Monday, June 18, 2012

Happenin' in the Ha'apais

We had a wonderful 3 weeks in the Ha’apai islands of Tonga. Some lovely snorkeling and diving.  Very remote, no provisioning, subsistence fishing villages, beautiful beaches and some convivial fellow cruisers.  Had a great birthday eve party for Derek at the perfect beach on the island of Uoleva. Four other boats were there. We were invited to use the "restaurant" at the very rustic but very nice resort (Serenity) on shore. We had a big pot-luck including the 4 resort guests and 2 owners as well as the several Tongan workers. Masses of food; fish, chicken, lamb dishes and 3 cakes, including Cathy’s famous and rapidly consumed rum cake!  Everyone then gathered 'round the fire on the beach and the guitars were played, rum and kava drunk and songs sung, including some lovely Tonga songs by the locals. 

On a small island in the southern Ha'apais, we visited a fishing camp where they were hunting octopus on the reef - every day, all day... The acetylene tank hanging in the tree is to call the island pigs for feeding, we weren't sure who.

 Octopus cleaned and drying in the trees. Sad reminder of the Billie Holliday song; Strange Fruit.

 Smokin' pods.

The fishermen use a lure made out of cowrie shells, supposed to resemble a rat which the octopus can't resist grabbing, as per a Tongan legend. Or so we were told by the fishermen. It may have more to do with the lure being made out of cowrie shells which octopus prey on.

 Another fisherman. This is our friend Alfredo.

Success! A big Red Snapper. Alfredo and his partner organized a beach barbeque with all the cruisers in the anchorage. Unfortunately, just as he was going to put the fillets on the coals a concern was raised that it might be toxic due to cigueterra poisoning. It wound up being donated to some locals who were more than happy to eat it - and displayed no ill effects. 

Happy times in the Ha'apais!

On the 4th we had a wonderful 13 nm flat water reach behind Uoleva and Pangai, up to Ha’ano to get ready for the next day's sail to Vavau. Great healthy coral for snorkelling with caves, crevasses, drop offs and masses of colourful fish. Next day we left early and averaged 8.5 knots on a close reach for 6 hours. A great sail with the sun out, 20 knots of breeze and screaming along! Hit the big city of Nieafu (pop about 1000) and went out for dinner ashore at the Aquarium where we were warmly welcomed back after our summer away.  A big burger for D, pan fried snapper for C.  Have met up with several friends here, going back as far as our time in Grenada. This morning we are anchored out off one of the small islands, its raining (time to wash the boat!) and Cathy is making some banana pancakes.

Not so happy in the Ha'apais. Actually we were in the Vava'u area by this time. Cathy had a nasty run in with a Portuguese Man of War jellyfish. She went into shock within 5 minutes due to the severe pain and histamine reaction. Luckily we got her back to the boat within minutes and doused in vinegar to neutralize the nematocysts and antihistamines tablets for the reaction. We were very luck that she was not stung over a larger area and that Derek was able to reach her quickly by dinghy.

In the next week or so and when we get a good weather window, we plan to visit the really remote Tongan island of Neiutoputapu, 160nm north of  here and then another 200nm to the French island of Wallis, before heading for SavuSavu in Fiji.