Despite “dry season,” this rain barrel
on Hunga was overflowing.
We arrived in Hunga Lagoon on a bright, sunny afternoon. That evening, we were dazzled by a brilliant sunset. Both were sorely missing when we were anchored outside Tonga’s “big city” of Vava’u, Neiafu with overcast, rain and the sun getting swallowed into cloudbanks cresting the harbor’s low mountain ridges at sunset.
The next morning, we were itching to get off the boat and explore Hunga. Barry of Hunga Haven ran down the list of hiking and snorkeling options. We decided to start off with a ridge walk to the beach, followed by a trip to Hunga village.
Post set up for fence crossing in Hunga road. The fence is there
to keep animals from crossing the “road,” not humans.
The skies became progressively more overcast. The overcast delivered sprinkles, then more serious rain (though anything remotely approaching the intensity of French Marquesas Daniel’s Bay [click here for more about that fiasco Fire & Flood] would’ve prompted us to return post-haste). Wayne popped his umbrella; I donned my windbreaker, hood and all. Still, the beach wasn’t very inviting in a squall, so we headed back.
“Mark the spot where you exit the trail onto the main road,” Barry advised. Sage advice, we gratefully followed. It was indeed easy to miss the return trail from the road. Thanks to Barry’s advice, we saw the re-entry to the trail down to Hunga Haven’s beach, where we’d parked our dinghies.
Pleasant hike to one of Hunga’s beaches. As Wayne’s
umbrella and the gray skies indicate, not a great
beach day when we hiked there.
By the time we reached the re-entry trail, the rain subsided. We headed for Hunga village.
“It’s the second biggest village in Vava’u, second to Neiafu. There’s five churches there,” Barry informed us. “But don’t be surprised if you hardly see anyone. Many cruisers report they’re disappointed,” he cautioned.
Naively, we hoped for a small shop or little restaurant where we might enjoy a cold beer, Steve also hoped for a little ice cream.
Indeed, there were few folks out and about as we passed the village’s neatly kept homes. We saw the usual pigs and piglets, chickens and roosters, churches and more churches. Every residence, no matter how small or ramshackle, was supported by a stout solar panel, all identical in design. The same was true of the smaller villages near Port Maurelle. A sign credited Japan for funding solar power “clean energy.” A bit cynically, we wondered what Japan got in return. Fishing rights in Tongan waters? Support votes coinciding with Japanese interests in the United Nations forums?
On recess; Hunga primary school kids hamming it up
for the cameras. After primary, schooling is in Neiafu
during the week, then home for weekends and holidays.
It was recess when we passed Hunga’s primary school. Many of the kids raced to the fence to say hello and pose for photos.
Homes. Churches. A school. No stores, much less any restaurant or snack bar. No cold beer and definitely no ice cream.
We walked to the road’s summit, before it plunged steeply to the town dock. Wayne joked if it was California, it would be the perfect place for skateboard daredevils.
A local man engaged us in a friendly conversation while he waited the appearance of the ferry. He told us all food from the outside came via the ferry to and from Neiafu, which made the trip every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. What goods weren’t carried by hand, were transported by the two trucks in the town. There were no cars. The road, he explained, was funded by India. He leaned against the raised barrier which extended down both sides of the road, creating a sluiceway to channel water from serious rainstorms into Hunga Lagoon.
A steep, short paved portion or road, from Hunga’s
dock to town for ferry deliveries.
We asked him about Hunga’s school, the one we’d just passed.
Once the children finished primary school, he informed us, the rest of their school was Neiafu-based. The children spent weekdays on Neiafu, returning home to Hunga for weekends, holidays and vacations. He confirmed there was indeed no place to wet our whistle – no stores, snack shacks or restaurants.
We asked him if he was waiting for his wife to arrive by ferry with beer, for him to carry back. He laughed, good naturedly, with an easy smile. Wayne promised we would not turn the local kids onto skateboards, for careering down this perfect skateboard ramp. He laughed some more. We thanked him for the conversation, admired the beauty of “his” island, and pleasantly parted ways.
View of the “false pass” entry to Hunga Lagoon, from the road leading down to
Hunga’s town dock. Pretty place to run aground. Enjoy it from inside the lagoon!
We were disappointed we did not find a cold beer in our travel to Hunga village, a place to lounge on the beach or a good viewpoint (lacking due more to weather than anything else). Nonetheless, we appreciated the walk, and a little peek into a life quite different than our own. It’s big part of what intrigues us about cruising internationally.
This post was finalized and posted in Neiafu, TONGA (S18.39.443 W173.58.965) and was inspired at our recent stay in Hunga Lagoon (S18.42.066 W174.07.551),Tonga’s Vava’u island group, where we’re currently cruising.
Cruising Progress by the Numbers
As of our start, December 7th 2014, from Jacksonville FL NAS, USA until our current (October 15, 2015) travels around the Neiafu, Tonga are -- 10 months, we’ve spent about a third of our time --125 days -- sailing and covered ~8,750 nautical miles. The prior 2 years combined, we sailed 3762 miles. By the time we arrive in New Zealand in November, less than a year from when we set out, we expect we’ll sail over 10,000 miles this year. That’s a lot of miles for a boat with a hull speed of 7 knots; we usually sail far slower than that.