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FROM NEW ZEALAND - Originator of the 'Birthday Season'

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Sunday, 21st of April 2024


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Tonga - Episode Five Drowned but Alive


Picnic Beach

The next day we were up rather early (8:30 is rather early for us) as we are scheduled to go on a water tour of the islands with Niva a local boat owner that works for the resort. As we are enjoying our fruit, coffee and toast breakfast, Murray the chef is busy running along the shoreline yelling at a local spear-fisher who is gliding by in a kayak just a few feet out from the beach. It isn't a good idea to encourage spearfishing on a beach full of tourists… anyone near my proportions could easily be mistaken for a small whale and that would be all the resort would need. The local pays no attention whatsoever to Murray and that further upsets him but little can be done short of dynamite.

Soon we see Niva pull into the dock in his wooden boat with the outboard motor on the back. The boat looks very sea worthy with a high bow and a small, open cabin. He says we are welcome to sit on top of the cabin to get a better view. We load our lunch that was prepared by the obliging kitchen staff, wave goodbye to the other guests and we are soon putt-putting off on our adventure.

We pass the spear-fisherman that was the object of Murray's verbal attack earlier and he exchanges a few words in Tongan with Niva. We don't know what they are discussing but it brings smiles to their faces. I suspect they are talking about the joy of bringing Murray to the edge of a coronary.

We motor quite close to the shore and marvel at the clarity of the water as we pass over white sand dotted with coral heads. Schools of small brightly coloured fish are visible darting here and there among the coral. We glide by volcanic islands that look like giant mushrooms after being undercut by the constant action of waves. Every once-in-awhile the sheer cliffs are interrupted by a white sand beach that looks like it was prepared for a movie set. A home or group of houses forming a village occasionally breaks the lush green covering of coconut trees and bush. Large, well-kept buildings with large grass areas surrounded by some sort of fence are, invariably, a church. Even government buildings cannot compare in grandeur to the churches.

Soon Niva stops the boat and invites us to do some snorkelling in the crystal clear water. Small, brightly coloured fish abound in the coral and Mrs Wilderness immediately dives in and glides over the colourful panorama below her. In the meantime, as I jump into the water, I inhale what feels like a quart of salt water and almost drown. The burning in my throat and lungs is terrible and I struggle to get back into the boat before going under for the third and last time. The entire scene looks like it was cut from the movie Jaws! Niva thought his boat was being attacked by a 'great white' but it was just me trying to get to something solid other than the ocean bottom.

So there I sat like a reject from the kindergarten field trip to a kiddie-pool, keeping Niva company while we wait for Mrs Wilderness to come up for air. When she finally does come back on board she can't stop telling of the beautiful and amazing things she saw… including something splashing on the surface, over by the boat, that could have been a whale in distress. When she asks if I saw it, I tell her I did and that's why I got out of the water. Niva rolls his eyes and starts the engine.

By this time we're getting a little hungry so we head to a beautiful white sand beach where Niva drops anchor and we dig into our picnic basket goodies. We eat our sandwiches and banana cake lunch and then wander around the beach and surf for a while looking for shells and admiring the scenery. This is another scene from a movie only this time it is two people wading in crystal clear water as it laps on a warm, white sand beach covered with palm trees whose fronds are swaying in the gentle warm breeze.

All too soon Niva says it's time to leave so we climb aboard and head toward a place called The Swallow Cave. The Swallow Cave is located in the side of a cliff on one of the many islands belonging to the Vava'u Group. Niva drives the boat into the cave and then shuts off the engine as we glide in water so clear we can see the sandy bottom fifteen feet below. The high, dome like ceiling of the cave is covered with swallow nests and the air if full of swallows that are flying around frantically having been disturbed by our presence.

Except for the fluttering of the bird's wings, we are amazed at the silence inside this huge chamber with the crashing sea just outside. It was a totally fascinating experience but, I can't help but feel concern for the birds when as we leave the silence comes to an end as Niva cranks up his Johnson outboard and we roar out of the cave in a cloud of blue smoke and a cacophony of sound. I can just imagine the swallows putting their little wings over their ears and coughing.

Niva stops one more time and lets Mrs Wilderness get back in with the fishes, while chicken-of-the-sea Wilderness sits with him and makes sure he and the boat don't leave. Mrs Wilderness says this diving area is just like the last, full of colourful fish and a wide range of coral attempting to match the rainbow of the fish.

After that we head back to the resort and from the dock throw an appreciative wave to Niva, watch him motor away and then make a dash for the bar and cool drink. While we are relaxing (this is tough work but someone has to do it) we meet Andrew and Vicki who are on holiday from Baffin Island. Andrew is a Northwest Mounted Policeman and they are both a wealth of stories about the small, ice bound inlet where they live near the arctic circle. We can imagine what a shock it must be to their systems to leave the sub-zero temperatures of the north and land, a couple of days later, on Vava'u.

Also during the day, Pauline, the girl with the sore throat, has gone to the local Italian Doctor's Office but to nobody's surprise except Pauline's, he's out fishing. They end up taking her to the hospital in Neiafu (even the tourist guide says use the Doctor instead) and luckily there's an Australian Nurse there that helps matters along and Pauline is given some medicine to relieve her pain.

Dinner tonight is another page from the "Welcome to Paradise Notebook" as we again eat under the stars on the beach. There are other places to eat on the islands but it seems nobody wants to take the chance of missing one of Murray's fabulous works of art. During the day the owner of the resort, Dietre Dyck, had returned from a trip down to the "big smoke" of Nuku'alofa and he joins us for dinner. Dietre lived for some time in New Zealand and along with his Tongan wife Senikau, started the Tonga Beach Resort from scratch. It seems every night we are treated to our own personal travel show with guests appearing live "up close and personal" and relating adventures most can only dream of.

It's been a long day of sun and surf so we're off to our rooms for a relaxing read and night of rest. We don't hear our favourite rooster tonight so I dream of him being placed in someone's pot and ending up as a soup. What else is there to dream of in Xanadu?

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WW said:

BOP - This one is the longest of them all. In the future we will do that though.

bird of paradise said:

WW - Great Tongan tales! Just a suggestion since you are so prolific - it takes SO long to scroll back to the top (so I can read the next Tongan tale) how about a back to top link?


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