The following morning we rose with cock crow. If you’ve ever been to a tropical island, you’ll be familiar with this. The cockerels start up at first light, and don’t really let up. Without too much difficulty, we located the restaurant for breakfast. It was slightly busier than the night before, but not by much. Our saviours of the night before were there, so we thanked them again, then looked at what was on offer. There were traditional breakfast goods like cornflakes and weetbix, fresh fruit (papaya, melon and coconut) pancakes and syrup, eggs, toast and marmalade. We got stuck in.
After breakfast, and after pausing to admire the sizeable spider population that string their webs between every available tree and building, we went to the office to check in. The office manager told us that tonight there would be a buffet with traditional entertainment, and did we want to book that? Why the hell not, we thought, so signed up for it. They do this twice a week and it is unfailingly popular.
We had a good look around the rest of the resort, although there’s not much to see. It’s quite a small place, with only 15 beach huts, and not very occupied at the moment as it’s really only the beginning of the season; in fact I later heard it described as “winter” – hah!
We drove into town and succeeded in finding a parking space without any difficulty. There doesn’t appear to be much in the way of organised parking in Tonga, so just park where you find a space. There’s also not much in the way of traffic lights, just the occasional Stop sign, but junctions seem to work on the “be excellent to each other” principle – a bit of patience and a friendly wave seem to get everyone to where they want to be.
After getting our bearings we wandered around a bit, found the King’s palace, got some cash (credit card payments generally attract a 5% charge, so it’s wise to pay for everything the old-fashioned way), then, after a stop for a quick refreshment, decided to walk to the Tourist Information office. This was a little further than we’d anticipated, but, suitably armed with leaflets, we went in search of lunch. Again, this was a little further afield than I’d anticipated, but no matter, we’re getting our daily steps up. We arrived at Billfish in time for lunch, and had fish’n’chips and ota ika which, despite being on the starters menu, was too big for Nicola. We chose a different route back to the car to take in a supermarket where we could get some supplies for the hut.
By this time we’d walked a little farther than we’d intended, so went back to the resort for a bit of a rest and to lollygag for the rest of the afternoon.
In the evening we went to the bar early and availed ourselves of cocktails, watched the sun go down, and admired the view. Then it was time for the evening’s entertainments to begin. A band, who had a lighted sign behind them which said “Band”, struck up, and played some island classic tunes. People got up and danced to this in traditional dances. Then, after a few quick announcements, and a blessing by a local reverend, the buffet was opened, everyone formed an orderly queue and collected their food. Mostly pork-based dishes (including a whole pig roast), with some veges and salads, and local starches such as farro and sweet potato. And jolly nice it was too.
Once everything was cleared away the traditional dancing began. There were a mixture of boys and girls dancing – some dances just for boys, some just for girls, some mixed. Our MC kept us informed about each dance, and there were some from Samoa and Fiji as well as Tonga. The final dance was the fire dance, with the boys doing twirly things with firesticks.
Whilst the dancers were performing, people would come up on stage and stick bank notes to them. The girls, in particular, were covered in a sticky oil which facilitated this. “That’s a bit weird”, we thought. People would either stick the notes to their arms, or tuck them into clothing for the boys (who didn’t, frankly, have many places where money could be tucked). The MC explained that this money helps pay for the girls’ ongoing education. Whether they pool it all at the end of the night and take equal shares, or keep what they’ve had stuck to them, we don’t know. What the boys do with theirs wasn’t explained – the owner made a joke about not needing to keep them on the payroll, but he may have been serious. They probably spend it on cigarettes and beer.
When the organised dancing was over, the MC announced some birthdays, people and cakes were brought onto the stage, whilst everyone sang happy birthday to them.
The evening concluded with the band playing and people getting up to dance. At this stage we decided that discretion was advisable, and went back through the dark to our hut.