Wednesday 6th February 2013
Ever since Captain Cook was warmly received by smiling Tongans in 1773 the archipelago has been called ‘The Friendly Islands’. The nickname still holds as visitors who sail into Nuku’alofa harbour are greeted by singing, dancing and flower garlands. The archipelago is made up of 176 islands of which 52 are inhabited. Occasionally a volcanic peak will surface from the ocean depths only to disappear again.
A British protectorate from 1900 to 1970 Tonga is the only remaining Polynesian kingdom. The present King Tupou VI is a direct descendant of Taufa’ahau who was proclaimed King George Tupou the first in 1845.
Today we took the Nuku’alofa Highlights & Otuhaka Beach Tour. we began with a stop at the Royal Palace which was built in 1867 and is right on the waterfront. We were not able to enter but took photos through the imposing palace gates. I also treated myself to a beautiful mother of pearl pendant with small pearls embedded in it from the local craft sellers who had set up their stalls outside of the palace.
From there we went to the royal tombs where royalty have been buried since 1893.
Next stop was the local beach blow holes at Houma where geysers can spout up to eighteen meters (60 feet) at high tide through erosion carved holes in the coralline rocks. Unfortunately it was low tide so we only saw small geysers.
At Kolovai we saw flying foxes (bats) suspended in casuarina trees. The big bats hang like folded leathery umbrellas during the day and cruise around for food at night.
Our final stop was at Otuhaka Beach where after fresh fruit and sandwiches and our 12 noon beer of course (not Corona this time) we explored the beach and Vance attempted to snorkel again.
Back to the ship for lunch at The Patio Grill before taking a well earned rest, and a little sun, on the sunbed.
We had a bit of a scare this afternoon. We were in port when the ship’s horn went off three times, it was about 4pm but we weren’t due to leave until 6pm….then 5 minutes later there was another three blasts and then the Captain came over the tanoy to say that there was a tsunami warning and he would have to leave port early to get us out to deep water and safety.
Anyone not on board by 5pm would have to head inland to safety and he would bring the ship back in a few hours to pick them up. He kept repeating the three horn blasts and messages were sent ashore to tours that were out around the island to get back to the ship immediately. Just before 5pm just as the gangplank was about to be raised he announced that the warning had been withdrawn. Phew.
There had been a major earthquake (about 8.1) on the Solomon Islands and they thought the tidal wave would head towards Fiji and then Tonga but apparently it went in another direction.
Needless to say we all needed a drink or three, so we all headed to the Sky Bar where a non-tsunami party took place.
At 8pm we met up with Margaret & Brian and Irene & Alan to go to The Colonnade where we had a table for six of us at The Asian Market. We love it when The Colonnade has themed market evenings as you can browse the different food stations having tasters of all the different specialities that the chefs have produced.
Can’t stay awake so at 9:30pm I was off to my bed…zzzzzzz
Techie bits: On the 6th of February 7:30am we were:
21° south and 175° east
Travelling on a compass course 257°
Speed = 13 knots
Wind speed = 14 knots from east
Air temperature = 26°c (79°f)
Total nautical miles sailed = 8755
Depth = 45 metres
Sunrise = 6:26am Sunset = 7:22pm