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Friday, October 30, 2015

Tonga’s Fakaleiti Show


Bounty Bar’s stage is lit and ready for fakaleiti action. Neiafu Tonga.
“We’ve been doing this for 8 years*, every week, because we love it, even if no one shows up to watch.  We want to give you something to talk about regarding Tonga – us!”

*Neiafu’s Tonga Bob’s, touted in “current” guide books but no longer in existence, mentions their fakaleiti show.  Guessing that’s where their performances were staged prior to Bounty Bar’s, probably the same place under the new name and ownership, but no more sand floors. 








Wish my figure was at least half
as good as this Fakaleitis!
Thus opened the Neiafu Vava’u Bounty Bar’s weekly fakaleiti Show, rakishly touted by its owner Lawrence as “The most fun you can have in Tonga with your clothes on.”



















Performers either pranced
in massively tall pumps
like these, or spiky,
or went barefoot.

Coconut “bra” and grass skirts – it doesn’t get
much more classic “native” than that. 
Fakaleitis are Polynesian men who dress as women.  In Polynesian families with not enough girls to complete the “women’s work,” it’s considered an acceptable tradition to raise males in the family as girls. They wear women’s clothes and do women’s work.  Other fakaleitis choose it as a lifestyle.  Their status as fakaleitis is not necessarily indicative of their sexual preference.  Considering how conservative Tongans are regarding appearance**, it’s gratifying to see fakaleitis are a readily accepted, even admired, part of the Polynesian cultural fabric.



Why bright red hair the over-the-top
wig color of choice in Tonga?  Never
blond, which would be equally unnatural
looking on a Tongan.  Everything red 
rugby madness, perhaps?
*Shoulders are expected to be covered, as are legs from the knee down.  Cleavage and displays of public affection between genders, even hand-holding, is frowned upon in Tongan culture.  Except in resorts (catering to foreigners), swimmers are expected to wear clothes, rather than a bathing suit.


Twinkle, twinkle, not-so-little fakaleti star!
From 10 – 10:30 pm, Bounty Bar’s fakaleitis put on one heckuva show!  There is no cover charge for the show, though it’s expected you’ll order a drink Bounty Bar serves no food).  The audience is encouraged to show their appreciation by tucking tips onto the dancers while they performed, as was the case with the Tongan child dancers (click here for that) and the Hinkauea Beach native dancers (click here for that).

Afterward, part of the audience, mostly local girls, took over the dance floor to boogie.

Ironically, the most shapely post-show dancer, wearing strappy CFM heels and a sexy skin-tight white dress.  Chuckling, our friend Steve from Armagh pointed out the dancer had a suspiciously flat, muscular chest and butt.  Auditioning for a future fakaleiti show, perhaps?  “The best looking ‘girl’ dancing,” Wayne mused, “was a guy.”


Meanwhile, the emcee and fakaleiti dancer got his (her?) wish – here I am, “talking” about Tonga, and the fabulous fakaleiti dancers.


More sparkle still at the fakaleiti show,
Bounty Bar, Neiafu Tonga.
Location Location
This post was written and pre-posted and pre-posted in Uoleva, Ha'apai TONGA (S19.50.863 W174.24.864), about our time in Neiafu, Tonga (S18.39.443 W173.58.965).  We are cruising Tonga's Ha'apai group of islands now, but by the time this posts we will likely be in Tonga's Nuku'alofa, readying to make our hop to Minerva Reef.

Cruising Progress by the Numbers
As of our start, December 7th 2014, from Jacksonville FL NAS, USA until our current (October 31, 2015) travels around Tonga are -- 10 months, we’ve spent about a third of our time --129 days -- sailing and covered ~8,800 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.

Note:
Wifi access will be very limited until we arrive in New Zealand in mid-November. There will be periodic posts running while we're cruising and lots of catch-up posts.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Nuku Tonga -- Beach Day -- At Last!


Nuku beach, as seen from the water.  Vava'u islands, Tonga.
The first time Wayne took a beach day was in Panama, on Contadora, seven months and about as many thousands of miles ago.  Vava’u’s Nuku Beach marked only the second place and time this year Wayne was able to truly lounge on the beach for a bit.










This suns slips out behind the clouds, illuminating the water and
prompting Patty to snap a view of Nuku island.
Nuku island is a small anchorage, though it’s also only a short dinghy ride from Port Maurelle.  It took about 10 minutes in our pokey, 5-horse dinghy.














Lounging on the beach; just what the doctor ordered for Steve, Wayne & Patty. Nuku island, Vava’u, Tonga
Patty, happy to pose on our Nuku island, Tonga
beach day walkabout.
   
 
As we arrived at low tide. That meant Patty and I were able to walk around a good portion of the island perimeter; Nuku’s interior was dense with shrubbery.  The amble offered a great view of the surrounding islands, the path rife with treacherously shallow, albeit pretty, turquoise waters. 






Heron on Nuku island, Vava’u, Tonga.  These fellows are generally
camera-shy; my 60x zoom helps in getting a decent photo.





Meanwhile, “the boys”, Wayne and Steve, lounged, book, Kindle and libations in hand.

When the sun came out and decided to shine more brightly, Patty and I once again went mobile, cameras in hand.  In good light, which we’ve not seen a lot of in Vava’u, Tonga, the waters sparkle magnificently.  Then it’s hard not to practically orgasmically “Oohh!” and  “Ahhhh!” as if watching a spectacular fireworks display.




The captain from the tour ship that stop at
Nuku for lunch decided to capture a small
gekko, who ran rampant over him.
While initially we had the beach to ourselves, we watched a sailboat approach and appear to consider anchoring, then it left.  A pleasant group of about eight whale-seeking Ozzies on tour also stopped by for lunch and beachcombing.  Their skipper caught a gekko, which to our amusement decided for a while clambering over him was as good and any rock or tree.

















Glassy silver, these fish naturally reflect the colors around them.
While the day was warm enough for swimsuits – probably upper 70sF, the sun teased us, dancing in and out of cloud cover.  I was the only one willing to slip into the water, which was cooler than the air.  We’ve snorkeling little this year.  I was more interested in checking Nuku’s sea life out than settling down with a book. It was interesting cruising the underwater landscape… shallows with neatly furrowed “waves” on sand, a sharp ledge drop-off, a few bommies hosting some colorful fish and a broad pastureland of sea grass.









Dramatically marked fish seen snorkeling off Nuku island, Tonga.

A parrot fish of one of several bright blue and green tropical fish
hanging out among the coral off Nuku island, Tonga.
If you’re into snorkeling, there’s far better bommies at nearby Port Maurelle, where I even spotted a sizable octopus (sigh -- camera battery was dead -- no photo;()!  We never made it to equally nearby Ava island, where the snorkeling there is supposed to be quite good.














These small – about two inch – colorful blue and green fish
commonly appear where there’s live coral and good
water flow in Tonga. Vava’u.

The greens and creams provided perfect camouflage colors
for this fish in the sea grass.  I wonder if the funky
deely-bopper on its head is used to attract its prey.
With nice sand, a great view and easy access, even if the snorkeling is mediocre, it’s easy to understand why Nuku beach is a favorite for local parties, as well as for cruisers.


My Maui Jims add extra vividness and crispness
to this already fantastic tropical paradise view.










Location Location
This post was written in Neiafu, Vava'u TONGA (S18.39.443 W173.58.965) and pre-posted in Uoleva, Ha'apai TONGA (S19.50.863 W174.24.864).  We are cruising Tonga's Ha'apai group of islands now.

Cruising Progress by the Numbers
As of our start, December 7th 2014, from Jacksonville FL NAS, USA until our current (October 28, 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.

Note:
Wifi access will be very limited until we arrive in New Zealand in mid-November. There will be periodic posts running while we're cruising and lots of catch-up posts.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Mt. Talau Hike

The hike from Neiafu harbor to Mt. Talau is gradual – that is –
until you get to the badly-cambered, ladder-like cement steps
just before the end.
Wayne accuses me of always dragging him up to the highest point around.  He’s partly right – I do love a view.  So much so, I’m often willing to go on my own to get it when he’s not in the mood (like I did on French Polynesia’s Maupiti, then came up a second time with him, so he could see just how spectacular it was).















Neiafu harbor and Neiafutahi (Old Harbor).
View off the back side of Mt. Talau, the causeway over Vaipua inlet.
Fortunately, Patty of Armagh’s often as willing as I am, and her husband Steve isn’t, to put one foot in front of another for exercise and scenery.  Steve has not entirely forgiven me for getting us all to hike 17 km from one side of Fatu Hiva to the other (click here for that) – another truly epic hike.












Neiafu harbor view as seen from Mt. Talau, Tonga, Vava’u islands.
Naturally, in Tonga’s Neiafu, the top place is Mt. Talau’s plateau, 430 meters up. I’d tried a few days earlier solo, but decided to turn back when the walk became too wet.  What’s the point of a vista when you can’t see anything?  I am not that much of a solo exercise buff. Then the weather looked a little more promising, and Patty was up for some exercise, too.  Steve and Wayne, meanwhile, enjoyed some solo boat time, while Patty and I trekked.

BIG spider we saw on our way down!
Glad we didn’t encounter this on the trail.
After far too much time stuck aboard, due to passages, crappy weather or polluted water, neither Patty nor I are in tip-top shape these days, something both of us vow to change over cyclone season in New Zealand.  We commiserated with each other over both being out of breath taking the ladder-like stairs to Mt. Talau’s top.  “It sucks, being out of shape,” I complained, frustrated with myself.

Still, overall the hike is not a difficult or long one.  The view is about on par with the effort, nice, but not spectacular.  On a sunnier day, we know Vavau’s Tongan waters would look far more impressive in hues of blue, but cloud cover put a damper on their show.  Given the dearth of sunshine we’ve had in Vava’u, I’d rather snorkel than hike on a sufficiently sunny stretch.

We took the time on the way back to stop and smell
the flowers… though these pretties had no scent.
This time, the rain didn’t start until we were about halfway back to town.  Our jackets kept us moderately dry, as did the overhang of a porch where we tucked in during the wettest moments.  We heard the strains of a band, and followed it to the Blue Water Festival event, a fundraising native dance performance given by local schoolchildren (click here for images and story of Tonga’s Tiny dancers).


Mt. Talau is about a 4 of a scale of 1-10 for viewpoint hikes in my book (Maupiti’s viewpoint ranks a 9 for me, and Fatu Hiva’s long hike an 8).  Admittedly, I’m a bit of a tough grader.  Still, it’s easy, offers pleasant enough view, and it was good to get some walkies in for a change. 



Location Location
This post was written in Neiafu, Vava'u TONGA (S18.39.443 W173.58.965) and posted in Pangai, Ha'apai TONGA (lat/long update forthcoming).

Cruising Progress by the Numbers
As of our start, December 7th 2014, from Jacksonville FL NAS, USA until our current (October 24, 2015) travels around the Neiafu, Tonga are -- 10 months, we’ve spent about a third of our time --127 days -- sailing and covered ~8,825 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.

Note:
Wifi access will be very limited until we arrive in NEw Zealand in mid-November. There will be catch-up posts.