More. Fucken. Rain. I couldn’t believe that the shit weather had infested yet another country. I sat around fuming, until eventually the sun peaked out from between the clouds around midday, and I decided to head off and explore the Kingdom of Tonga. With the weather improving by the minute, I had a pleasant swagger along the waterfront, waving to the locals and enjoying the relaxed feel of the island. I didn’t see another tourist the whole time, and it’s not surprising, because there’s barely a tourist industry here.
Being a Saturday, I thought it would be a good idea to go to a rugby union game at the National Stadium, so I headed west into Nuku’alofa. There was a lot more action than yesterday, with Tongans wandering up and down both sides of the street, buying and selling vegetables or clothes from little stalls. There’s no doubt that this place is poor, even compared to Samoa. While I didn’t feel the desperation I’d experienced in Cambodia, the people here don’t have a whole lot.
Nuku’alofa seemed even smaller than it was yesterday. I wandered down the main street, and it didn’t take long to notice something odd – every shop was run by Chinese people. Every single one. I guess the Tongans row over to China in their longboats, kidnap a bunch of Chinamen, and bring them up. And I thought I was desperate to get out of work!
I finally made it to the stadium, which is about as impressive as Woy Woy Oval and not much better, and sat on the hill to watch whichever teams were playing. Again, I found the game as interesting as having dinner with Bernie Fraser. Rugby union’s just a shit sport to watch, and after an hour I was ready to stab myself in the face to break the monotony. The locals liked it, though, and they cheered and roared on the odd occasion that something vaguely interesting happened. Or maybe they were just overloaded on kava.
Once I left the stadium, there wasn’t a whole lot else to do. The few shops that Nuku’alofa has were closed, there’s not really a beach around to sit on, and the streets quickly became quiet. This is a peaceful place, but as I wandered along, I could see reminders of the 2006 riots that tore this place apart. Burnt out buildings still stand as a reminder of the brutal battle for democracy that was waged on these streets. It’s hard to believe that such scenes were played out in on this peaceful island in the middle of the sea.
I picked up a carton of beer and a hamburger on the way home, dodged a handful of filthy beggars, and sat around the pool to relax after a long day of not doing much. I was getting through my fifth beer when a handsome gentleman sat down on the next banana lounge and introduced himself. He seemed like a nice chap and after a while he told me that he was Tonga’s national squash champion, and would I like to have a match against him? I obviously had enough liquid courage in me, because I said yes, despite never having played squash before. I mean, really, how often does a national champ ask you to compete against him?
I probably should’ve thought it out better. The bloke was quick on his toes, had perfect aim and a brilliant level of fitness, while I stomped around like a wombat, couldn’t hit a bloody thing, and felt like I was going to have a heart attack after the first 30 seconds. He was obviously taking it easy on me, and wasn’t taking the piss out of me or anything, but when I painted the wall of the court with beer and burger, he decided to call time on it. And that, sadly, looks like being the end of my squash career.