Saturday 9/07/2013 8:30
19 40.202 S 174 17.296 W
Posting by Barb:
We arrived in Ha’Ano at 8:00 in the morning. For me it was hard to believe that our travels had now taken us to Tonga. It was one of those places I had read and heard about but never thought I would ever see. Well here we were! Ha’Ano is part of the Ha Apai group which is the middle of the Tonga islands and is characterized by low, palm covered islands, long sandy beaches, beautiful coral reefs, clear water and small rural communities. Most cruisers blow through this group of islands and prefer to explore the northern Tonga islands called Vava’u.
It took a while to find an anchoring spot as the little bay was full of coral heads. We used a couple of fenders and floated our anchor chain over the corals. As I looked over the boat I could see that we were floating in the middle of a beautiful coral garden and all I had to do was jump off the boat to explore and enjoy, which I did despite the cold water and dreary, rainy weather. I saw a many beautiful blue star fish and loaded my underwater camera with dozens of pictures. We stayed in this beautiful spot for 2 days and managed to do a lot despite the weather. We made a trip into the little town of Haano and we were greeted at the wharf by a few very excited and curious children who were delighted to see new faces on their island. We tried to talk to them but they spoke no English so they just followed us as we walked along giggling and laughing at us. We were greeted and welcomed by William who was the minister of the Church of Tonga. The little town was a little run down, mainly concrete homes but very clean and tidy. All the homes were surrounded by some type of fencing and we realized this was to keep the multitudes of free roaming pigs from digging in their gardens. The island had a few healthy horses, much to the delight of Rosemary who used to train horses. As we walked through town we were welcomed by Juliette who was William’s wife. She gave us some fresh coconut to drink right from the tree in her yard and then offered to cook us a traditional Tongan meal that she could serve on our boat for a small fee. We explained that our boat was small and she would hardly have any room in the galley to prepare a large meal. She laughed and suggested maybe we were referring to her being too large to be on the boat as she was a typical happy, healthily fortified Tonga woman. The real truth was that we enjoy mingling and partaking in the local cultures of the islands we visit so we wanted to have the meal in their natural surroundings. We agreed to be there for lunch the next day.
They lived in a modest, simple little home and served us quite a feast cooked in an Omu, a fire pit in the ground. The feast included lobster tails, Ota Ika or otherwise known as Poisson Cruz in French Polynesia, octopus (which she admitted to be burned to a crisp), baked papaya, plantains, yams (not sweet like yams we are familiar with), breadfruit, fish wrapped in Taro leaves (the leaves tasted a little like spinach), corned beef wrapped in Taro leaves and for dessert we had watermelon and bananas. So other than the corn beef the entire meal was harvested by them from the sea and their garden. William and Julitte entertained us with their stories of their town while we ate and ate and ate. William was sent to the little town by the Church of Tonga to help the people find ways of producing things that they could market and sell such as artifacts weaved from coconut leaves and painted tapestry made from the Tapa tree. We left them a small gift of a bag of oatmeal, pasta and a few small bottles of hand cream. They gave us a bunch of bananas to take on our journey. Early Thursday morning we departed this beautiful little island for our next destination, Pangai, the main town of the Ha Api group of Tonga islands so that we could check in with customs and continue our limited travels in Tonga as our October 10th deadline for arrival in New Zealand was fast approaching (the date has been dictated to us by our current insurer of our boat).