Monday, 6 September 2010

Time and Trench Just Two Features of Tonga

Day 4, Sat, Sept. 4, 2010
Tonga is a special place, like no other. Tonga might be one of the poorest countries in the Pacific, but Tonga has captured time. "Where time begins", "where time stands still", whatever. Tonga is the first country to welcome in the new day each dawn. Despite the fact that Tonga is geographically in the western hemisphere (east of longitude 180 degrees), the country was successful in lobbying to have the International Dateline moved so Tonga would coincide with the same day as Fiji, hence Tonga has the unique time of UTC plus 13 hours. Confused? More on this some other time.
Tonga is a Kingdom, a country of beautiful islands, a sanctuary for whales, a place where the friendly and charming locals, men and women, wear woven "mats" around their middles as a mark of respect for their royalty. The churches are grand, the singing sublime and the restaurants excellent. You might think you've seen blowholes. The coastline of the largest island Tongatapu, breathes like a herd of dragons as blowholes blast forth their awesome watery mist.
I don't know where you'd find the greatest ocean depth but the Tonga Trench seems ridiculously deep. At its deepest it's more than 10,000 meters; about twice as deep as the Rocky Mountains are high. If you dropped a stone overboard I wonder how long it would take to touch bottom? If whales frolic in the shallows around the islands, what kind of beasties live at those crazy depths in the Tongan Trench?
If you're a cruiser and you've dreamed of finding your own uninhabited tropical island with no other boat to clutter your anchorage, the Ha'apai Group of Tonga is the place to realize your dream. In fact you could probably pick up your own island there for a cool US$6 million, as advertised for Kelefesia. Even if you're tempted, you might want to ask how a purchase can work in a country where the land is owned by the nobles and leased to the commoners. You'd want a long lease for that kind of money but then you couldn't be described as a regular commoner if you're in that league.
For all its magnificence, there is a downside to this paradise if you like your water to taste like, nothing, I suppose. Tongan water has a taste and a colour (brown) and it does not work well in the morning coffee. For only the second time in our two years of cruising we had to buy bottled water to drink. The other time was in the Galapagos. By the way, local Tongan coffee called Tupu'anga, meaning grow from your roots, is very good!
Surely the good people of Tonga deserve better drinking water, to start the day off right.

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