Goodbye Lovely Tonga- by Gary Dawson & Nicole

Goodbye Lovely

Tonga is most certainly the undiscovered paradise of the Pacific. It has to be one of the least known and yet best cruising area that I have come across. We all have heard of Tahiti, Bora Bora and Fiji, but Tonga, is it an Island or what??? This is an amazing place. Hundreds of coral Islands over an area of 150 miles. 90% of them are uninhabited and everyone of them is surround by beautiful sand beaches. The waters are a kaleidoscope of colors. From deep blue to navy to light blue to turquoise than green, all contrasting with sky blue. More blues than a big box of crayolas have.

Best of all the people are beautiful. Can you imagine what the French have done to the French Polynesians’ disposition over time? Well Tonga is totally independent with a king and all. The other night I was sitting on the boat at a new Island called Oua. It is about sunset and I look to shore and see a lot of people at the very small village dock. Well to find out it was the men of the village getting into their fishing boats to go fishing for the night, maybe 6 boats with 3 men per boat. The boats are wood and the flotation/ life jackets are inter tubes. They go out and get Octopus (they are out at night) and they smoke it and sell on Nuku’alofa, the big Island where the King resides. So anyways we decide to go in and we bring an 18 pack of Budweiser which we give to one of the fisherman, and a pack of chocolate in case we find any kids. This village was even more third world than any other one we have visited so far. No cars, mopeds no roads, just dirt paths. Maybe 200 people live in the village. As we start walking around the village we get our first four kids. By the time we finish we have 20 kids following us. That’s when I start passing out the chocolate to all the kids (ages 3-12). The whole experience was hard to describe as it was very spiritual for me. We took some pictures of the kids and the next morning brought some 8 x 10s to the school(one is attached). What a world is out there!!!!!!!!

So as implied by the title, we are on our way to Opua, New Zealand a 1000 mile 7 day trip. The adventure continues.

Love Gary

Colby is busy on his watch so I will write a little today. As dad says, Tonga was a great experience! And as usual when visiting a foreign land, Colby and I collected quite a few souvenirs along the way.
The locals here are very much into carving. It seems to be the major form of art here – and they really can carve anything. We saw whale bones, ox bones, shells and corals carved into a multitude of designs – all which have their own meaning. Some carvings were small necklaces while others were gigantic 15 foot long, life-like images of whales and their calves.
While we traveled the islands, we searched the markets for a souvenir to take home to Alaska to remind us of this beautiful place and its friendly people. We found a few wooden carvings that we liked of whales and an octopus, but Colby knew he wanted something even more special…
You see Colby has been following the humpback whales around for years. First in Hawaii, then Alaska and now Tonga. The whales here though are a different kind than the ones we get in Alaska. These ones come to Tonga in the summer to mate and have their calves, and then around this time of year, they start swimming down to Antarctica.
We didn’t expect to see any here because it is so late in the season. We thought they would be well on their way south. But one day, while we were sailing to the island that dad was talking about, we saw one. A South Pacific humpback whale breaching out of the ocean a few hundred yards ahead of us. It kept leaping and head slapping, and waving its huge flippers in the air at us – its bright white stomach shining in the sun.
And that is when Colby decided what his souvenir should be. He wanted a tattoo of a humpback whale- a Tongan design.
So when we got back to the main island of Nuku’alofa, dad had his regular taxi driver, John, try and find us a tattoo artist since we could not seem to locate any in town. John came through for us and found us a young artist who has been teaching himself to tattoo since he was 16 years old. He did not have a portfolio or any pictures to show us of his work. We weren’t sure what to think, but Colby went along with it gamely. He stood in the dusty driveway of someone’s house while this guy sketched the shape of a whale on his arm with a ball point pen.
We then followed him into his “shop for the day”. It was a concrete shack on the property. Inside was dust and cobwebs. They laid a mat on the hard floor with an old dirty pillow and had Colby take off his shirt and lie down there. And that is where Chris, the tattoo artist, did his work – on the floor of this little shack and operating the machine with his feet. His friends stood around the whole day and talked and laughed with us. We got an inside scoop of the Tongan culture, family and their own personal dreams. It was a great experience.
Well to make a long story short – Colby now has an awesome, and quite large, tattoo of a Tongan humpback whale design on his left shoulder. I myself was so inspired by Chris’s free-handed artwork that I too laid on the dusty ground and got a lovely, unique design on my shoulder.
And so we left Tonga with the ultimate souvenirs – ones we can look at forever.

Love Nic

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