The idea to go to one of the least touristic of the South Pacific islands, came when myself and Dory were freezing our asses off in Queenstown, NZ. We joked about booking a holiday away and before we knew a few weeks later, we had our tickets bought. We chose Tonga imply because it was the cheapest and the alternative was the Gold Coast in Australia, which I had been to before. We wanted a culture shock and something tropical, so Tonga seemed perfect. It was Aug 18th when we awoke at 5am to leave for the airport, where we were due to take a flight to Auckland and then onwards to Tongatapu, Tonga. After a few hours of sleep and watching the odd TV show, I had a look on the map to see my plane, flying probably the closest i will ever be to the international date line. If i literally flew a few more hours to the East, I would fly back in time. Crazy i thought!
When we touched down in Tonga, the heat and sunshine hit us like a tonne of bricks and this was the moment we wished for. Like planned, Toni, from 'Toni's Guesthouse' was awaiting our arrival. He took us and another girl named Connie out into the countryside to the hostel, offering us the chance to grab some groceries on the way. Apparently we were quite the distance from town. When we arrived, we were allocated a bed each in a dorm in a big blue house, overlooking the lush tropical garden.
Our first day consisted of strolling around town, eating a delicious seafood meal at the Friends Cafe (I had Marlin and it was incredible) drinking coconuts and ended with a beer in the local empty bar called Reload. It was a common occurrence to be misinformed in Tonga and we realised that after asking yet again for the free wifi which was advertised on the door. The reply was always the same 'Oh no that's an old sign we don't have that no more'. Ok then!
Our second day was pretty cool and we headed to the Island of Pangaimotu which cost a mere T$20 return. The Island was like something from a travel brochure and apart from a couple from the boat we came on, we were the only people on the beach. We sipped on coconuts as we admired the fifty shades of blue that was the Pacific Ocean before us.
We spent the whole day there soaking up the sun and enjoyed yet another Tongan speciality - Swordfish. After a desert coconut, we took the ferry back to town, and walked to the meeting place where we would be picked up by the hostel. It was getting kind of irritating to have to get picked up and dropped in to town at every occasion, so we contemplated changing hostels for the next few days.
Our evenings were pretty quiet, we chilled out with fellow travellers in the hostel lounge and then decided that yes, it would be best to check out the following morning. The next day we moved to Noa's Guesthouse right in the town centre (the town was pretty tiny by the way) and was so much better located for us. The highlight was the fresh chilled coconut we got upon check in- probably because they heard me bitching about being misinformed again (there in fact was no free wifi or no free breakfast like the ad read).
We dropped our stuff necked our coconut water and headed to town, for a meal at ... You guessed it- Friends cafe (the tourist hub). It was there that we met Ania an American/Kiwi traveller who we ended up clicking with and spending the day with. She told us about two Italian guys who she met that were keen to hire a car the next day and wanted more people. We agreed, and so the next day we would drive all over the Island. After a local feed of 'fish and chips' Tongan style, we headed back to the hostel for a relaxed evening. Or not....!
That evening, we were roped into joining 3 Kiwi guys who were drinking local brew that the owner had made and so after 2.5 bottles of it and a few hours later, we were sat around the kitchen table playing drinking games and talking about ridiculous things like 'the best experience of your life' or 'the most spiritual experience'... Random eh?
Needless to say, the first half of the next day was pretty rough for me and I traded the first sight of the trip for a nap on the warm grass by the caves. It literally saved the day for me. We drove all around the entire island and it was that day that I gr the nickname 'queen' considering my door would never open so I would have to be escorted out of the car at every occasion. The nickname stuck for the rest of the trip.
We ended the incredible trip at the beach resort of Luku'Alofa where we watched the sun set and had some drinks. We then headed back to Billfish one of the best places to go in Tonga - according to me- where we listened to a rocking dj, ate some delicious food and laughed our asses off with the crazy waitress. It was the prefect end to a perfect day!
The following day we had planned to take the Italian guys - Fede, Seba, Manu & Ania of course, on the ferry over to Pangaimotu but unfortunately we missed it. We spent the day at the beach before heading back to get ready for the cultural dinner show at the caves nearby. Something pretty interesting about Tonga is that every family is given free land, enough to build on and grow enough food to earn a living and survive. No family is permitted to seek it but instead must hand it down generation to generation. Something pretty amazing I thought! It was Isaac out taxi driver that told is this.
We for picked up that evening to go to the cultural show at the caves which we were super excited anout. We were going to meet Ania there but the boys weren't sure if they would come. After 45 minutes on the road, our driver and co driver bickered in Tongan and after a few harsh phone calls we were looped back around and heading back to pick up more people. After a huge misunderstanding there were some pretty angry Tongans and some frustrated tourists. (Us) Needless to say, we arrived to the caves super late and missed our on a few songs but still just in time for the buffet. We listened to an amazing Tongan band and ate incredible food from the budget including grilled fish, a delicacy of roast pork (the pig was whole on the buffet) octopus, clams and the dish of Tonga - Ota Ika or Raw Fish, all eaten from a Banana Leaf. Being a vegetarian, it was not routine to eat this kind of food in my daily life but I make a rule never to let it stop me from once in a lifetime experiences. The night ended with a truly amazing Tongan dance, history and fire poi. I was blown away by this tiny country and it's traditions.
The next day we met up with the guys and Ania to take the ferry to an Island 3 hours north east of Tongatapu called Eua. We had decided this the day before and even though it was risky to take the ferry sat morning and expect to get back mon morning for our international flight, we did it anyways. After 3 hours of dough Pacific sea, and some epic whale watching, we arrived in the rustic, jungly Island of Eua known for it's amazing treks and opportunities to swim with whales.
Ania headed to her pre booked accomadation and we headed to Ovava Eco Lodge which Seba had been staying at before. Upon arrival we were offered soup and given an amazing Eco shack next to the boys with an open air bathroom/shower making you feel very outdoorsy. We met a few others that evening including Max and Kate a hilarious couple who shared some very funny travel stories with us. We ate authentic woodstove pizza (5 of them between us all uniquely made) and drank my fave Tonga beer Maka. It was truly a special night.
The next day would be our last full day and so we spent it trekking for hours and hours into the wild jungle with a machete to help us pass through. We came to two rugged beaches and climbed down a massive cave which was super cool. We picked chillies for dinner and spotted kingfishers and giant spiders along the way. It was a bloody great experience. We devoured our dinner that night which consisted of roast chicken, fried banana chilli beans and some special Tongan side dishes. Together it made up one of the next meals iv every had the pleasure of trying. Both Dory and I, being vegetarian couldn't help but feel bad eating meat and fish but considering the way of life here, the chickens roamed free and the fish was so fresh and caught sustainably which makes a huge difference to me. Meeting these people was the best moment of the holiday and it led to us being in Eua and experiencing this. The owner of the lodge Wolfgang was my idol the moment he told us he'd travelled for 25 years and had been living and working in Honduras for 10 years prior to coming to Eua. It was my dream to have a lodge like his some day.
4am came the next morning and I got up and packed my bags in the hopes that the 5am ferry would miraculously be there. We walked access the street only to see no sign of a ferry and began to panic. If we didn't get back to the mainland before 1pm we would miss our flight back to NZ. We had no choice, we waited for Wolfgang to get up and asked him kindly to take us to the airport in the hopes yet again, of getting the only flight out of Eua. Having said our goodbyes to the boys, we headed off to the airport and lucky enough managed to get on the world shortest flight of 7 minutes without even having cash to pay. (Theyr very trustworthy in Tonga). We paid on the other side and lucky enough made our way to the international airport for our NZ flight.
Tonga was one of my favourite places merely because it was so rugged and barely touched by tourists. The culture is so strong there and the people genuinely are the friendliest iv ever met. The town of Nuku'Alofa was pretty small and had the bare necessities for the traveller. The surrounding islands were indescribable and definitely worth a visit. Tonga truly is - as our host at the culture show said- 'The true South Pacific'