After my terrifying near-death experience, I wanted to spend my last full day in Tonga in a more relaxed way. And that’s exactly what I did, by heading out to the beach and doing as little as possible. Sure, by the end of the day I would have cheated death once again, but… well, it’s been a good day.
There’s a lot to do in Vava’u, including whale watching and diving, but it’s the off-season, and most of those options aren’t open to me. Toss in the fact that I’ve had to book everything at short notice due to getting here late, and I didn’t have much choice. I booked a taxi and had him take me to a deserted beach near Tu’anuku, and that’s where I spent the day.
Apart from a few deserted shacks around, the joint was deserted. Well, as far as people go, at least – a gaggle of well-fed boar were strutting around like they owned the place. I was feeling pretty hungry and thought one of them would taste pretty good between some hamburger buns, with a squirt of BBQ sauce, but I couldn’t catch any of them. Add hunting to the list of things I’m not very good (along with building things out of LEGO and getting it up after 12 beers).
I pulled out my snorkel (no, I’m not talking about my penis) and went for a splash, and what I saw out there was spectacular. Schools of fish sparkled around me like multicoloured stars, weird sea creatures danced in front of my eyes, and caves and coral stretched in every direction. The crystal clear water lapped up against palm trees, with no buildings to ruin the view, and if there’s a place that better fits the description of paradise, I’m yet to find it.
As I was paddling, I spun around and felt my blood freeze. About half-a-metre in front of me was a deadly box jellyfish, its tentacles hanging long and hooked. A sting by one of those bastards is usually fatal, even if first aid is administered immediately, and here I was a kilometre from shore, in a place where the closest thing to a hospital is a medical box with two Band-Aids and a half-sucked Panadol. I’m normally as brave as a gay Jew in an ISIS meeting, but let’s face it, I pretty much shat my boardies. I carefully kicked away from the big bastard, but as I swam away, I swear it was following me. Every time I looked around, it was looming in the blue like an evil plastic bag.
Once back on shore, I climbed a tree and headed back to Neiafu. I took a walk around the place, which is tiny and lovely, like a midget stripper. There are only a handful of streets in the whole town, and I walked them all, marvelling at the simple houses and wild gardens.When I got hungry, I enjoyed a delightful dinner of fish and chips, washed down with half-a-dozen glasses Popao, while overlooking the harbour.
Tonight was the first State of Origin match, and I was worried I’d miss my first Origin since, well, as long as I can remember. But then something magical happened. I got chatting to the bloke who washes the dishes at the restaurant, and he invited me back to drink kava with him and his buddies, and we could watch the game at the same time. I was a bit concerned after the events of last night, but I hopped in his car (like most in Tonga, it was missing windows, and my seat was held in place with electrical tape) and rocked off to a hut full of blokes.
They made me feel so welcome as we watched the game and drank brown water, as we swapped stories of our different lives. So many times on my adventures have I been overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of strangers, who have gone out of their way to help me and make me feel comfortable. Being alone, without anyone to confide in, or anyone to have a simple conversation with, means that these interactions are so important. It was a wonderful way to end my time on the islands, and I was sad to say goodbye to my new friends. But, alas, I had to. I’ve got another date with Real Tonga tomorrow… and things promise to get ugly!