Friday, September 19, 2008

Neiafu, Vava'u, Tonga

September 19, 2008--We have spent the past three days in the main town of Neiafu, which is the major port in the Vava'u group of islands. We left our beautiful, secluded anchorage on Tuesday morning and headed the two miles to the Neiaful harbor. There are four companies there that maintain mooring balls--Moorings Charters, Aquarium Restaurant, Beluga Dive, and Sailing Safaris. The harbor was very full of cruising boats, and it didn't look as though we would be able to find a mooring. As a last resort I called the Moorings. We had been told that they did not rent out their moorings; however, when I called, they did have one open for us to use. It was right in front of the dinghy dock and Aquarium Restaurant where all the cruisers tend to hang out.

We put the boat in order and then headed in to pay for the mooring. After that we headed into town to find Customs so that we could check in. There were restaurants all along the main street as well as banks, gift shops, and grocery stores. We located Customs and were checked in quickly and efficiently. We wanted to have a look in the market, but the cruise ship was in port and the town was packed with people, so we decided that we would shop tomorrow, and we headed back to the boat. That evening we joined Island Time, Elusive, and Barraka for dinner at the Compass Rose, and we really enjoyed spending time with these cruisers since it had been a long time since we had last seen them.

On Wednesday we ate breakfast at the Aquarium Restaurant, and then we headed back into town to do some shopping. We went to the local market where the locals sell vegetables and also display their wood carvings, baskets, jewelry, etc. I bought a woven basket that I really like, but we didn't see anything else that struck our fancies. Next we scheduled a Kart Safari for the next morning. Steve seemed to have a small relapse with his stomach problems, so we returned to the boat and took it easy for the rest of the day.

Thursday morning we went ashore where we dropped off the garbage and laundry and then went to the orientation for the Karts. The Karts are fancy, all-terrain, and well-used go carts. We laughed because our harasses would not tighten down enough to do us any good. We were definitely living dangerously. We left Neiafu for a three-hour tour of the east and north shores of Vava'u. We were on a paved road for the first part, but then we turned off on to dirt roads through lush jungle. It was a noisy and bone-jarring ride. We stopped at the east shore on a cliff overlooking the ocean, and it was a spectacular view so we took a lot of pictures. There were also bats flying around the point, and several came by to check out the group. We continued through the brush to the north shore to another lookout from the cliffs. Our next stop was a lovely stretch of beach where we could walk for awhile. The guide told us that the deserted buildings we saw on the beach were a resort that had been open for two days when it was hit by a cyclone (or hurricane) and wiped out--what a bummer. The beach was lovely, but we didn't have enough time to swim. Our last stop was another point on the north shore that have us a spectacular view of several bays to the east and to the west. That was supposed to be the end of the tour; however, our guide said that he could take us to a plantation if we wanted to go. We said that we would, so we drove about two miles and stopped at a plot of land where he pointed out taro, tapioca, pineapple, bananas, kava, and vanilla growing. We all then got back into the karts and headed back to Neiafu. I loved driving by homes where pigs, horses, or cows were grazing in the front yards. We arrived back just in time for lunch at the Aquarium Restaurant. All-in-all the tour was fun, and we enjoyed it.

That evening Steve and I went out to dinner at the Dancing Rooster Restaurant for his birthday. It is owned by a Swiss chef, and we had heard that it was very good plus we knew that they had lobster, which is just what we wanted. I ordered the lobster stir-fry, and Steve ordered the Surf and Turf--lobster and steak. When they brought us the food, Steve had his turf but not his surf, so they took his plate, and Steve waited for 20 minutes for them to bring it back. My meal was very good; however, Steve's lobster was very soft--almost mushy. Luckily, his steak was excellent.

This morning we picked up the laundry, stopped by a few boats to drop off books and chat for a minute, and then we got the boat ready to leave. The wind was blowing a nice 15 knots, so when we were clear of the mooring ball and got our sails up, we were treated to a lovely sail at about six knots. We were able to sail almost all of the 11 miles to the anchorage at Tapana where we were able to pick up another mooring ball. There is a small group of boats here--about six and the scenery is lovely. It is much better than the crowded bay at Neiafu. Scarlett O'Hara is here, and we haven't seen John and Renee since Bora-Bora, so we hope to have them to dinner tomorrow night for a second celebration of Steve's birthday.

Before we leave Vava'u around the end of the month, I hope to upload some pictures to the blog. I'll keep you posted on that venture.

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