Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day of rest

Well, the entire time in Tonga was a time of rest - but rest was definitely enforced on Sunday. There had been a rain shower overnight, but the daytime sunshine had dried any evidence when I emerged for a walk. The streets were eerily quiet and the only sound was heard when passing churches. Tonga has a lot of churches. The people are deeply religious and like nothing better than to worship and sing on a Sunday, while wearing their best clothes.

The owners of the accommodation where I was staying told me they are Jehovah's witnesses. On the plane from and to New Zealand I saw a group of Jehova's witnesses from the United States who had clearly travelled to perform religious duties.

Almost no-one would work on Sunday. Cafes and shops were closed, but there was a bakery open selling bread rolls and meat pies. My evening meal later that day was in a hotel restaurant. It was a Chinese-run place, where I had sweet and sour chicken. The chicken pieces were coated in batter, and I'm not entirely sure there actually was any chicken inside the batter ! It seems Tongan people are not interested in drinking low calorie drinks, by the way. I could only find the full fat versions of Coca Cola and other brands.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Brown, with hairy legs

The night I arrived in Tonga I got to my accommodation after midnight, so I stepped out to find a 24 hour shop and bought some bottled water and snacks. I read for a while, then got out of bed to turn off the light. As I did, I froze.... because of the BIG spider I noticed just outside the bedroom doorway.

When the spider and I saw each other, there was an instant realisation between us that this would be a fight to the death. There was no way I could sleep, knowing there was a tarantula-size spider in the room with me. My first effort was to grab a hardback book and hurl it at the arachnid. This failed, and it ran away into the bathroom. There I tried again with the book, and failed again. Eventually I acted with determination... and SPLAT !!

Now, of course I'd rather have said nicely to it "you'll have to go outside", or would have had some way of trapping it and expelling it to the outside... but these really were not options available to me. I plead guilty. I murdered a spider. It made quite a mess, and I cleaned up with tissues and some lemon scented air freshener. It was an interesting start to my time in Tonga.

Other creatures affected me to a lesser extent. There were barely any mosquitoes, but I have ended up with a total of ten insect bites on my legs. So far as I know, there is no risk of malaria in Tonga... but Dengue fever could be a possibility. Some readers would think that karma for killing a spider. We shall see... symptoms wouldn't show for five days or so.

My other annoyance was that I had bought a box of museli, and the second time I went to eat some I discovered it was already being eaten by dozens of tiny ants. I put the whole box into the freezer compartment of the fridge to stupify them, then served myself a bowl and used the spoon to pick out the bodies of the ants that were floating on the surface of the milk.

Photo Post : Tonga's capital, Nuku'alofa

The post office.

NZ High Commission building.

One of the many churches.

Tonga visitors' centre.

King George's palace.

Country 68, Tonga

I took a short trip to Tonga over the past weekend, adding the Pacific island nation to my list of countries and making it country number 68. I've applied the rules quite strictly to come up with my list... which contains countries I have been to for a minimum of 24 consecutive hours. Where a group of countries or states make up one entity (the United Kingdom for example) they count as one.

So, Tonga was a pleasant break from the start of the New Zealand winter. The temperature in Nuku'alofa was 25 degrees and it was dry and sunny. I stayed in a two level apartment in the city centre, close to the Royal Palace and Royal family burial ground. Not a lot happens in Tonga. It is very quiet (especially on Sunday when almost everything is shut for religious reasons) and is therefore perfect for sitting and reading, listening to music, strolling along the waterfront etc.