Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The last few days we have been sailing around the Ha’apai Group of islands in Tonga. This group is the undiscovered gem of the South Pacific. There are 100’s of islands, many which are uninhabited. Many of the islands are small, some you can walk around in an hour. The outside of the islands are covered in beaches and the interiors are covered in palm trees, breadfruit trees and other luxurious vegetation. There is a thorn in this rosebush, which are the reefs. They are everywhere. We do not have paper charts for the area and our electronic charts are about 200 meters out, so we navigate by eye. When we are sailing we are constantly on the lookout for light blue water, the lighter blue the water, the shallower it is. The other giveaway is breaking white water, you don’t want to be surprised by that. This is all a bit nerve-wracking and for the first few days I did not enjoy our sails at all. We do not travel at night and if it is cloudy we stay put because you cannot see the reefs if it is really overcast. Fortunately we have been blessed with really settled weather since we have arrived so have not had to hunker down and stay in one spot because of weather.
We have stopped at 5 islands so far, we are heading south all the time. Yesterday Barry rowed the dinghy ashore (he has been rowing for exercise lately, I swim back to the boat for mine) When we hit the shore we beach combed for about an hour. We found some lovely shells; the island was off the beaten path so the shells had not been picked over. Barry battled with some coconut trees trying to get them to give up their fruit. No luck, he whacked and whacked with a long stick but the coconuts refused to fall. On the other side of the island he was in luck, and once he had gotten one to fall he took out his knife and cut it up and we slurped the coconut juice out to satisfy our thirst. It is hot work, strolling along a beach on a deserted island in the blazing sun!!! Back on the boat he hacked away at it some more and we ate the fresh coconut for a snack.
As the sun was starting to set a couple from a boat that was anchored about 3 kilometers away came over. They introduced us to Una, a Tongan who was living by himself on the island next to where we were anchored. They invited us ashore to have a fire and munchies at sunset. When we arrived having safely dodged the reefs in the dying light; we sat and watched the sun set. Then Una went night fishing to catch our dinner. He had a light and a spear gun and away he went. While he was gone we got the fire going with coconut fronds and shells and some wood. When he came back the fire was almost perfect and he cooked the fish that he had caught. We sat around and shared our stories and ate very fresh fist to our hearts delight. This was the experience we had been looking for when we came to this group. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, and then set off for a new adventure this morning.

I have some lovely pictures but will load them later, this computer is slower than molasses.