Ha’apai Lost in Time

Ha’Apai, lost in Time

We have now spent 4 days in the Ha’apai islands and it is again a place beyond my dreams. This is the remote area of a remote country in a remote region of the world.

Tonga is one of the few real monarchies still in existence, the King rules. The Parliament is appointed by the King and is made up of other ruling families. The King can defrock any other royal family so his followers are very loyal. These is not a situation the Tongans will or even want to change, they are happily loyal to the King. This King is from a lineage of Kings that started when the missionaries helped a local King Taufa ahau conquer all his neighbors, coincidently he converted and took the Christian name, King George. The current King Taufu-afau is very old, apparently well loved and seems to rule well. His successor, the Crown Prince, will probably lighten up on some rules and cater more to western interests. We shall see if that is a good thing. Interestingly, the monarchs live long lives, George ruled until his death at 97, his daughter, 6’2” Queen Salote ruled for 47 years and the current King took the throne in 1965—good genes!

The Tongans life revolves around the extended family and the ties run deep, not just the nuclear family but the fully extended family.

They are committed to the family so soundly that any other way seems foreign. Curious note, if a member of your extended family passes away you wear black and morn for quite some time and with a ton of relatives someone dies often so there are Tongans who always wear black. I thought this was church attire and wore the blackest flowered shirt I had then learned better.

Speaking of church, we jumped in the dinghy this fine sunny Sunday morning and blasted inside the protection of the reef to back to Pangai to attend church. As we landed we saw many traditionally dressed folks walking down the street. All gave us warm smiles and greetings although many did not speak English. We first picked the Methodist Church but immediately decided it was poorly attended a looked a bit stuffy—weird to see men in dark suits with the long Tongan skirt, the valas, instead of pants and the traditional grass matt wrap. We slipped out and headed down the road and were met by some nice folks who pointed us to the Catholic Church and one invited us to the New Life Church. We wound up in the Catholic Mass, great singing. Every church I have been in in the South Pacific has had amazing acoustics and the singing is always powerful yet angelic.

Back at the boat we popped in the kayaks and headed for shore—come to find out this beach has been rated one of the best in the world—no argument from me. The mile of white sand is so great to walk in as it squishes between your toes.

Another side note; before I left I was diagnosed with plantar fasciitis; I could barely walk and was told by a renowned podiatrist that I could never walk barefoot again and needed special inserts in my shoes and the condition was chronic. Today I walked the entire beach twice, barefoot and happy. Another health benefit from cruising—happy feet!!!!

We discovered a lime tree in the woods with some other cruisers—picking wild limes in the jungle, ahh the life. Then we met Patti, an American xpat who owns the other resort at the other end of the beach (yes the oh so crowded beach) —again a bunch of small open cabins. She and Lucka hit it off, both do messages, so a “trade a rub” deal was made. We met two ladies from New Zealand; one is a hydrologist getting some sun before she does a stint at the South Pole. On my way back to the boat I dropped by a new neighbor and we made plans for a morning dive.

So the sun set on this inspiring day, one full of spiritual joy, new friends and sand between my toes.