The Kingdom of Tonga. Approximately 5,300 miles from California. Remote – very remote. Tonga has had an absolute monarch since the early 900s AD. It is the only Pacific nation never to be colonized by a foreign power. Consisting of 171 islands (45 of which are inhabited), Tonga sprawls for 270,000 square miles across the Pacific Ocean. And…for us, we added Tonga to our list of countries visited, which now totals 106! So, those are the most salient facts about the place we visited for two days.
Surprisingly, for an island, we saw no scooters or motorcycles. We were told that motorcycles are considered too dangerous for the island. We went to the largest car rental agency, and cars were all that they rented, but every single one had already been rented for the both days we were in Nuku’alofa, the capital city. So we found a taxi willing to take us to five of the most popular sights for $50 US, and it took close to two hours. The roads are very bad – once you leave the city, they become a mix of paved and unpaved, but mostly unpaved with lots of potholes, and many are narrow, wide enough for just one vehicle. Of course, that doesn’t mean that we didn’t encounter many vehicles coming toward us on the narrowest of roads, just that either they, or we, had to pull over into high grasses on the sides of the road. Quite an adventure.
There is a photo below of one of the road signs put up by the Tonga Transportation Department – we provide this as proof that the “attractions” we visited are truly thought to be – ATTRACTIONS. See what you think! We went to (1) the Blowholes, (2) the 3-headed Coconut Tree, (3) Tsunami Rock, (4) the Flying Foxes, and (5) the Christian Landing – that is, where Captain Cook came ashore in 1773. The explorers did such a great job of getting Christian converts that in current times Sunday is a day when Tongans are forbidden to work, no stores are open, and the motto of the day is: church, eat, and rest.
The Tongan flag is primarily red with a white canton containing a red cross. The Royal Palace, sitting on the Pacific Ocean, uses these two colors, as do many homes and businesses. It makes for colorful sights! We also walked through the Talamahu Market, the largest in Tonga. It is a series of tables set up in an open-air structure, selling fruits, vegetables, and many handmade arts and crafts.
Overall, Tonga sounds exotic to visit, but it is rather poor, and the people live humbly. When cruise ships are in town, there are two menus in restaurants, one for tourists, and (much) lower prices for locals. There were lots of stray dogs walking on the roads, and we commented on them to our taxi driver, who appeared to be about 30. He said, “I tell my children not to befriend them, as they likely will be on the dinner table next week!”
Since our last post on Raiatea, we visited three ports before Tonga: Moorea, French Polynesia; Papeete, Tahiti; and Rarotonga, Cook Islands. In Moorea and Papeete, it was raining quite a bit, and tenders to Moorea were halted for part of the day due to the rain. Since we will be back to both of these ports for an extended time in March/April, and since we have visited both several times, we didn’t try to brave the rain. We would have loved to add the Cook Islands to the countries we have visited, but the ship didn’t even anchor that day. The swells were heavy, and the winds quite gusty, so it wasn’t deemed safe to tender to the island. In compensation, the captain slowly circumnavigated the island (but that doesn’t merit adding it to our country count!)
🔹🔹 If you enjoyed reading our post, you can subscribe to our website to automatically receive every blog we publish. Just go to our “Contact” tab. In the gray box at the very bottom, it says – SUBSCRIBE TO BLOG VIA EMAIL. Just put in your email address, and we will appear in your Inbox! Also, right above it, there is a small form to send us a message, if you wish. (But please note, you cannot hit “Reply” on the post emailed to you to send us a message. You must use the Contact tab.)