A week in Vava’u 

We left Neiafu last Monday, after a very disappointing rugby game, to explore the islands in the Vava’u group. What a beautiful trip it has been: small islands dotted all over the place in easy reach so one can hop from one scenic anchorage to the next in a few hours. The weather has been good too, so it was back to our daily routine of school and boat jobs in the mornings and snorkelling and exploring in the afternoons. And a day off on Sunday!

We met two other kid boats and had a lot of fun. One of the boats had to leave after a few days but one stayed and together we explored several anchorages, uninhabited islands, crazy caves and stunning underwater sea life. There have been plenty of play-overs, sundowner drinks, guitar sessions and it’s been good to practice our French again. I also did my first cave dive near Port Maurelle, which was very cool!

On Thursday we stopped in Tapana to eat at a Spanish restaurant, which was recommended by Spanish friends. And wow, it wasn’t just a great dinner but a real experience. The “restaurant” was a wooden shack on the hillside of a small island. The owners – Maria and her husband – arrived here from Valencia with their yacht twenty-six years ago. There was no menu; we just had to sit down, pour ourselves a drink (we had to bring our own wine) and relax. The food was amazing: delicious tapas kept coming one after the other followed by a large paella. After dinner a curtain in the corner of the restaurant was swept aside and a band was revealed. Four guys, Maria herself, a dog and a goat were on stage and some uplifting Spanish tunes came next that got everyone dancing. Aeneas became the drummer for the night and we all had a great time.

The next morning we said goodbye to Toucan, who headed west, and we headed east together with the other kid boat. We stopped in an anchorage close to Neiafu to pick up some fresh fruit and veg and then explored another nearby island: Kenutu. On Sunday morning we all headed ashore, machetes in hand to cut our way through the dense bush. We found a trail and walked to the other side of the island where we were rewarded with amazing views of the surf crashing against the high exposed cliffs. On the way back to the dinghies we walked across the coral reef, as it was low tide. After lunch we all went snorkelling and explored a huge area of staghorn corals with a surprising amount of fishes hiding in every little corner. The kids did some surfing on the SUP pulled by the dinghy (and the adults might have had a go at it too). Not bad for a Sunday!

On Monday it was back to school. We explored a couple more anchorages and will be heading back into Neiafu tomorrow to stock up on supplies and diesel and to check out before heading south. We would still like to explore the islands in Southern Tonga and would also love to stop in Minerva reef on our way to New Zealand but of course everything will depend on the weather. We are watching the forecast carefully and want to make sure we pick the best window. The sail from Tonga to New Zealand can be rough (comparable to the Bay of Biscay) so we need to time it carefully, and we will. 

our lunchtime anchorage today

  

little islands everywhere

  

fifty shades of blue

  

three on the SUP

  

staghorn coral

  

tide’s coming up

  

walking across the reef at low tide

  

Kenutu island

  

crazy tree

  

lookout

  

the restaurant on Tapana island

  

inside the restaurant, the goat is not on the menu

  

Aeneas joins the band

  

Nuku island

  

Athos

  

Port Maurelle

  

SUP and hammock are ready

  

Swallows cave snorkel with friends

  

Swallows cave

  

off to explore the caves

  

on the lookout for reefs

 

navigating to the next island…

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Vava’u, Tonga

Named the “friendly islands” by James Cook in 1773, the Kingdom of Tonga consists of 176 islands of which 40 are inhabited. The islands in the Vava’u group are raised and mountainous coral islands where some of the other islands are more low-lying and many are of volcanic origin.

After 5 days of seeing nothing but grey sky with frequent drizzle, the sun finally comes out on Sunday. And how different this place looks! We have been in Neiafu, the capital of the Vava’u island group, since Tuesday. There are many yachts in this extremely quiet and well-protected anchorage making the most of the restaurants, bars and shops while waiting for a good weather window to head over to New Zealand. Seathan even manages to watch the rugby game live this morning (at 4AM) in a local bar.

We catch up with friends we haven’t seen since Tahiti including a couple of kid boats. Neifau is “yachtie-friendly” and the locals even run a cruisers’ net every morning on the radio with announcements, weather info, local business promotion, etc. It feels a bit like we are back in the Prickly Bay… We don’t want to stay here any longer than necessary (especially now that the rugby is over for us) so today we’re heading out to explore the nearby islands, do some swimming and snorkeling and enjoy the sunshine!

the first few days are grey and overcast

the first few days are grey and overcast


On Sunday the sun finally comes out!

On Sunday the sun finally comes out!


pigs crossing the road, a typical sight

pigs crossing the road on a quiet Sunday afternoon


fruit and veg market

the fruit and veg market

Welcome to tomorrow!

We’re in Tonga! To use the words of our kiwi friend Mark: welcome to tomorrow! We crossed the dateline on the way here and had to turn our clocks forward 24 hours. The 250 NM crossing was windier than the GRIBS had predicted by a factor of 2. Instead of 15 we had 30 knots! So we got here faster than expected and yet again had to stand off all night to wait for daylight. There was complete cloud cover (it rained constantly) and zero visibility. Feels like home really except that the men wear skirts here, oh … hang on: that’s kind of familiar too 😉 

Niue

Niue: the smallest state in the world, but the largest block of coral! It’s very different from every other island we stopped at in the Pacific. This flat plateau rises up from the sea and its highest point is 69 metres only. The main attractions are the amazing limestone caves, hewn by thousands of years of wave action.

The population is just over 1,000. It used to be more but due to cyclone and tsunami risk many people have moved away. As a result there are many derelict abandoned houses all over the island. There is some tourism helped by a direct three-hour flight to New Zealand (note the THREE hours and that we will be at sea for at least 12 days to get to New Zealand…).

The anchorage is in front of the village of Alofi, the capital. Because of the strong swell and the absence of any beaches, dinghies need to be lifted onto the wharf with a big crane and left on the dock. It certainly adds some fun to going ashore.

The island has a friendly laid-back atmosphere and our taste buds are indulged with fantastic Japanese food, New York style pizzas and freshly cooked Indian curries. Seathan also manages to catch up on the latest rugby scores and even gets a game of golf in.

Together with Bruce and Di from Toucan we rent a 7-seater for a couple of days and go round the island (64 km). There is plenty to do: exploring caves and chasms, forest walks, snorkelling in freshwater pools and a game of crazy mini-golf on a scenic hilltop with amazing views over the anchorage.

In the evenings humpback whales swim around the boat and we can hear them sing. They come here to calve between July and September and we’re lucky to still see them, as they will soon depart.

We set sail this afternoon for the kingdom of Tonga. The weather gribs look good and it should takes us no more than two days. Interesting point: we will be crossing the International Date Line before reaching Tonga and therefore skip a whole day of our lives…

 

rehua anchored in Niue

  

ready to lift the dinghy

  

dinghy parking

  

Limu pools

  

quick dip in freshwater

  

Matapa chasm

 

cave explorers

 

Avaiki cave

  

great snakes!

   

hike to Togo chasm

 

Togo chasm

 

minigolf with a view

 

exhausting day!

 
 

Passage from Palmerston to Niue

Magellan has a lot to answer for! So far this vast ocean has not been true to its name apart from a few days where we enjoyed a flat sea. Our passage from Palmerston took 62 hours and was a real mix of weather: wind coming from various directions, changing wave patterns and even some rain. We knew the crossing would be rather windy so before taking off the kids and I took a seasick prevention tablet (for the first time ever on our trip). It worked wonders and nobody felt even the least bit queasy. It did knock us out though and I felt very sleepy on my first night time watch. Somehow I struggled through the night and it was such a relief not to feel any seasickness. Yesterday the weather calmed down and we enjoyed a quiet day at last and even cooked roasted chicken for dinner (on the BBQ) and the kids watched a movie before bedtime. But soon enough everything changed again and we had to put in two reefs. The wind kept building and there was an uncomfortable steep wave on our beam. It was too cloudy to sight land until we were only a few miles off and somehow this rather flat island wrapped in a cloudy mist reminded us of Scotland. It started raining as we tied onto a mooring. Toucan, who arrived here last week, welcomed us and brought a few cold beers over. Now the clouds are shifting and the sun is coming out and we ready to head ashore to clear in and find somewhere nice for lunch!

Bye Bye Palmerston

Thank you people of Palmerston for an amazing week! We have never felt so welcome anywhere. There is a good weather window for Niue so we are about to take off and should get there by Monday morning.

The other boat that was here for a few days (Florestan) left this morning. We were keen to get going too but couldn’t leave without saying goodbye. Today was also the end of term party at the school to which we were invited along. The kids were tasked with making an outfit or a useful item out of recycled goods. The results were impressive! A village feast followed with delicious food. We felt very privileged to take part.

Aeneas with his new friends at school

the kids are being prepped for the last day of term and the competition

 

the entire village is present

  

the men like to wear colourful shirts

some of the items made by the schoolchildren with recycled goods

the judges carefully review each item

some children made special costumes instead

 

this dress was made from paper magazines!

  

great outfits!

lunch buffet for everyone and these people can eat!

Seathan with our host Edward

this one is for Bart and Dorothy: Bob and his wife send their love!

another quick look at the washing machine but unfortunately it is beyond repair

 

Caroline looks after baby birds and wants to be a biologist when she grows up

 

the youngest islander and his big sister

 

the boys and their friend Tamatoa playing soldiers