Although it was overcast most of the time and the island itself has not much to offer we had a good time with "first time in my life" experiences. The island is part of the northern island group "Niua", almost forgotten by the rest of Tonga despite it being only 150nm (285km) north of the touristy island group of Vava'u. I just read an official Tongan document introducing Tonga to sailors and explaining how and where to get in etc. They did not even mention the group Niua in the geographical introduction, but only in the section with port of entries. I felt really bad for the people there. Niuatoputapu has an airport which is not visited anymore. A New Zealand Airline used to deliver very good service. But the government, mad up by the high class of Tonga, put more and more restrictions on them so that the flights could not be operated profitably anymore and the airline quit the service. Some chinese gave Tonga an old airplane as a gift. This is operated by one pilot now between only the two or three main destinations and is said to be not really secure. I have to admit I heard this story and I don't know if it's true, but it makes sense with what we see here. Most of the airports in Tonga are out of use now, that's for sure. Tonga is a kingdom reined by the upper class with no interest in the rest of the people other than receiving their money which they don't have anyways. That's very sad. But, no one complained in Niuatoputapu, people did not loose their faith and happiness. They are very friendly and welcoming. And of course they welcome any help from sailors. I felt bad when in return for the school stuff I brought we received fruits from Sia, the main interactor between sailors and local people.
Besides the lovely people the charm of the island is created also by all the other inhabitants together: horses, chicken, dogs and mainly PIGS. In fact, pigs seem to be THE national animal of Tonga. I have never seen so many pigs. I have never seen so happy pigs running around, never seen just born baby pigs, never seen papa pig making sure you don't walk anywhere near his family, pigs eating grass and living in a quite clean environment, never seen pigs mating on the street like dogs (seemed like he had fallen asleep though). Sorry I had to mention this, it was too funny. The pigs are everywhere. This is how I came to make pictures of Alita with pig on the reef and the pig in front of the volcano. People build fences around their lots to keep the pigs OUT. Only here was I able to take a picture with no racism animals: a horse with a dog, a chicken and a pig, living happily together - like all the people there that I have met.
The second "new" experience had to do with whales. On sunday, the day after we arrived and were still not allowed to go to land, we went snorkeling at a motu. For the first time in my life a saw blue sea stars. I stayed a little bit longer and enjoyed the solitude, land under my feet and being close to the reef. The weather had already changed from sunny to dark clouds in the background and gave a beautiful black and white scenery. In the midst of this stunning scene I spotted whale mum slowly swimming directly behind the reef with her baby. When Marcus came to pick me up we went out through the cut as I expected them to be there at that time. I saw them swimming in our direction. When we were out of the reef Marcus stopped the engine and we looked around to see if we can spot them again. And there, VERY close to our Dinghy mum came by, so elegant and beautiful. And then, as to show off, the "little" one (maybe 4m long) jumped out. I managed to get the camera to my eye and quickly take a picture in the most precious light. It was a breathtaking, stunning moment out there, knowing that the whales are right besides us and could just shoot us away with one splash of their tale….It is hard to describe this incredibly intense, peaceful and quiet moment in nature with one of the worlds most beautiful creatures close to us. In blue sky and sunshine this would not have been the same, although still breathtaking. But this late afternoon light with tha dark clouds was something special. maybe you get a hint of that when you see the picture.
One afternoon I walked from the "town" at our anchorage, Falehau, to the north of the island along the northwestern beach. I found snail shells I had never seen before on this whole trip. And I found a gorgeous, old and big snail shell - one I had never seen before as well.
1,5 days before we left our friends with their sailing vessel "Monkey Fist" turned up, so we were two boats again in the anchorage. The next day, our last day, they cleared in and found out, that the kids play touch rugby. I had never heard or seen this sports. Paul decided to be reverse that afternoon when the kids play, Frances took time and score. I went there, watched and took pictures. The first time I ever saw this game. Afterwards we had dinner and a long, wonderful evening together on their boat.
Next morning we left and sailed to Vava'u, where we are now. I had heard this is a beautiful place known for the most clear waters every. I had no idea what expected us, but could have thought it thinking of the reason why a water can be that clear. As we came closer I saw the beautiful cliffs of the main island and sneaking in-between the islands let me understand the reason for the clear waters. There is hardly any sand here, all islands end as cliffs. We entered a labyrinth of islands, one like I have never seen before. This must be similar of what the island world in Croatia looks like. In the beginning I felt even reminded of the channels in Chile due to the rocky shore, but the trees and vegetation growing on the rocks are different. I guess there are some similar places in this world, but this is really special. I can's wait to go and explore more of this island world here. No wonder that the whales choose these islands as protection when giving birth to their babies and feeding them tip they can live on their own. I hope to be able to snorkel close to one these days. Paul and Frances had the luck outside of Maupuhaa to go snorkeling just next to a whale mum with its baby. They have the most amazing pictures from that scene.
So, here are some pictures from Niuatoptuapu.
Just follow the link: http://sailing.smichah.de/#!album-74
I will be back in a couple of days / latest in 2 weeks with pictures from Vava'u.