Well another week (or maybe more!) has passed since the last blog, so here we go again.
Malcolm and Ange arrived on Tuesday (10th) bearing welcome gifts of cheese, chocolate, gin and whisky. We spent the first day having a look around the main town (Nieafu) and sampling the local food and drink and then it was back to X-Pat for some more food and drink!
|Young Sea Dogs|
On Wednesday we set off, motoring through the beautiful tree covered islands for a few hours, to the island of Nuapapa. We anchored off the beach in early afternoon and then headed into the beach in the evening for a Tongan feast. Dinghy transfers always carry a bit of risk and despite the relatively calm conditions this one didn’t go well. We arrived at a pier that looked a bit tumbled down. Debi jumped off and was busy helping Ange ashore when something went wrong. We’re not sure what but Ange fell back onto the dinghy and both Ange and Pat ended up in the water. This was a somewhat embarrassing start to the feast!
It was only when Pat headed back to X-Pat to pick up Malcolm that he noticed blood all over the dinghy. He had grazed his arm against the pier, which is never good in the tropics. Despite the drenching we had a good feast and introduction to Tongan culture, including how to make coconut milk, Tongan dancing and some good food.
On Thursday we went ashore on Nuapapa again, this time landing on the beach, and had a tour of the local school (20 pupils) and the village. The organiser of the feast, who is also the local minister, was having problems with his VHF radio and so Pat volunteered to take a look. He traced the problem to a bare piece of coaxial cable rubbing up against a rusty nail. That’s never good for transmission quality. A few wraps of insulating tape and some soldering of another connection and his transmissions were once again decipherable. We haven’t seen anybody so appreciative for a long time. He presented us with some Kava as a thank-you and walked back with us through the village to the beach explaining to everyone along the way that his radio was fixed! Then it was off to Port Maurelle for some swimming and snorkelling.
|VHF Radio Repair Service|
Friday was the 13th and so we decided to just be lazy and stay at anchor, reading, swimming and snorkelling. Oh and we may have had the odd drink as well!
On Saturday we headed off to a new anchorage on the south side of Tapana island. We were the only boat there and it was simply beautiful looking out over the reef to the ocean beyond. Yet again the reef looked quite damaged but there were lots of small reef fish. At this point all the activity in the water started to take it’s toll and both Malcolm and Debi started complaining of blocked ears. Pardon?
On Sunday we had a leisurely motor back into Neiafu harbour, with a plan to go and see the botanical gardens on Monday. Unfortunately this didn’t work out, as they had to close that day, so we ended up doing an island tour with Matthew, a local taxi driver.
A few of the islands are joined to the main island by causeways and so there is actually quite a network of roads and lanes passing through the villages. We visited a vanilla centre, which reportedly showed how vanilla is grown and processed on the island. Unfortunately it wasn’t operating as the crop had failed for the past two years. This seemed a little strange as we saw lots of vanilla growing later on in our tour. We also visited a good lookout point on the north east coast of the island with great views over the cliffs. Apparently whales frequently visit this area but we didn’t see any. We then had a very nice fish and chip lunch at a restaurant on Einio beach.
With ears still blocked and aching we took the opportunity to visit the pharmacist whilst we were in town. This amazing young Italian guy named Marco seemed to be dealing with every ailment that walked through the door. Debi commented to him that it must be tremendously rewarding, but he begged to differ. He said, in the excited animated way that only Italians can, that it was extremely stressful with no sleep and no time off! Armed with ear drops and antibiotics we headed off back to X-Pat to check whether one of Debi’s exotic coconut cocktails would help.
On Tuesday (17th) we dropped Malcolm and Ange into town with multiple dinghy transfers (all dry) for their flight home via Fiji. They have proudly survived (just!) their second week of living on X-Pat. Debi and Pat then did a few trips to the local garage in a taxi equipped with three jerry cans to refuel X-Pat for the next few weeks.
On Wednesday we stayed on the mooring and headed into town to do our provisioning and catch up with some internet time. Whilst in town we dropped in to see Marco the pharmacist to check on Debi’s ear and got him to look at Pat’s grazed elbow, which was looking very red, at the same time. He concluded that the elbow was infected and so now both Debi and Pat are on antibiotics!
After a few final bits of provisioning we visited customs on Thursday and checked out of Vava’u informing them that we would be heading south to the Ha’apai group of islands. They were a bit put out when we told them that Leanne had left by plane, but it didn’t seem to be a problem. Apparently we should have informed them before she left!
We then headed out of Neiafu harbour for the last time and are now anchored just to the north of a beautiful little island called Nuku. This is a real Robinson Crusoe island with coconut palms and a beautiful white powder sand beach. The weather has been really calm with very little wind, which is unusual here. We took the opportunity to go ashore and have a go with the drone, taking some photos and video. It’s fair to say that Pat is still learning what all the various buttons do, but there has been progress. Debi used the time to practise doing handstands.
|X-Pat at anchor off Nuku Island|
We are now waiting for the wind to swing around from the south to the east over the next few days and then we will head south.