Port Maurelle is a delightful anchorage with crystal clear water, fringed to the east by a small, pristine sandy beach and flanked to the north and south by banks of lush vegetation. A clear view of the Pacific lies west amongst the islands, and if you're patient, it won't take you long to spot a humpback or two out near the reef. After a snorkel the following day, we left the anchorage to make our way north to the main town, Neiafu, to check in.
Tonga is known as the 'Friendly Islands' because Captain Cook paid a visit to the island group south of here (Ha'apai) where he found the people were extremely friendly and generous, especially with their homebrew. You would have thought this may have aroused suspicion, but apparently Cook was unaware that it was all a vile plot to capture his ship and its goods, while he and his crew were in a deep drunken slumber.
We like Neiafu whose buildings scatter the hillside down to the harbour. There are many tourists here and a few ex-pats, but we have all come a long way to enjoy Vava'u for what it is and therefore there are no fancy, luxury hotels to dominate the landscape or economy. Life remains fairly simple and the small, efficient laundry cum internet cafe is civilisation enough for us and most others.
Whale-watching is big business here and it's fairly easy to find some. Many cruisers we know have swam with humpbacks which, by all accounts, are gentle and curious. This is a treat we would like to experience but we're not going chasing whales, and if the opportunity arises, we shall see how we feel. They are enormous and I'm not sure I'd feel like sharing their space with them. One wrong flick of the fluke and I'm history! The coastline here is craggy with erosion and some islands are pitted with small caves. On the north west corner of the island of Kapa is Swallows' Cave which is a tall cathedral of space full of strange and lovely rock formations.
We have spent our time here enjoying wonderful sails amongst the islands, sharing 'pot lucks' on beaches with other cruisers including Joan and Walters birthdays and preparing Kika for her final leg to New Zealand.
In preparation for the trip south, Nick and Walter (Noa) spent part of Saturday cleaning the underside of the boats with the help of Zeferin's 'Super Snorkel'; a kind of bizarre breathing apparatus comprised of a lawnmower engine, driving a compressor which feeds 2 air tubes. It sits on the deck doing its stuff, while you take one of the tubes and do your stuff without having to surface gasping for breath every 30 seconds.
We'll keep you posted.