Bates Family South Seas Sabbatical travel blog

Local shopkeeper and customer

Ness and Gordon on island excursion

Kinglsy enlists local help for hot walk

Wrote all of that in a bit of a rush 2 days ago, with the boys happily sitting on the steps of the Coconet (corny?) cafe playing game boy and again I get the chance of going to the computer as G has spent the last day and a half completing his PADI course which is great as he can now dive and has seen some big fish!

We are going out on a boat on Saturday to 3 snorkelling sites and he will do 2 Scubas and 1 snorkel and the boys and I will do the surface stuff which we didn't manage to do while kayaking.

Tomorrow I have just cliched the deal (I think- everything is fairly "loose" here- it does tend to happen, but you can never be sure from the lovely laid back attitude of the Tongans)for a taxi to take us around the island and to wait while we climb Vava'u's largest mountain- all 131m of it! It is suggested that one hires a car and does the tour alone, but then adds that there are no petrol stations outside Neiafu (this town), no cafes, no phones and that many roads are passable only by 4WD. Also, the "hire cars" are just someones car that you can borrow, and judging by the state of most of the cars here it wouldn't get you 100yards! There are no rules about the state of cars (for example, most windscreens are smashed by falling coconuts and held together with cling film and gaffer tape, often covering > half the windscreen) and we have seen lots of Jump starting going along and cars just giving up in the middle of the road, so I reckon if we take a driver, if becomes his problem, not ours!

On Sunday nothing, totally nothing, happens apart from church and there is plenty of that. Again, attitude is that it doesn't matter what religion you are (options in order of preference Wesleyan, Free Church of Tonga, Methodist, Mormon, Catholic, jehovah's witness and Bahaia) as long as you go to church and wear your best clothes! The sermon that Gully and I went to was given in Tongan (the first language although they all speak at least some English) and appeared to cover Hell, fire and Damnation as it was extraordinarily passionately delivered- a bit like James Brown, especially with the congregation joining in at parts. Gully though some bits where the elders at the front had to "retort" sounded like cows mooing, and he wasn't wrong, which meant we had to try v hard not to giggle. Gordon stayed behind with Kings, but then cheekily pretended he'd been and gave a verbatim account to the waitress who was very keen that we went and had been when really he'd been lounging around reading and playing game boy! He can go this weekend!

Yesterday, whilst G was diving, the boys and I hung around at the motel -where they get the idea of calling it a motel is beyond us, being up a rough track and not really along any "great routes" that would require stopping for a bed for the night. It is actually just 6 units in a row with a large friendly lady called Ngatu who owns it with her husband and who come on a daily basis. He took the boys for a spin in the trailer of his tractor (name unpronounceable or unspellable!) this morning which they thought was cool. Anyway, we are sole guests again today, although for the last 2 nights there has been the president of the wesleyan church from Tongatapu (the main island where the capital city is- again a fairly interesting concept- don't think New York, Paris, London- think pigs and chickens in the street and untarmacked roads and you are far, far closer!) who was up here for his mothers funeral and this involved everyone wearing black with a Ta'ovala over it. This is a mat made of pandanus that they wrap round themselves and tie on like a sort of rush matting sarong. it appears to be highly impractical, but apparently one has to wear it for a full year after a death, so there are plenty around, although it looks like you can downgrade the size- from chest to the floor- to a more manageable amount of waist to knee, but we don't know at what point. He had loads of vistors (and a dead pig in the back of his truck, for the party after, we think) but he managed to send his maid round with a huge amount of fruit for us, just to send greetings I think. So this morning, with G away again, I set about getting into the coconut without spilling the milk and with inadequate tools, but between Gully, myself and the corner of the concrete step we did pretty well. How we are going to manage the 3 kilos of bananas, 2 huge papaya, and pineapple is beyond me, but hey ho, we have nothing else to occupy our minds or time, especially as we left our entire bag of reading material in Tongatapu thinking we were just coming up here for the kayaking and going back.

Anyway, great to hear from Greg that UK has the Olympics for 2012, although saw the way that the Lions tour was unescapable in NZ and rather dread the build up and promotional stuff already. Also lovely news from Chris and Nettie that No 2 is on the way - although bad that she's feeling so ill- remember the feeling only too well, thankfully the results are worth it!

So, unless G decides he is getting withdrawal and "wants a go", doubt we'll be back at a computer until at least monday, after we've flown back to Tongatapu and found somewhere to stay there.

Finally, as the title says, I really don't think I am going to manage to send postcards from Tonga unless a) the selection of postcards seriously improves from curled brown fading specimens of unrecognisable churches b) I gain enough courage to attempt the post office which is a rather beautiful but nearly falling down wooden building looking a bit as I would have expected a post Office to do in around 1890. We shall see, but unlike NZ, don't hold your breath!

Lots of love Ness x

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