So to Tonga the 'friendly isles' they stopped eating people in 1906 !! 1,300 miles, six days, usual mix of great following trade and lighter frustrating winds plus one huge Wahoo (fish) and we are here.
Tonga, many islands, few people. Surviving on what it can grow, aid and a little tourism based on the migrating whales.
We are delighted however to break from the norm and welcome Matt as guest editor the following words are therefore mainly his.
“Like most of you, I assume I have been reading the blog, seething with jealousy, updates of sandy beaches, exotic locals, more tan than a leather shop, So I with the kids, Harriet, Ellie and Jake, did something about it and visited. But aren't Tongans big angry rugby players what's this about the Friendly Islands!! After 30 hours, 4 continents, emotional hellos (except Andy) we are here, ready to explore.
Even from the plane we could see just how beautiful these islands are, this continued in the taxi, glorious greens, sandy beaches and pigs so many pigs, Janice loves pigs!!
You quickly realise how important religion and education is. The houses may be a bit run down but the churches and schools are pristine. The different colours uniforms depict the different religions and schools.
An unturndownable invitation to a church showed us why the Friendly Islands. Warm welcome, bursts of song, sense of community, even if all in Tongan which we didn't quite master.
Off to explore and snorkel around the Vava'u islands - paradise. And the 'traditional' beach bar b. After an island wide hunt for wood the fire was set. Something Neanderthal about making fire, discussing it, poking it, but what a fantastic feast under the stars on a deserted beach.
Then the highlight of the trip. Something I don't think any of us will experience any thing close to again, the opportunity to swim with whales.
I assumed they meant watch from a boat, but no!! Once we had spotted a mother and calf it was flippers, snorkels on and over the side we went. It was an incredible sight, emotional, to see a humpbacks, the mother alone was over 20 mts long, swimming, diving, surfacing, with the calf floating around right next to you was something else, words can't really describe it.
Tough act to follow but we certainly tried with a double header of Tongan feasts. The first a school fund raiser, enough food for the 50, the second, the fella had 11 children so the proceeds were for his family, with enough food for 50 so lucky we were 10. The family cooked and really showed us the meaning of Friendly.
The people, the ocean, the landscape, the snorkelling. An absolute unforgettable experience that will take some beating though I expect the parents will give it a good go (the lucky b....... s).
Note from parents, thank you wonderful kids for coming and making this adventure even more special .. special thanks Matt for the blog.