Bates Family South Seas Sabbatical travel blog

Packing the kayaks first morning

Kings meets and greets at the Tongan feast

One of our campsites in sunshine (briefly)

Sorm Warning

Lotu and Dacodi, our resourceful guides

Gosh, what a week. First time to an internet cafe and vague civilisation. So much to write and tell and not a great deal of time, but it is amazing here, even if we did arrive in Vava'u in pouring freezing rain (fortunately only on that day) but we have had gales here ever since- the wind has not stopped blowing for the entire time and it hasn't really been hot. Better than NZ, but still a fleece at times. Not what we expected, but we gather this wind is unusual for this time of year and every day we are told that it will stop soon.........

ANYWAY, this put a completely different dimension on the leisurely kayak trip around the islands and turned it into a tour de force! They decided to send 2 guides with us as they realised we weren't going to be able to paddle a boy each by ourselves in headwinds of >30kmph, so Gordon and I had a double and Lotu, our lovely, huge, Tongan A team rugby player local guide who could shin up coconut trees, catch fish with a spear and drink anyone under the Kava table (if there was a table) took Kingsley, while Dacodi our Hawaiian American Semi-pro surfer turned tour guide took Gully. Lotu was lovely with the boys and spend a lot of time singing "I like to move it, move it" with Kingsley, even though his English was difficult to understand, but it was Dacodi who the boys thought was terrific- a grown up version of them, enthusiastic about everything that boys love- camping, fire, surfing etc. Actually he looks very like and is very like a bigger Alex Moore!

Off we went, into the wind, surf over the front and in our faces so we couldn't see. managed about 45 minutes to a cave for a bit of a rest (filled with millions of fish) then another 45 mins to a beach on one of the islands that we ended up staying on for 2 nights as we couldn't get to the island we were meant to be going to, as it would have been another 2-3 hours in those conditions. Good snorkelling off the beach and fun camping (in tents) listening to the wind roar all night!

On the 3rd day the wind abated enough to make it to a different island (planned for the friday night) where the campsite (for want of a better description- no one else around) was on an isthmus with a stunning beach on both sides- about 20m apart- one windward with turquoise surf to play in and the other leeward, so still- beautiful). From there we walked to the only village on the island, which has about 20 inhabitants and who had prepared a Tongan Feast for us (this is just the 4 of us and the 2 guides) which was an amazing spread on palm leaves of wonderful food- fish, corned beef in coconut milk and leaves, yam, cassava, fruit, octopus (yuk) and loads of other things all wrapped up in individual palm leaf parcels. Enough food to feed 12 or more people and actually much more tasty even for the boys than I'd expected. Coconut milk straight from the nut was the only drink. Handicrafts followed- always a shopping opportunity! then 3 village girls dancing and then the Kava ceremony- basically a big drinking session that old men go to but as a foreigner I was allowed, drinking the local tipple that apparently doesn't contain alcohol, but makes you feel relaxed and as if you have had a dental anaesthetic, all while a few guys played lovely Tongan songs on their guitars. Walked back under the millions of stars along the beach to our tents watching the massive crabs run away from us- truly amazing experience.

As was the next day- the wind had picked up and we had to go with the wind behind us- so easier paddling but much less control on steering, in very big waves- surf coming over the back and side this time, with Kings not at all well in Lotu's kayak, having woken with a vomiting bug and looking very peaky, and Gully looking worse having fallen out of a tree that morning and landed on his back. The guides had even looked at them and said "lets go striaght back and then you can go to the hospital with both of them" Luckily we both knew that that wasn't necessary, but worrying about them, being in horrid big seas and having little control over our direction and just being taken in big seas and high winds, earned the double kayak the title that we didn't know was already known as- the divorce canoe!!

Anyway, we got back safely, if shakily, K perked after a rest on the bed (don't know what that was all about) and Gully has learned his lesson.

No whales, dolphins or anywhere near as much snorkelling as we'd hoped for but we have enough to bore any dinner party guests for ever!

2 days in the luxury (?!) hotel, being the only guests there and them running out of supplies by the second, because nothing is open on Sundays (Gull and I even went to church to hear the singing, but they generally go 2-3 times a day each on Sundays) and then it was the Kings 87th Birthday yesterday, so a public hol, so again nothing open.

We have heard loads about the Feudal system of the kingdom- very interesting, but not for now.

We have now moved into town- Neiafu, the only town in Vava'u- and not really a big place, but less isolated than the Tongan Beach and have changed our flights so that we are here until Monday 11th as there seems to be more to do in Vava'u than back on the main island of Tongatapu. Gordon is going to finish his PADI tomorrow we hope.

Ok, got to go and collect T shirts before the shop that is printing them for the boys shuts.

Sorry for the radio silence, but we have seriously been about as far from civilisation as it is possible to get, and thought it was great!!

Congrats to the Nicholls.

Will do more later in the week.

Lots of love

Ness, G,G + K- the intrepid family (by the way, we were the first English people to do the Kayaking in >5 years and they'd never had an English family- and after the last morning, doubt they will again in a hurry, but it seems English people don't get to Tonga!)

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