Niuatoputapu (Tonga)

After a 26hr quick and peaceful ride with the apparent wind (scheinbarer Wind) angle between 60 and 90 degrees we safely arrived in Niuatoputapu yesterday noon. Here we found two boats we know, Tuatara and Margarita and enjoyed a wonderuful sundowner and even a dinner on Margarita yesterday. All these New Zealanders we met are just wonderful, nice and helpful people. We received good information about our next stop, Vava'u (where we are gong to meet them as well as other boats we know), and information material on New Zealand (where we're all going to meet again). There will be a regatta in Vava'u Oct. 10-14th, just for fun and mostly for drinking. We'll see, who participates...
Can't say much about this island here, because we're not allowed on land until after clearing in tomorrow. It's another hilly, green little island with about 800 people on it, situated in a wondeful lagoon, which also hosts some small motus. Turquoise water (not as clear though) with lots of turtles surronds us and we're looking over to a volcano. The whole group of Tongan islands is set on a very active boarder of a plate. In this area islands rise and disappear, lots of underwater volcanos which come up to 13m beneath the surface. You do want to keep away from these. In the map you can find entreis of islands saying "occasionally". These had been seen twice for a couple of years and then disappeared again, but you never know when they - or other ones - appear again. So we have to be very careful when sailing, looking out for any changes on the water like sudden steep waves.

I'll be back with more information when I have them. I have some presents for children (school stuff) which I want to hand out tomorrow with the help of a local lady, Sia (who asked for the help).

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Having travelled around the island I have become even more a fan of this tropical, multi-colour island. Gigantic green trees cover the island wherever you go, among them the Banyan trees, palm trees, African tulip tree with orange blossoms, fern tree , rubber tree and so on. Over 400 species are said to be here. The Samoan people take lots of pride in their nature, their island and themselves. No matter how poor their home, which is mostly an open  house (“fale”) with no walls, the garden is always well kept and absolutely clean. You can only have it like this if you work on the grounds every single day. If you drive along the roads all you see is many intense colours from flowers, plants, trees, houses and the people. Take a look at the pictures and you’ll see. There are some national parks here, all bound to preserve the nature, mostly trees. Everywhere along the mountains you find more or less high waterfalls, the smallest about 1 ft high, the highest about 300ft. At most of the waterfalls you’ll find a pool of refreshing water to jump in. But not only at the waterfalls. On the north east cost you find a pool in a cove under a church at a college. You can swim into the cove and then dive through a small tunnel, underneath the church, to the other side into another pool. When you’re in that cave, the light from outside reflects in that incredibly clear water letting you shine blue under water in the cave. That was such an awesome experience. The island is full of surprises like this. 
The southern cost hosts the most beautiful beaches and coastlines of the island. The most beautiful beach can be found in the south east. If you are looking into a relaxing vacation, need a get-away, peace in the middle of nature, I can only recommend a stay at the “Virgin Cove Resort”, which is located at the center of the southern coast. You can find your own private beach as this little resort is stretched along the coast with many small beach bays. You can stay in traditional open “fales” (with mats to roll down for privacy) or, if you need western privacy, you can also rent an all-in bungalow. You’re away from town, away from almost anything, but you can fully recover to energy in this quiet place. We went there for a lunch and were positively surprised. 

The culture of Samoa has a long tradition of strong family. They still have the head of the family, responsible for the good of all, as well as a number of chiefs beneath him, responsible for parts. We met one of these chiefs, who owns a store in town (www.tanoasamoa.com). Rules have been passed on for generations (probably with some little adjustments today ) and these are being strictly enforced. If you’re member of the family and breake a rule, there is punishment – for kids and adults alike. The parents seem to be very loving and yet also very strict to the children and I have seen only very happy, well behaved and friendly kids. The rules and the enforcement seem to not harm anyone but are for the good of the society. People all care for each other, and pay for each other. A big, if not THE biggest economy factor is, like in all Polynesian countries, the money or goods sent from family members abroad (living in New Zealand, Australia or the USA). E.g. you find a lot of Taxis here. We reckon that the people get used cars shipped from family in New Zealand and then use it as a Taxi to have a little income. No money left to repair the car however.
The family union has another side to it. The people are very Christian, spread into about 14 different types of churches (like catholic, ..of the later days, Adventist church, Jehova’s witnesses). If you drive around Samoa you find an average of at least 2,5 huge churches per village. The shape and size of the church seems to be a symbol of wealth and status of a family (and thus of a village, which is mostly a family). The amount and the majesty of the church buildings are incredible and lets one wonder, how they pay for that in a country where most money comes from help abroad. Seeing many poor children in the outer farming villages I would rather love to see better schools. But, of course, you can find very nice private schools here – plus a beautiful college at the coast next to the school of fine arts as well as an obviously very good “University of the Southern Pacific”. At least the catalogue looks great and offers quite many different studies. Looking for a year abroad? Check it out. 

Well, I really enjoyed my time here. Part of the wonderful time also is the fact that we’re in a marina (with showers) where I can just jump out of the boat onto the swimming pier and go anywhere anytime. This is a luxury we haven’t had in half a year, since Chile. Also, we have 2 boats around us where we know the cruisers and we have made new friends. Our friends Francis and Paul from Monkey Fist are tied next us (we’re sharing a berth). That is so cool. We can even talk without leaving our cockpits. That’s quite a new experience to me. And then we keep introducing each other to other boats each of us knows and so the story goes. Sundowners together on one of the boats (like on the Catamaran “Division II” today), dinners together, lots of talking on the pier as people pass by (we’re kind of in the middle) with exchange of information, stories and today even books, also sailors helping each other (most of us have some work to do on the boat). There is always something happening.  A campground must feel like this. Monkey Fist crew also joined us for a day driving around the island. So, finally social life again, I love it. For weather and immigration reasons it seems like we won’t be leaving until Saturday. I don’t mind, I am still missing the experience of driving around in a local bus. Happy, happy.
I uploaded pictures from Suwarrow and Samoa. Just follow the links: 

 Sorry for the poor quality of the Samoa pictures. Humidity and salt water made my lense blurry and I did not see it until I looked at the pictures. But at least you can get an idea of how it looks like here.
 Apia fruit market. This whole basket of papaya is EUR 3,5 ($5) incl. the basket!
 A fale in traditional shape
 Some colours....

 At "Sliding rocks". You can slipe down these falls

 Beautiful roadside. Part of the cross island road has been newly paved because it was washed away in the last hurrican.

 The highest waterfall (100m)
 A banyan tree
 Typical home of people

 They still sell steam irons that we used 100yrs ago. BUt look in the shelf behind them: you see "modern" irons as well.

 Island Dance night show

 Church at college, where the cave pools are located. You can swim underneath this church
 Here a look to the cave pool. Look at the top, you can see the church

 Typical way of carrying fruits and vergetables (or anything)

 The island's most beautiful beach
 There's worse places on this planet for a horse to be "parked"

 Pigs run around everywhere. Around houses, on streets, lying under trees in the shade.....
 Typical tree flower
 An interesting tree. Conny, do you hava an idea?

 Crater lake Marcus and I hiked up to
 The grass is always better on the other side...
At the Virgin Cove Resort

 Going to sunday afternoon church.