Vava’u was our first stop in Tonga. Unfortunately, the hurricane Waka had hit Vava’u hard December 31 2001, and we found that many places had shut down (as they no longer had roofs or walls). But life goes on in this yachties paradise.
In Vava’u, we started up at the Hilltop hotel. A bit expensive at 100 pa’anga a night, but the only place we would stay in Tonga that had hot showers or air conditioning. Our room had a wonderful view of the Port of Refuge bay from the veranda, and the good Italian restaurant Sunset is part of the hotel.
Vava’u isn’t a very big island, so the first day we hired some bikes (15 pa’ang at Adventure Backpackers) and went to Hinakauea Beach. A lovely beach, although lots of coral made it a bit uncomfortable to enter the water. The resort here had closed due to the hurricane. And the rain soon enough set in while we were there too. The unpaved road we had to bike back resembled a mud slide.
After two nights we moved down to Adventure Backpackers, and got a nice room (without bath and aircon) for half the price. Still nice and more social than the Hilltop.
We went for a day trip to the Tongan Beach Resort, and found the beach nicer than Hinakauea (not so much coral). However, this place was too expensive for us to stay at.
While in Vava’u I also lodged two dives with Dolphin Pacific divers. The diving wasn’t spectacular, but at least I got to see a few small reef sharks in a cave.
The city of Adelaide has gotten the label as “city of churches”. But if Adelaide is the city of churches, then Tonga is the country of churches. Everybody is in church on Sundays and hence absolutely everything is closed. Airplanes are not even allowed to land on Sundays.
Not only do Tongans go to church, but they also keep building them. We went around Vava’u with Steven Hansen (apparently his grandfather was from Denmark). In the village of Tu’anuku we stopped and had a coconut with one of Steven’s friends – a bishop. The bishop worked in one of Tu’anuku’s 5 churches. That might not sound like a lot, but if you consider that Tu’anuku only has 400 inhabitants, and that all 5 churches are active things get into perspective. Tu’anuku is no exception; the entire kingdom is the same. No matter where you go on a Sunday, you can hear the singing of not one, but several churches over each other. It seems like an eternal struggle between Mormons, Free Wesleyans, the Free Church of Tonga and the Roman Catholics. They keep building bigger and better churches. To me, it was a bit difficult to judge if any appeared to be better Christians than others.
From Vava’u we flew to Ha’apai.