|Hanateli and his botanic garden|
we hadn't seen since Bora Bora. Many of them had sailed straight from there, missing out on all our wonderful Maupiti/ Mapihaa/ Aitutaki/ Palmerston/ Niue experiences - such a shame, we feel.
venture. Hanateli is a charmer who regaled us with stories of Tonga, his life and his garden. He introduced us to his wife Lucy, who works in town at the Ministry for ... well, everything: culture, the environment, medicine, education. She in turn took us to the hospital eye clinic, and that contact, Mary (Mele in Tongan) has shaped our time in Vava'u so far. The hospital then got in touch itself and through its two clinics in the rural areas, and so to the Town Offices and then to the people by loudhailer to say "come to eye clinic Monday 0830". So we have run three eye clinics, one in the remote western end of the island where there were about 60 people waiting for our arrival, and have seen about 120 in all.
|Thank you present Tonga|
with their bible reading and sewing. Another Oyster, Meteorite, went east and distributed glasses to over 90 people. That means that we have distributed glasses to 2% of the population of Vava'u of about 12,000. There's a huge need but not all cases are simple. For the more complicated cases (cataracts or diabetic retinopathy) patients have to wait until a surgical team arrives in November. No glasses at all are made in Tonga. All most outsiders know about Tongans is that they are large. That's true, and it means that diabetes is a huge problem and impacts on Tongans' eyesight and health. The islanders are very friendly; one worries that they are suffering from a diminishing gene pool as many younger and smarter emigrate. Agriculture seems vibrant, tourism albeit undeveloped; aid (from
Australia, Japan and China) and remittances are evident.
Rain, rain, rain. One morning the dinghy was full of rainwater to above the paddles - nearly 20cm! Not wanting to trudge too far through the puddles, I ended up at the nearest school to the town centre, a leaky-roofed
|Tonga school singing|
able to show them what a long way from London we have travelled.
Oyster definitely know how to throw a party. Most of the yachts navigated their way last Friday through shallows and coral reefs to the uninhabited island of Kenutu, on the eastern edge of the Vava'u Group. There, we were treated to a Tongan feast, fire-juggling and Tongan dancing. We stayed on for another day and had a barbecue on the beach.
|Oyster beach party|
For now, we are settling in to watch a DVD and hoping for better weather. We've enjoyed The Missing and have lots of ideas of books to read, after a fun session of the OWR Book Club, where we all contributed suggestions. Our next book is Golden Hill, about late 18th century Manhattan.
In a few days we will head to Fiji, about 350NM away, where we'll spend about five weeks. There's lots to see so we have been planning a route and on-shore activities.