Well, America, I guess today is election day. Andrew and I are out here in Tonga waiting on pins and needles to hear the result. We voted via absentee ballot, and emailed a tally of our humble opinion earlier in October. We returned to Nieafu today to get some internet access and hear the results. So, now, all we can do is wait. Hopefully, the puppies from Ofu Island will distract all of us for at least few minutes.
I also updated the last two posts with photos, don't forget to scroll back and check it out.
The next morning, we have a slow start. We sip our coffee while Andrew whips up the ship’s version of huevos rancheros. A discussion fires up about provisioning and cooking in remote areas. “Yeah, we eat pretty healthy.” Andrew replies, and I scoff. We have a pretty steady diet of bacon, ice cream and beer. Everyone takes note that we are not eating bacon this morning, but I point out there is bacon lard in the refried beans.
We clean up dishes, tidy up and raise anchor. We motor back through the reef labyrinth, but Andrew has to stop at “Sand Key” for cocktails and a “snorkumnavigation”. We anchor Sonrisa in the middle of nowhere, hop into Grin with our picnic cooler and slide up on a soft sandy spot that just barely peeks its nose out of the ocean. We enjoy cheese, crackers, almonds, golden raisins and some beers. Andrew climbs into his fins, mask and snorkel, then swims around the sand key. Snorkumnavigation complete.
Sailing on, we anchor off a small island named Ofu with a tiny village bearing its same name. We position ourselves for “easy” access to a restaurant on the mainland across the way called Vava’u Villas, known for its vanilla flavored bacon. For bacon eaters, this is a must do Tongan experience. Coffee and Brian were adjusting to “local time”, finding Cruiser’s Midnight (or 9:00 p.m.) becoming harder and harder to reach. So, after listening to the Ofu village sing at their Saturday night church services from Sonrisa’s cockpit, we hit the hay to gather our energy.
The next morning we dress up in our finery and ready ourselves for a Bacon Adventure. We have about a mile of ocean and another 300 yards of shallow reef to reach the Bacon. We want to time the tide just right so that we arrive as tide comes in, but leave early enough that there is still enough water over the long reef to ride Grin back out. Otherwise, we will get stuck ashore and have to walk over urchin invested reef. This will never do. We calculate tide times and predict that if we reach our destination by 10:30 a.m, we should have enough water to float up to shore. High tide is at noon, so we should have enough time to eat and then get out before the water drains again.
Grin and Kitty start their morning warmup. The four crew members pile in and leave Sonrisa to hold her own. We putter across the expanse of ocean and reach the reef. Kitty motors slowly, uncertain that she can keep her propeller turning weighed down by the four passengers. Andrew shuts her off, tips her up and we take up oar. We paddle, the water barely deep enough to cover the paddle end. Then, as somewhat expected, we hear Grin’s belly scrape the bony (already dead) coral and come to a stop. We can smell bacon in the distance, but the walk is quite far. I look over the side and see tiny black spines everywhere, the menacing urchins just waiting to shimmy their way through our shoes and into our toes.
This will not do.
We paddle backwards, off the coral and float. I point to the edge of a nearby island with a walkable shoreline dry during all but the highest of tides. “Maybe we can walk along that island and pull Grin in the shallows to our left? It isn’t likely to be covered by urchins.” Andrew grumbles and says no. Looking in the distance, our eyes follow the road from the Villas to the right, where it disappears behind the island blocking our way. We can smell bacon and vanilla.
There is a small slot between this little island and the next, just wide enough for a skiff like Grin to pass. To the left of the slot is a small beach. “Maybe we can park Grin on that little beach and get there through by walking over that island?”
We paddle Grin to the beach, but the island is a tangle of jungle with no apparent trails or paths. We still have not acquired a machete, as all good islanders must do. So, this plan seems impossible. “Maybe we can take Grin through the little slot and get to the road from the other side?” Andrew suggests. We paddle over to the slot. A little mini rapid is formed as the incoming tide rushes through the slot and into the lagoon behind. We all climb into Grin. I take an oar at the front, and stand so I can see the deep and shallow spots. Andrew takes an oar on the other side at the back.
Grin slips into the tide stream and giggles as the current pushes him through the slot, just barely hovering over the shallow rocks, urchins and coral. “Wahhoooeee!” I try to steer us through the “S” curve of coral on the inside. We survey the lagoon, but there are no paths or roads on this side, either. Hm.
We try to paddle Grin back out, but he grunts as the current pushes him steadily backwards and his belly drags along the ground again. A breeze pushes a whiff of bacon my way, and I become irritable.
We all pile out of Grin. Coffee climbs over the tangle of tropical plants, Andrew drags Grin through rapids from the edge, Brian follows behind and I stomp throughs the shallows becoming more and more cantankerous. We climb back into Grin and paddle back out.
Andrew suggests we drive a circuitous route to a different area of equally shallow and long reef. “This is turning into the Bacon Odyssey.” Coffee says.
I testily point out that the reef Andrew suggests is just as long and just as shallow as the one we are currently sitting in front of. “Maybe this isn’t going to work,” I fold my arms and huff. A chorus of encouragement bursts forth in support of bacon, so I demand that we try my original plan to walk along the edge of the island and drag Grin. Andrew sighs and motors toward the shoreline. I take Grin’s leader and drag him along stomp-splashing the whole way. We reach the road and tie Grin up, high and dry for now.
We enjoy lovely Vanilla Bacon, and my cantankerous mood dissipates somewhat.
The return trip is much less troublesome. We decide to head to shore and explore the tiny village of Ofu. One church, one room school, one soft and grassy road leading through town. The town is filled with the voices of its inhabitants, still singing their way through their all day church extravaganza. Pigs wander through town, nosing their way along the beach in search of shellfish. Andrew points and names each one of them “Bacon.” This causes me guilt and sadness. “Poor piggies,” I say.
On the island next door, we find an Eco-Resort built by two Americans who set sail, found an unused Tongan island, then stayed and built their dream resort. The island includes a west facing beach perfect for sunsets, cozy little treehouse villas, an open kitchen and dining room, and beautiful touches here and there using shells in mosaic pattern for footpaths and the like.
I get tingly when I think about it. They took a risk sailing off and capturing one dream, but the pursuit of the first dream delivered them into the next dream. It is a law of physics. Momentum: a person in motion stays in motion, while a person at rest stays at rest. They served up inspiration and a good Mai Tai. Then, they graciously gave us the “sailors discount”. I like these people.