It’s hard to make an assessment of our visit to Tonga, or more precisely the Vava’u Group, the northernmost islands of this large archipelago.
All in all, we have been somewhat disappointed, although we have been biased by several external factors, beginning with our arrival, tired and nervous after a last night with strong wind, large and dangerous seas and torrential rain, which continued for some days also after our arrival.
Then, we found out that we have to be in Fiji by June 26th, meaning that we had to cut short our stay here, leaving one day earlier but doing customs clearance 3 days before (here NOBODY works on week-ends!) therefore losing some precious cruising days.
The last straw was the people’s attitude: they may call themselves the “friendly islands”, but all businesses have been set up by foreigners, and the tongan personnel is perennially grumpy and lazy.
Finally, the country seems to be mismanaged: it’s still a kingdom, with the happy face of the King, clad in an opera-house style military uniform, showing on every banknote, but bureaucracy is heavy-handed and all public-utility works have been funded by the European Community.
The islands themselves are strange, very different from what we saw until now: low-lying and flat, with sheer coastlines and split into many islets connected by underwater coral reefs, forming a veritable labirynth of passages and anchorages where navigation is difficult and GPS is inaccurate (the charts are based on surveys done in the 1800’s!). Luckily, the Moorings charter company has printed a booklet where they give a lot of useful information coupled with a bit of history and legends as well.
Our bad mood was certainly not helped by the fact that the engine has a misterious electrical problem and the calorifyer is leaking like a sieve: more repairs to be done!
Now we have left, bound for Fiji, which welcomed us with the request to inform them by fax of our arrival, and the threat of huge fines if we do not behave: so much for welcoming tourists…