Tag Archives: Pacific Islands

Nofo a, Tonga!

All good things have to come to an end. Bros broke up, Ship 2 Shore ended, and now my travels through the Pacific Islands are done and dusted. I woke up early to watch the sun rise over the waters of Vava’u, Tonga, then packed my bags and got out of there.

During the short taxi drive through the palm trees, I had time to think back on the weird and wonderful people I’ve met on this trip. Sleeping Beauty, who kept me up all night (for all the wrong reasons) in Apia. The Italian sheila in Lalomanu, who I would’ve liked to have kept me up all night. Ross and Maria, who took me into their home and fed me. Henry, the heavily-tattooed homo, who’s also one of the most fascinating men I’ve ever met. Jojo and the other boys in Fiji, who shared their kava with e and gave me a glimpse of what it’s like to live in extreme poverty. Captain Frabiatore, who invited me to his home and was hurt when I turned him down to spend the night in a roach-infested hell-hole (sorry, mate). Papiloa the renegade newspaper editor. The ladies from the Chinese restaurant, who took me on the town and got me so drunk I woke up on the floor. And the boys from last night, who welcomed me into their home and allowed me to watch the football with them.

Sure, the Pacific Islands are about beaches and snorkelling and sun and all that, but the true appeal is in the people, who are warm and wonderful, simple and quirky, honest and strong. If you’re going to come to Samoa or Tonga (or Fiji, really) and stay in a resort, you’re doing it wrong. There are so many lovely families here who would love to have you stay, and all for such a low price. It’s the hospitality that sets the Islands apart from anywhere else I’ve been.

As it turns out, Real Tonga did let me on the plane, and when I got back to Fuaʻamotu International Airport, I found that it was strangely empty. They only get about 15 flights in and out a week, and I was bit early, so I sat in the vacant airport, reading and listening to music. Eventually some other people rolled in, and before I knew it I was on the plane, ready to leave. I wish I had longer out here.

I was looking out the window at the swaying palm trees, preparing for takeoff, when the plane started to shake. I looked up to see a mountain of a man crashing down the aisle. He was at least 160kg, with rolls of fat slinging from side to side as he moved, and I closed my eyes and prayed that he wasn’t sitting next to me. God must’ve been in the toilet or something, because the big fella stopped next to me, checked his ticket, then gave me a huge smile. “Guess we’re plane buddies,” he chuckled, then squeezed in next to me.

VavaIMG_9735I was pushed up against the window as his blubber oozed into my seat, and I was about to hotfoot it over to the emergency door and escape back to paradise. How could I possibly sit next to this walking heart attack for the next five hours? I was getting crushed, like an abandoned baby in a garbage truck! And then the plane rattled and hummed, and we took to the air, and Tonga was nothing but a fading blotch in a big, blue sea.

And then everything got better.

“Hey, want some chicken?” asked the big fella, waving a delicious-looking drumstick in my face. “I’ve got plenty.” He opened up a bag and there was about 10kg of chicken in there, along with a variety of beautiful Tongan foods. I took a bite of the chicken and danced on my tongue, and we got stuck into it while guzzling beer and talking about football. Turns out Feleti is a great bloke and after a few hours, when the beer and chicken had worked its magic, I nestled into his fat rolls and went to sleep.

And that, my friends, is the story of my trip to Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.

One Fine Day in Vava’u (or, That’s the most dangerous box I’ve encountered since my ex-girlfriend dumped me!)

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!

Big Trouble in Little Tonga

My journey to the tropical island of Vava’u was supposed to be a quiet, relaxing end to my trip through Tonga – a few days on the beach, some beers, that sort of thing. Instead it became a nightmarish fight for survival that pushed me past my limits and almost cost me my life.

I’d flown out to the Pacific Islands two weeks earlier to escape another broken relationship and the depressing emptiness of my studio apartment. Hopping from Samoa to Fiji to Tonga, I’d slept on beaches, climbed trees and been attacked by wild dogs, but nothing could prepare me for what was to come.

I took a taxi through the blistering Nuku’alofa heat to a cottage made of sticks that the locals call the airport, and the heavy-set girl behind the counter gave me a smile and told me that I was too late for my flight. My watch didn’t agree with her – it said I was an hour early.

As I argued the point, her story kept changing. The flight was overbooked, I had the wrong day – I’m surprised they didn’t try blaming space aliens. My ranting and raving continued until, in the distance, I heard the whomping of a propeller starting up. My three days in Vava’u had become two.

Perfect ambiance, with just a hint of cockroach turds and urine

The same taxi I’d taken to the airport took me back through the handful of faded cottages that make up Nuku’alofa and dumped me in a scabby guest house with rat droppings decorating the floor. The smell of Dettol almost covered the stink of urine.

“Well, I’m going to get drunk,” I muttered, before storming out in a foul mood. I was hungry and thirsty and pissed off, and Nuku’alofa was as quiet as a tongueless monk in a library. Turns out it was a public holiday, and almost everything was closed.

Some of the friendlier locals

I finally tracked down a rickety wooden pub that might’ve been nice once and the first bottle of Popao barely touched the sides, so I knocked back another, determined to drink away my anger. Happy Hour rolled around, and the drinks went down quicker. Sleazy 80s disco songs blared from speakers as the sun went down and neon lights flickered to life around me. As seven o’clock crept up I was wobbling around like a jellyfish at a rave party, and started chatting to a huge Tongan bloke called Terry. He told me he was a high-ranking cop and into cage fighting, and looked like he could snap me in half. He seemed nice enough and we shared a few beers, until I noticed he was creeping closer and kept making comments about what a good-looking bloke I was and how the girls must love me. I don’t hear that a lot, so it made me uncomfortable.

Then Terry introduced me to his mates, a couple of freaky-looking transvestites who were giggling away in the corner. Terry put an arm the size of a tree trunk around my shoulder, crushing me like a boa constrictor, and when I tried to move away he just pulled me in closer. His body odour made my stomach churn and I was no longer simply uncomfortable, I was scared.

“You’ll come back with us tonight,” he said. It wasn’t a question, it was a statement.

The toilet provided brief sanctuary, but when I returned Terry had another beer for me. It tasted sour as I downed it, and the big man told me about his work with the police, especially how he can track anyone down – including me. Things were turning bad. I was in big trouble in a foreign country, and very much alone.

I’ve met a lot of freaks over the years, but this was the first time I’ve genuinely felt in real danger, and I had to do something about it. Something brave and masculine and – forget about that, I just ran away like a little girl. Terry was blocking the door, but when he turned to talk to one of his friends I raced past his hulking frame and into the muggy night, then down the street to another bar. I slugged down a beer to settle my nerves, then the door slammed open and Terry was standing there with bad intentions written all over his face. I dived behind a fake palm tree, pulling the fronds closer as the monster looked around, then let out a sigh of relief when he trudged back outside. As soon as he was gone I darted outside and ran in the opposite direction, ending up in a deserted Chinese restaurant, being blasted by the freezing breeze of the air conditioner.


Post almost-raped blues

I’m not too proud to admit that I almost broke down when I made it to safety and the enormity of the situation hit me. As my sweet and sour pork was served I had to hold back tears as I did my best to slow down my racing heart. I distracted myself by eating and drinking and chatting up the pretty waitresses, and my memory from that point is a bit hazy. The girls led me to a rundown bar, where I got as drunk as a politician and danced like an octopus at a Wiggles concert. I must’ve had a good time, because I spent all my pa’anga.


Doing Australia proud

The next thing someone was kicking me in the ribs and saying, “Get up, get up, why you on the floor?”

I wiped a rancid rivulet of regurgitated rice from my mouth and sat up. I was on the floor of my room and my answer, for some reason, was “I’m an Australian,” as if we all regularly sleep on piles of cockroach turds.

With my head pounding and my vision blurred, I somehow made it back out to the airport, where I was told once again that I wouldn’t be flying. With enough alcohol in my system to keep Matthew Newton going for a month, I wasn’t going to take that and caused a scene – which obviously worked because they eventually let me get on.


Little did I know, my insurance was voided the moment I stepped onto this shitheap

The plane was tiny, old and held together by bits of tape, but I was so drunk that it didn’t bother me. My brain could barely register that I was off the ground and zooming over tiny tropical islands that looked like teardrops below me. Despite the rattling of the wings, I managed to pass out, and when I woke up we were landing on the delightful island of Vava’u.


Tonga is stunning from the air… even with a hangover!

I was still blotto as I picked up my bag and stumbled into a banged-up taxi with a cute sheila from Norway. I did alright with her, too, despite looking and smelling like I’d just crawled out of a toilet. By that I mean she didn’t run off screaming.

The driver dropped her off in town (alright, Neiafu is more like a whisper of a village), but my place was a few kilometres out. And he’d never heard of it, which wasn’t a good sign in a place that has maybe a dozen guest houses. The driver dumped me in the middle of nowhere. It was scorchingly hot and I was dripping with sweat, and I staggered blindly down a dirt road through the jungle, with an old bloke who had a massive machete trundling behind me. Things were getting bad.


I was pretty much ready to die at this point

After a few kilometres, the tracked ended. My phone had no reception, the locals didn’t speak English, and I was dangerously dehydrated. The steady hum of insects in the thick bush was maddening. I had no option but to walk back along the track, through the sweltering bush, with my heavy pack on my back. Nightmare creatures lurked at the edge of my vision, and weird thoughts crawled through my brain. I felt as if my body was shutting down, but I had no option but to keep walking – if I stopped, I wouldn’t get back up, and there was nobody to help me out.

As I was stumbling along, I heard a rumble behind me. It was a truck, and I flagged it down and begged to get in the back. A smiling Tongan pulled me into the tray and I sat on a big pile of bananas, then guzzled greedily from a bottle of water, slowly feeling life return to my body.

Bangin’ round on a banana truck

My saviours dropped me off in downtown Neiafu, and I checked into the first place I saw – a rundown backpackers overlooking the water. Hungover, dehydrated, hot, tired, pissed off, stuffed around and shaking, I collapsed onto a thin mattress and contemplated crying myself to sleep. It had all been too much.


Stunning Neiafu

When I awoke, the sun was threatening to call it a day, so I grabbed my towel and headed out amongst the palm trees, not really sure of what I’d find. It took me a minute of two to reach the outskirts of Neiafu, which is a beautiful and peaceful village that clings to the cliffs above a sparkling harbour. I found an abandoned resort, climbed a fence into it, and found myself on the edge of the water. I lay out my towel and relaxed, enjoying the sunshine and happy to be alive.


Sometimes I’m happy just to be alive

I like living on the edge, but this was stupid. In 24 hours I’d gone close to being raped, almost drunk myself to death, and come far too close to dying by the side of a lonely road in the middle of a remote island. So much for a few days bludging by the water.


How the fuck do I get off this island?

IMG_9356They take their religion seriously in Tonga, so Nuku’alofa on a Sunday is emptier than the Cronulla Skarks’ trophy cabinet. All the shops are closed, there are barely any cars on the streets, and there’s not a lot to do in town. So I decided to head out to Pangaimotu, a tiny island about half-and-hour’s boatride from Nuku’alofa, that promised unspoilt beaches, great snorkelling, and a shipwreck to explore. But first, I had to go to church.

IMG_9297Yes, church, and I was sure the walls were going to fall in as soon as I walked in the front door. Papiloa wanted me to get a taste of Tongal culture and religion, so she offered to take me to her church, before dropping me off at the harbour for my ferry to the island. On the ride in, I told her I’m a writer and she warmed up to me, because it turns out she was formerly the editor of Tonga’s first national paper. I didn’t tell her my form of writing involves scribbling the word ‘tits’ over and over again.

Attending a church service is something you simply have to do if you ever make it out to Tonga. The service starts with people piling into the church from all directions, wearing flowing white gowns or traditional weaved skirts. As soon as they’re all inside, the singing starts, and it’s glorious. Hundreds of voices unite to form a wall of religious sound.

“Please stand for my rendition of ‘Bitch Got No Arms.'”

When they were finished, I called out for them to sing Freebird, but they didn’t. In fact, they seemed to take great offence to that and became fairly angry and shouted at me, so I hotfooted it outside and hid under and upturned tinnie until Papiloa came back to take me to the ferry.

Yeah, it’s not bad…

The ride out to Pangaimotu was brilliant, especially because the clouds cleared up to reveal a brilliant day. I landed and wandered off on my own, and spent the next few hours lying in the sun, chasing fish through the warm water and posing for sexy photos.

Hello, ladies!

I dived off the wreck, and was amazed by the size of it (that’s something no woman has ever said about me!). The boat disappears into the deep, deep water, and thousands of neon fish swim around it. I was having  brilliant time until I came face-to-face with a huge eel (no, not Jon Mannah) and headed back to shore. I didn’t want to be bitten on the arse or anything.

It's rustier than Gillard's pubes
It’s rustier than Gillard’s pubes

It’s not a big island, so I decided to walk around it. I felt like I was shipwrecked on my own personal island I I crept through palm groves and splashed through swamps, with no sign of civilisation. I was swaggering along, singing my favourite Taylor Swift ditty (Fifteen, if you’re wondering, because it always makes me think about my teenage years), when I realised that the tide had come in, and I couldn’t make it any further. By sheer coincidence, the tide had also come in behind me, cutting off my escape. I was trapped!

Drunk, jobless and stranded in paradise

Instead of panicking like some sort of dickhead, I lay down and had a nap, and when I woke up the tide was even higher and I was even trappeder. I climbed a tall palm tree to see where I could go, but there was only water on one side and jungle on the other. Shit, I hadn’t seen bush that thick since I banged that hooker in Taree.

I was just about to start crying (about being stranded, not about the Taree hooker not returning my calls, emails of post cards) when I heard someone calling from up the beach. I looked over and there was a massive Tongan guy sitting in a very small boat.

I just need a beer and a big-titted babe

“You are stuck, my friend?” he called, and I nodded my head as if my neck was made of spaghetti. “Every day I come out here, every day some idiot get stuck. Climb in.” So I did, and this chap took me back to the south of the island, calling me an idiot at least five times before holding his hand out for a tip. He outweighed me by about 100kg and had some sort of ornate fishing spear by his feet, so I didn’t hesitate to cough up before popping into a kooky little bar for a drink.

The beer was cold and the view sensational, as the sun dipped below the horizon and the sky turned blood red. The whole bar was made of driftwood and other scavanged bits and pieces, and I had a lovely time just sitting there and looking out at the ocean and smashing half-a-dozen bottles of Maka. All too soon, it was time to leave.

Unlike VB, Maka doesn’t taste like a Chinaman’s bunghole

For dinner, I rocked up to the only restaurant in town that wasn’t closed, a Chinese place. The food was good, but the waitresses were better – a couple of cute Tongan sheilas who were mega keen on the Row Show, and asked me come out with them for a drink tomorrow night. But, alas, I won’t be here, and I won’t be able to take them up on their kind offer. Definitely won’t be able to. I’ll be somewhere else. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

I vomited in front of the Tongan national squash champion

vlcsnap-2015-10-20-00h23m55s894More. 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.

The Royal Palace is actually quite lovely… especially compared to the shacks surrounding it!

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.

Not the world’s most beautiful shopping centre

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!

A typical Chinese shop. They sell good chips!

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.

The fans enjoy yet another penalty goal

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.

Someone get a broom!

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.


To Tonga We Go!


Like a cheap prostitute, Suva didn’t look any better in the morning. I wanted to check out the city before heading to Tonga, though, so I wandered out into the rain. It’s a typical third-world city with beggars, thieves and rubbish everywhere. There’s a decent market in the main street, so I rolled along and grabbed some food. I’m not one to let a bout of explosive diarrhea turn me off a meal, so I picked up another couple of curry wraps and scoffed them while walking along the waterfront. It was actually pretty nice, looking over the harbour at the boats and the mountains behind them, with storm clouds rolling across. It would’ve been even better if sketchy Fijians weren’t following me around the whole time.

Alright, where are the pies?

My walk through Shitsville was a short one, and soon I was checking out of the hotel from hell (a man was pissing in the hallway outside my room when I did) and heading to the airport through a monumental downpour. You can shove those photos of sun-drenched Fijian beaches up your Jap’s eye as far as I’m concerned.

Suva’s airport is about as big as Kevin Rudd’s knob and just as popular with fat chicks, but soon I was strapping myself into a tiny, propeller-powered plane and getting the fuck out of the joint. Good riddance.

A boat, some mountains, a bit of water… what do you expect me to write about this?

The flight was fairly run-of-the-mill, except for the Indian sheila in front of me who was blasting her curry into a sick bag. She must’ve had the same stuff as me for dinner.

It was really quite incredible flying into Tonga. The place is so small that I could see the entire main island of Tongatupo as we dropped to the ground. I could pick out every town and feature I’d seen on maps. The country is incredibly flat, too – completely different to the other islands I’ve been to – and was almost entirely rural.

What the hell, no rain?

The airport was basically one room, and once the other 10 or so people from my flight had pissed off, I was left alone. I was supposed to be flying straight to the volcanic island of ‘Eua for the night but, because of a scheduling change from the joke of an airline that is Real (Shit) Tonga, I was stuck on the main island for an extra night with no accommodation and a very persistent taxi driver trying to take me to his mate’s hotel. I thought that sounded as tempting as eating a battery, so I got him to take me to the place where I’d be spending the next two nights anyway – the Friendly Islander Hotel.

Nuku’alofa’s historic Sant Anthony of Padua Church. Dunno who Saint Anthony is, but he sounds like a good bloke

The drive through Tonga was interesting. It’s not neat and beautifully landscaped like Samoa, the cars are rusted out and there aren’t many villages, just endless farms, with rubbish everywhere. I could barely pay attention to it, though, because my dickhead taxi driver wouldn’t shut his mouth.

“You like make dance? You like make fun?” he asked. “I best dancer in all of Tonga. Probably best in all of Pacific, except maybe man in Samoa named Gary, he very good dancer, maybe better. He has move where his foot goes behind head, he does little spin, like ballet person. I has girlfriend once who is ballet person. I no mean she wear ballet clothes all time, but she do the dance sometimes, when she not being lazy and lying around and no get job. I get job, I drive taxi, while she stay at home watching television and eating the lollies and getting fat. She keep saying, ‘My ballet clothes are shrinking’ and I say, ‘No, you just get fat! Stop eating lollies!’ But I must admit, these nice lollies. I not even like lollies, but I eat many of them, perhaps get a little fat, too. You think I fat? I run three kilometres every day. Well, not today, but most days. As long as not rain. It rain when my girlfriend leave me, so I not leave house to chase her. She move slowly, anyway, because so fat from lollies. Hey! Do you like Michael Jackson? My brother Sau not like Michael Jackson, he a idiot. Sau, I mean, not Michael Jackson. Michael Jackson have smooth moves and nice hair. One day I like to meet him and make dance. You like make dance? You like make fun?”

Bloody hell, save me!

This is one of the most developed parts of Nuku’alofa. There’s a building in the background, see?

When we arrived in the capital of Nuku’alofa – which is basically one street with a few shops – we were swarmed by young people. It was weird, because while the rest of Tonga looked like something from the 60s, the throngs of kids looked like they were straight from the streets of western Sydney, wearing hoodies and with headphones wrapped around their ears. Again, totally different from Samoa.

“Children to day have no respect for me,” blabbered the driver. “Just this morning, young person stick tongue out as I drive by, and it reminded me of my girlfriend. She was horrible, when she not eating lollies, she is sticking her tongue out at me, calling me idiot, saying I stupid. I am not stupid! I am smart like coconut tree, strong like…” And then he ran us into a ditch. At that moment, I wouldn’t have minded if he drove us off a cliff.

Watch out, it’s rush hour!

The Friendly Islander Hotel is a fair distance out of town, overlooking a little harbour. I liked it immediately, with a foyer full of Tongan artworks and artifacts. The owner, Papiloa – an elderly, sophisticated woman – handed me a key and one of the workers took me to my room, which is surprisingly big and has a nice view out over the garden. It was like stepping back in time, though, with old furniture and fittings. Still, it’s comfortable.

See that seat? I sat on that seat!

The rest of the afternoon consisted of little more than lounging around by the pool, and a long walk along the waterfront, looking for something to eat. It wasn’t until I was out by myself that I realised just how quiet Tonga is, despite being only a few kilometres out of the capital. I noticed further differences between the locals and their Samoan counterparts, too. While everybody in Apia wanted to smile, wave and say hello, those in Nuku’alofa are more reserved and private. It took a bit of adjusting.

I found a bottle shop, and bought a couple of bags of chips from a roadside shop, and that was pretty much it for my first evening in the Kingdom of Tonga. Right now I’m sitting in my room, getting drunk and listening to music, writing and watching TV shows. It’s a quiet way to spend a night in one of the quietest countries on the planet.

From Yasawa to Suva in about elenty billion hours

IMG_9025My final morning on Fiji’s Yasawa Islands was as wet as a fat girl with a bag of Doritos, so I sat around like a beached jellyfish until a big yellow boat came and took me back to the mainland. While I enjoyed my time there, the escape couldn’t come quick enough – the weather was a real bummer, and I was sick of being around the same people all the time. Halfway through a game of beach footy it rocked up, and I was out of there.

If this is your dream holiday destination, start having better dreams

The three-hour ride back was uneventful, but that was only the start of my journey. I was booked in at a hotel in Suva, on the other side of the country, and had no transport booked for the trip. We got into Denerau Island just as it was getting dark, and everyone else soon disappeared to nearby hotels. I was left alone, and asked a random woman at a desk if she could help. She told me that, of all people, the captain of the boat I’d just been on was going to Suva, and I could tag along with him. I was saved!

I had to wait around Denerau for a while, and it’s a joke of a place. Western shops filled with fat white idiots, off on exotic holidays with every speck of exoticness squeezed out. It might’ve been Sydney or something, because it sure as hell didn’t represent anything Fijiian. I just don’t get the point of going on a holiday like that – why not save yourself the hassle and just stay at home with a beer in one hand and yourself in the other?

The Captain (who was named Fabriatore! Seriously, Fabriatore the Fijian boat captain!) and I took a chauffeured car off the island, but that was as luxurious as things got. The car drove us through the shit-sty that is Nadi, before dumping us in a dark alleyway full of very large black men. It felt like the opening scene of a dodgy gay porno, and I was genuinely scared as I got my bags and then packed them away in an ancient red minivan that looked like it could barely make it across the street, let alone across the country. Of course we had to wait around another half hour or so, and I was shitting myself every time a shadowy figure walked past. I’d put all my trust in a bloke who claimed to drive a boat, and now I was in a potentially very dangerous situation.

Yo, where da palm trees?

The Captain handed me a curry wrap that I scoffed despite knowing it would probably see me painting the inside of my undies brown before long, then we got the call and piled into the minivan. I was relieved to be out of a dangerous situation – for about three seconds. The van had no suspension and appeared to be held together with stickytape and prayers, and there was twice as many people in it as could possibly be safe. We rattled and rolled for a few kilometres, until we stopped and three more people climbed in, including a handsome Indian man who sat on my lap.

His name was Vijay, and he wouldn’t shut up about the power of the mind and other bullshit like that. He was a harmless bloke, but if I wanted an Indian dude bouncing on my lap I would’ve gone to one of those special clubs on Oxford Street, so I was happy when he got off. Like, off the bus – I don’t mean he had an orgasm. Well, maybe he did, who knows.

Vijay was both well-dressed, and dashingly handsome

Ten minutes down the road there was a loud bang and the van lurched violently to one side. The driver and the two blokes next to him got out, swapped over one of the wheels, and we were rattlin’ and rollin’ down the road again. We crept along some truly atrocious roads, then there was a loud crash as the van shat itself while trying to make it over a speed bump. The driver and his two mates – who, I assume, were only there to help fix the car whenever it died – got out, banged around for 15 minutes, and then we crept into the night. It was absolutely ridiculous, and terrifying, to be in such a shoddy vehicle, speeding through the rainy night.

After five hours of stupidity, we finally rolled into the beautiful city of Suva. Right, that’s a lie – you could replace the ‘v’ in Suva with a ‘w’ and have a pretty apt description of the place. After getting out in the middle of a swarm of the dodgiest dudes you’ve ever seen in your life, The Captain and I jumped in a taxi and headed off again.

“If you don’t want to stay in a hotel, you can sleep at my house tonight,” Fabriatore the smiling Fijian sea captain told me, and I just nodded. I’d heard that people on the islands are more than happy to offer a bed to strangers, but I didn’t want to put him out any further. When I checked into the hotel, said goodbye and thanked him for all his help, he seemed genuinely upset that I hadn’t taken him up on his offer. I hope that I didn’t offend or disrespect him, because I’m truly grateful for his help. Next time, Fab.

The hotel’s delightful al fresco room

The reward for my nightmare trip was a room in what’s either a flop house or a crack den. The exotically-named City Private Hotel, is horrible – my room is decorated with peeling paint, rat shit and a pair of undies in the corner. I just looked out the window to see a child wandering through the hallways alone, covered in crap. I can hear someone getting punched in one of the other rooms, and two blokes rooting each other somewhere else. The curry wrap has finally kicked in, and a few minutes ago I sprayed the toilet with electric orange splatter, which probably doubled the value of the joint. Oh well, things are definitely looking up, because tomorrow things slow down as I head to the magical land of Tonga. Now it’s time to go to sleep, and I just hope a rat doesn’t shit in my mouth during the night.

IMG_9104I’ll be taking a break from posting stories of my 2013 adventure to Samoa, Fiji and Tonga, and for a good reason. I’m heading to Tasmania for a week and a half, so I’ll be blogging every day about my travels through Australia’s most inbred state! And tomorrow, I’ll be putting up a very special story about the time I went to jail. So join me as the Bauer World Tour takes me to Hobart!

Kava Chameleon

IMG_8906Everyone knows that Fiji is always sunny and beautiful, so I was shocked and appalled to wake up in the middle of a cyclone, with rain and wind smashing the fuck out of everything around me. Ah well, it would have to be nice and sunny out on the islands, right?

After gobbling some leftover pizza and stashing the rest in my bag, I jumped in a little Indian bloke’s cab for a ride through the storm to Port Denerau, situated on the holiday island of Denerau. Calling it an island is a stretch – it’s separated from the mainland by a short bridge and a boom gate, to prevent any of the fat tourists who populate it from ever having to come face-to-face with any of the people who, you know, actually live in Fiji. I had a boat to catch, and I made it onboard only a minute or so before it left I live my life like Indiana Jones, always escaping under the closing door of a tomb at the last second.

IMG_8871The boat ride out to the far-flung Yasawa Islands is supposed to be beautiful, but for me and the other people going out that day it was nothing short of terrifying. The rain was coming down so hard that I couldn’t see more than 50m to any side, and it was as if we were all on a boat taking us to the next life. Every now and then a mountain would slide into view, before being replaced by a wall of white once more. It was as far from the photos of the islands I had seen as Wayne Swan is from a person with a basic grasp of economics.

IMG_8875After three hours we pulled up at Baluya Island, where I’ll be staying at the Manta Ray island Resort for the next three days. It was in there somewhere, under all that rain, and when I hit the sand I was impressed by the set-up. Wooden bars stand by the water, and the hill that reaches for the sky behind them is laced with delightful wooden bungalows. It would’ve looked perfect if not for the weather.

I wasn’t quite as impressed with our introduction to the island, though. While the woman who welcomed us was lovely, the whole thing gave me flashbacks to school camp, which is the opposite of what I want on a holiday. I spend my whole life being told what to do, when and how, so learning that drums would beat when it was time to eat filled me with a slow-creeping dread.

IMG_8892Lunch was served straight away, and again it was like school camp. The restaurant looks out over the misty beach, and is filled with long, wooden benches. I fell in with a couple of blokes from Sydney, Ryan and Simon (hey, that almost rhymes!), and we all decided that the only way to deal with such foul weather was to drink the day away.

I’d pictured myself snorkelling and lying on the beach, instead I spent the next eight hours drinking Fiji Bitter (which, according to my brother, is actually Victoria Bitter. But he also tells people he has a six-inch penis, while I’ve been reliably informed that it’s actually four-and-a-half and tastes like Doritos) and perving on backpackers, who were wearing far too much clothing due to the weather. Fuck.

IMG_8944I’d been wanting to get stuck into the kava while overseas, so I was stoked when the bloke who ran most of the activities, Solo, came over and asked if we wanted to have some with the boys that night. Of course we did! We headed away from the glossy facade of Manta Ray, and ended up on the dark western side of the island. Here everything wasn’t so glossy. We ducked into the shed where the boys at the resort live, and it was sad what they had compared to what was given to the guests. Their room was as big as mine, but nine dudes shared it. They slept in beds with thin mattresses. One fella slept on the floor. When we got there they were sitting on the floor, cross-legged, waiting for the kava.

I was already pretty sloshed, but lapped thirstily when the bowl was passed to me. It tasted like what it was, dirty water, and did nothing at first. But the boys were good company, and the conversation started rolling as more and more kava was passed around.

vlcsnap-2015-09-14-09h10m59s830I became incredibly relaxed, without losing control of any of my faculties like I do when I drink. Time slowed down and ceased to mean anything. I got talking to the young bloke next to me, Jojo. I don’t know if it was the kava or what, but we really got on, despite the societal, economic or racial boundaries.

He’d grown up on the island, and had been at Manta Ray for the same amount of time I’ve been at The Picture, and was sick of his work as I was of mine. He’d actually been fired a few years ago, after some German bird like the look of him and asked him to meet her in the dorm later that night. Jojo went along, of course, and porked her rotten. Unfortunately the kraut had been a virgin, and Jojo hung like a horse, and he pretty much split her in half. The next morning the German chick’s bed looked like a murder scene, and Jojo was gawnski.

He was working security that night back at the bar, so I headed back with him to see if there were any Germans who I could maim in a similar way. There weren’t so we lay back, both completely relaxed and barely able to speak.

When I got back to my hut and checked my phone, there was a frantic email from my mother, who obviously assumed I had been stabbed in the brain or something, due to me not having contacted her in over a day. It probaby took me an hour to tap out a 10-word reply, then I dozed off for one of the best sleeps of my life.


Leaving Samoa

IMG_8739I could spend the rest of my life in Samoa, so it was with sadness that I left this pristine paradise for another jewel of the Pacific – Fiji. With a 10am ferry to catch on the other side of the island, I didn’t have time to enjoy the delights of Satuituti this morning. I loaded up the Rav and set out, and it seemed like everyone in Samoa was heading along to church in their best white clothes. It was stunning and strange at the time, seeing the whole country close down for one reason.

I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts (but enough about my testicles)

I didn’t have much time to dwell on it, though, because the drive turned out to be a lot further than I thought, and soon I was running out of time and a long way from my destination. I put my foot down and screamed through Savai’i, scaring chickens and pigs and dogs. I made it to the ferry with about 35 seconds to go, loaded the car on board, then plonked myself on the top deck for a nice sail back to the main island.

My ride on Lady Samoa was more enjoyable than my ride on Lady Gaga

Once on the other side, I had a few hours to kill before my flight, so I took a drive along some of the back roads and reflected on time in Samoa. It really is a beautiful country with warm-hearted people a laid-back atmosphere. Unlike other tropical paradises, like Thailand, it doesn’t have a dirty underbelly of sex and violence and exploitation, tourism hasn’t destroyed it, and it just feels genuine. It’s a friendly, awe-inspiring place that I’d be happy to call home.

If I look like I’m sad to be leaving Samoa, it’s because I am

After handing back the Rav, I boarded plane and 90 minutes and seven beers later I was in not-so-beautiful Nadi, Fiji. As my courtesy bus rolled through barbed wire-lined lanes, I realised I wasn’t in Apia anymore. The Sandlewood Lodge, my accommodation for the evening, is a dump, with bars on the windows and a warning to leave as many lights on as possible to scare off rapists. It couldn’t have been more different than downtown Apia, where my accommodation didn’t even have a door, and the intruders are pleasant.

Don’t worry, I’m that storm won’t affect me at all…

I was as hungry as Matt Preston gets between breakfast and brunch, so I strolled into Nadi to grab something to eat. Before I even made it out of my street, a very larger person in a mini skirt said she wanted to suck my cock. I thanked it for the offer, but suggested that if it really wanted a cock there was probably a perfectly good one between its legs.

IMG_8801The streets I walked were full of poverty and misery, scammers and drunks, but I eventually sourced some cheap beer and a pizza. I was hungry, so I ordered the large – and it was big enough for Julie Gillard to use as a sled next time she hits the slopes, with only a bit of her arse hanging over the side. I got home and scoffed it, but was barely able to make a in the bloody thingg. I wrapped up some for later, but there was so much that I might as well have poked a hole in a few slices and fucked them. They don’t go soft on the servings in Fiji.

Alright, I’ll fuck it

With an early start the next morning – I’m heading out to the Yasawa Islands – and nothing but violence and AIDS outside the door, I went to bed early, with a quiet prayer to the baby Jebus to ensure that I wouldn’t get stabbed in the face while I slept. Well, I left the lights on, so that should scare all the bad guys off.

There’s nowhere safer than a large Samoan man’s knee

IMG_8593I was worried about my portly admirer coming back for more action, so I decided to move on from Tanu Beach. After a quick snorkel and a wander through the village, I stopped off at Henry’s place to say goodbye. We ended up chatting for an hour so, with the topics ranging from the women at his retirement village constantly begging him for sex, to his opinions on the breasts of Samoan women, to Henry’s distaste for pineapples. He’s a weird dude, but one thing can’t be argued – unlike most people, he is truly a free man. He does and thinks what he wants, and feels no need to buy into all the bullshit society tries to feed him. The world would be a better place if there were more tattooed freaks like Henry.

Plenty of places to build a treehouse

With the car packed, I headed west, through the jungle. My first stop was for a canopy walk, an attraction that seems to pop up in every guide to Savaii. It should also appear in every guide for people looking to die in the most brutal way possible, because the whole thing is incredibly dangerous. After a short walk into the middle of the jungle, I climbed a massive tower, and was faced with a bridge through the trees that was basically a bunch of ladders tied together. That was it. Not wanting to waste my $10 entry fee, I did a little wee in my shorts and headed across. Every step caused the shoddily-made contraption to shudder and groan and almost fall apart, and I was stoked to make it back to the ground without having to fall there.

If you look closely, you can see me absolutely shitting myself

It was a beaut experience, though, and the view from the top of the tower was magical. This land is still so primitive and unspoilt, and it truly is a joy to simply take the time to enjoy it.

The second stop was at a local rugby union game. It doesn’t matter where in the world it’s played, union is still a stop-start-stand-around-for-five-minutes piece of shit. The penalties and line-outs were endless, but so were the hits. The boys were smacking the crap out of each other, and I couldn’t help wondering why they were playing kick ‘n’ clap when they’d be so much better suited to a proper game. The potential is there for rugby league to take Samoa by storm, if only a little bit of effort is put in.

Run it at me, bro!

I started off watching the game from a quiet spot up one end, but after a few minutes a very large gentleman sauntered over and said hello. At first I thought he was going to rip my arms off – he could’ve done it without breaking a sweat – but then he introduced himself as Albert, offered me a glass of juice and asked if I wanted to watch the game with him. Not wanting to say no to such a frightening gentleman, I followed him to a group of comfortable-looking chairs under a large umbrella, but was confused to see that all the chairs were occupied.

It still looks better than Brookvale Oval

Ken pointed to one of his huge, brown knees and said, “You sit here.” Now, I don’t often sit on men who I’ve just met, but he had bought me a drink, so I figured it was safe. And that’s how I watched the rest of the match, held in the warm embrace of a large Samoan man and preparing myself to run if I felt even the slightest hint of a boner poking into my back.

Once the game was over, I hugged Albert goodbye and left. His English wasn’t good, but my best guess is that he’s the chief of the village, and it was a great honour for me to ride his knee for an hour or so. I’ll have to use that line on a lady sometime.

it’s just a little bit quieter than Bondi Beach

From there I kept rolling round the underside of Savai’i, before making it to Satuituti Beach Fales in the Latearvo. It’s a gorgeous place; right on the water, peaceful and incredibly cheap. My fale is a bit weird – really big, with four beds inside, making it feel like some sort of third world hospital. There are no hefty Samoan women attempting to mouth rape me, though, which is a real relief.

It looks like a hospital, so I was self-medicating with beer

I had a good snorkel, a great feed, and then settled back with a beer and some music while the elderly couple in the next shack played naked Twister all night. I kept waiting for an invitation to join them, but it never came, so I just played pocket Boggle by myself and went to sleep while the waves lapped at my fale.

And that’s how my final night in Samoa panned out. Next stop – Fiji!