head slaps to keep them in control as they went by (It takes a village?). Later Sally learned that in Tongan society, all of your mother’s sisters are also your mother, and all of your father’s brothers are also your fathers. So I guess that meant that the kids were getting head-slapped by all of their mothers.
The singing was wonderful, and well worth the visit!
After church, we met Vaha, (who turned out to be a minister at a competing church), for a lite lunch of papaya/banana pudding, tuna wrapped in Taro leaves (LU), corned beef wrapped in Taro leaves, and coconut/papaya juice. After chatting for an hour, with an exchange of gifts (thanks Ed for the fancy filet knife), and a promise of a laptop from Bryan and Collette, we headed out at high tide with Amy at the helm. The passage into the bay can only be done at high tide, as there were only a couple of feet of clearance under the keel.
We headed south around the
island, thinking we’d stop at Blue hole for a snorkel (NOT!). We stopped instead at Sisia which had a
beautiful beach. After a quick look,
We then headed to
We also saw two sets of whales, one while moored at Mounu.
Speaking of mooring, to say that the anchor site is unprotected would be kind. For the dinghy ride into dinner we had to dodge several reefs and outcroppings. For the return Bryan and Ed scouted the way with their “lanterns” (aka flashlights). Overnight the boat rocked constantly. We all agreed that the next stop would be better sheltered.
After a walk around the island (the girls did their lunges and other bootcamp exercises), a tour of one of the Fales and picking up some homemade bread, we headed back. Dan and Bryan snorkeled around the reef, seeing several schools of fish.
Ed tried his hand at
fishing… so far all he’s caught is one small fish his first day, and some grass
today. After “breaking camp” we headed
out for the Paella restaurant back by the
Did I say a great night’s sleep? That’s an understatement! We awoke to another beautiful day.
After a great breakfast of banana pancakes (thanks Bryan and Collette), Sally and Amy did a workout with the water bucket and the broom, swabbing the deck.
The “plan” for tonight is to
anchor off the west
So plans change a little. We first sailed through a difficult passage; 2 green? buoys to starboard, followed by a red one to port, then dodge coral heads. However, we never found the red buoy. We did find our way to the old harbor at Neifu. While Bryan stayed on board, he sent the rest of us on to shore to forage for food - we climbed the backside of the hill and got water, beer, cheese, wine, and ice!. We made it back in time to sail over to Kenutu. We made it through, with Dan at the bow (in the rain) looking for coral heads.
After a successful anchor, we sent out a shore party to find the trail to the other side of the island. (actually we all went). We didn’t find the trail, but that didn’t stop us. With Dan clearing the way of spider webs, we ended up on the eastern shore, with the surf pounding! What a beautiful/spectacular sight! After pictures we set off backtracking our steps. Of course, we ended up bushwhacking across the island, with only a general idea of the right direction. Ed finding a slightly different route than Dan, ended up taking his turn clearing the never ending array of spider webs on the way back. Don’t ask us how, but we came out on the beach at the same spot we went in. Sally ended up with several souvenirs in the form of thorns in her leg from the hike.
Grabbed the dinghy and
headed for the ship. About half way
across, the engine quit. After a quick
check of the empty gas tank,
Bryan, Ed, and Dan took “man showers” at the back of the boat while Collette made bruchetta out of the hot dog bun for appetizers. Bryan and Collette then made spaghetti and a salad for dinner. Using local sauces, the spaghetti had a definite BBQ flavor, which, while different, was good.
After dinner our goal was to
make it to “rounding up to ”,
so we played UNO again. The wind came up
over the night, which kept
Wednesday, Sept. 10;
OK, I need to limit my alcohol consumption. After breakfast of toast, peanut butter, and jam, we headed out.
Navigating the obstacle course is much easier with the sun at your back and no rain. Our plans for the day are to sail to Port Maurelle at Kapu (anchor site 7) and check out Swallow’s cave, then head to the Tongan Beach Resort (anchor site 5) on Pangaimotu for the Tongan Feast.
It’s a beautiful day, with the wind at our back (a running sail with a couple of jibes).
We first stopped by Swallow’s cave. We dinghy’d in and around the cave. Bryan and Dan went snorkeling on our second pass. We then motored over to Port Maurelle for lunch. We had Tongan noodles, crab salad, and pineapple/chili salsa (way to go, Ed!). Sally and Dan took rides in the bosun’s chair.
After lunch we headed over to Mariner’s cave. On the way we saw spinner dolphins (wow!) While Collette and Sally manned the ship, the rest of us dinghy’d over. The brochure didn’t lie, the entrance to the cave is about 6 feet under the surface, and a dive in of about 14 feet. The cave is large, capable of holding about 50 snorkelers at a time. The reflected sun comes in through the 25 foot wide cave entrance - a beautiful blue color.
After Mariner’s, we headed
over to the Tongan Beach Resort on
The Tongan Beach Resort is a
beautiful boutique resort with 8 rooms.
Dieter Dyck has run the place for 24 years, building it up from
scratch. He paid the king “a pig and 2
tuna” to lease a portion of the island where the resort is located, with
ongoing rent of 10 Pa’Anga / week. Since
the king owns all of the land in
Dieter claims that the resort is not a financial success, but it is a social success, providing jobs for 3 villages. Dinner included kava, potato salad, octopus salad, more kava, taro, yams, lamb in taro leaf, corned beef in taro leaf, chicken curry, mussels, raw fish, salad, and suki yaki. Dessert included ice cream, fruit salad, banana pudding, and bread pudding.
Dieter then read us a story
about a lemon-dancing contest he once had, in which he substituted onions
because he didn’t have any more lemons.
He then had us do the contest with lemons. Each partner had to dance with a lemon
pressed between their foreheads. The
last couple to drop their lemon won.
Bryan and Collette won, with Ed claiming “hip interference” from
The rest of the entertainment included a kava-drinking band with a bass made of a wooden box and a jute string. There were also local dancers (similar to Hawaiian hula), who oiled their arms and back so that spectators could paste Pa’Angas on them (now I understand why Tongan money seems so greasy).
After heading back to the
ship in the dark (who forgot the flashlights?), Sally went to bed (immediately
going to sleep), and the rest of us played UNO, with
After coffee (we had enough
water for that, fortunately!), we headed back to Neifu to refill our tanks and
go to breakfast at the Aquarium. Service
was leisurely (very slow!), since there was a large group just ahead of
us. We had serious provision withdrawal
We then sailed back over to Port Maurelle for a beach and snorkel day. While snorkeling in, we saw some schools of small blue fish, which would hover over a coral head. As you approached, they would contract en masse to the safety of the coral. Ed found a palm frond outfit which he modeled for the rest of us.
After resting on shore listening to Sally’s iPod, Ed and Amy set up a game of beach bowling/horseshoes using a water bottle and stick as the targets, and coconuts as balls. The girls won the first game, and the guys won the next two. On the third game, the girls needed only one more point to win for several rounds, but Ed, through determination and drive, drilled the last shot right through the stick.
Since this was our last full day on board, we gave away most of our leftovers to a local woman who had previously sold Amy some carvings. Sally later read that the villagers will all share in any food that is given to them, so we felt good about giving it away.
We then had a great sail with Ed then Dan at the helm. We sailed back to Neifu harbor, taking about 8 tacks along the way. By the time we got back, we had our tacking technique pretty much nailed.
Our last dinner was back at the Mermaid, where we asked for some oil for popcorn later. We dinghy’d back (now where did we park?), for a last boat game of UNO, which Ed won.
Woke early to a beautiful
day. After coffee and Beng-Bengs, we
packed up the boat, and headed for the airport.
This time the
We decided to meet at for breakfast at Friends. After breakfast, we rented a van to go
exploring the island before our flight to
After departing the
blowholes we headed southeast, looking for the natural land bridge. After some false turns, we ended up on the
southern shore at a quarry, where
The main roads on Tonga Tapu are paved… sort of….
After reaching the stalactite cave, we were told that to see them, we would have to swim in, and the fee was 10 Pa’Anga/person. Screw that! We hopped back into the van, and headed south to Hina cave at Oholei beach. When we got there, we found a charming little resort where the owner showed us the cave and where he does his Tongan Feasts. After a nice chat and a tour, we hopped back in the van and headed off for the airport. We arrived right on time at and Sally gave the van keys back to the rental car lady (actually, we think that it was her personal van).
Now we’re off to
We went for a walk and a run
before breakfast. We then decided to go
off as couples for the day. The girls
scheduled “paw” appointments and
Sally and Dan went to check out the shops at Port Denarau while the rest of the group checked out the pool. While it rained, Sally and Dan were forced to stop at the Hard Rock for beer and nachos.
Dinner that night was at the Westin Steak House restaurant, with the girls really decked out, and Dan in a “sulu”, the traditional Fijian “manskirt”. We got a lot of smiles and comments from the waitstaff. We finished the evening with drinks and dancing at the bar, with a rendition of “What a Wonderful World”.
Today is scuba and “paw” day. After breakfast, the girls went to get manicures and pedicures while the guys went scuba diving off of _______.
The two dive sites were
Magic reef, and Magic passage, which the book on
After watching the nightly fire ceremony at the hotel, we headed out on the “Bula bus” to the Hard Rock for dinner. After stopping at the other hotels along the way, we all agreed that the Westin was the best hotel in Denarau.
Our last full day! (or so we thought).
After breakfast, Ed, Amy, Sally and Dan headed into Nadi to check out the sights. We started at the Hindu temple, where the guide let us in, even though we weren’t properly dressed.
We then checked out the
locally made crafts as wellas the farmer’s market (and wished that we had had
Ed played volleyball with
the staff, while the rest of us drank Coronas and relaxed by the pool. Both Ed and Dan wore sulus to dinner at the
Hamachi Tapaniaki restaurant. Only their
wives will ever know if they chose to go “commando” underneath. We finished up the night with a game of
Our last day in
Amy and Dan did an early morning run while Sally walked. Bryan and Collette worked out in the gym. After a leisurely breakfast we adjourned to the lounge chairs for a final relaxing afternoon by the pool.
After showering at the hospitality suite and a (not so) light dinner of tapas, we headed for the airport.
We got there without any
problem, only to find that the flight had been cancelled! We later found that Air Pacific had
discontinued the Wednesday flights, but had never bothered to tell us. They offered to put us up for the night at
the West Motor Inn. Dan counter-offered
the Westin, to which they agreed. So
back we went, this time with an Aussie named Samantha in tow. Finished up the evening chastising our bar
waiter for kidding that our flight would be delayed followed by another game of
Thursday 9/18. Is this Groundhog Day?
After talking with the folks at home, and getting our flight and car connections fixed, we headed off to breakfast. Afterwards, we rented a taxi to take us to the Garden of the Sleeping Giant, a beautiful 50 acre orchid and natural garden conceived and built by the actor Raymond Burr in 1977. Afterwards, we headed back to the port for lunch. Since we didn’t have to check out until , we then went back to the hotel to relax by the pool, and get ready for the flights home (hopefully this time!).
Made it to the airport, and were glad to see that the flights were really going this time. After dinner at the airport, made it on board and got settled in for the flight home.
After getting through
Immigration and Customs in
We made it home without any further problems, and were glad to see the dogs.
While it’s nice to be back
home, we had a wonderful time in
Reflections: (feel free to add yours, and pass around)
The beaches are beautiful, and for the most part, deserted.
Provisioning the boat was more difficult than in the BVI’s, but still not really a problem. You just have to be more open-minded regarding what you want to eat (and be first in line for Coronas when the ferry makes its delivery!)
The Tongan people are genuinely
friendly, and very humble. While they
don’t have much, they are willing to share what they do have. Church on
The community in the islands around Vava’u also seems to be pretty close-knit. Sherry from the Ark Gallery noted that when big storms are imminent, they tow their houseboat onto one of the beaches or to the Tongan Resort until the storm passes. We also saw folks from other islands meeting in Neifu restaurants for breakfast on the weekends.
I was also impressed by how
While I feel that we got a
taste of the true
Staying at the Westin was
great, and a nice finish to our vacation.
In order to get a true sense
Would I recommend both
Would I go back?