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Tonga November 5, 2004 Español

Posted by Belle in : Tonga

The day we arrived in Tonga we were all a little excited and stir crazy. We had not expected the crossing from Bora Bora to take so long. Eight days. But our weather guru had chosen a route that would avoid all fronts and apparently all wind as well. Some days it was like sailing in a lake it was so calm. When we saw the first islands of Tonga it seemed almost like a dream. From a distance we saw another catamaran coming towards us. The closer we got, the more it looked like the mirror image of Simpatica. It was definitely a Catana 471 and it was yellow like Simpatica. I thought that the heat and the pregnancy were making me delirious so I went inside to wash my face. The water didn’t help. Our identical twin was coming right for us. Maybe there was some strange Tongan triangle or something where sailors experience visions after days of no wind or land. Wences finally realized he knew the boat, he had actually tried to buy the same boat before he found Simpatica. The boats name was Traveler and the owners were a nice Canadian couple, Scott and Nancy. We exchanged information and planned on meeting in a week or two. They were on their way to a different island with some friends visiting from Canada.

We stayed in Tonga for three weeks, the longest stay on our journey so far, aside from Panama, which none of us really count because that was out of necessity, or so we thought at the time. None of the things we had fixed in Panama had been working since two days after we left Panama and we had managed to live without all of them; the AC and the generator being the main things we had learned to live without.

Tonga is beautiful and it is a sailor’s paradise. So many islands strung out over the crystal blue waters that you could spend years exploring all the nooks and crannies and still feel as if there was more there for you to explore.

In Tonga we were lucky to meet some great people. While walking through town we were accosted by a small, American woman. “I’m sorry, but are you from Chile?” Not a good way to start a conversation with an Argentine because no ARGENTINE wants to be confused for anything else because being Argentine is the best thing that ever could have happened to them. Or so Wence likes to joke.

Turned out this woman, Sherry, lived a completely exceptional life. She and her husband had fallen in love with Tonga years ago, sold everything and lived on a tiny houseboat on an island just off of Vauvau, one of Tonga’s four archipelagos, where she painted landscapes, portraits, t-shirts etc. She invited us to her studio and told us she lived in a Latin corner of Tonga. It seems two Spaniards had set up a small restaurant, LA PAELLA, on the island next to her ARC STUDIO and anyone who was Latin who passed through Tonga not only went to the restaurant, but usually anchored out near the island and stayed for a while. She thought we might enjoy meeting her Chilean friend, Alan and the Spaniards, Maria and Eduardo.

While we stayed near LA PAELLA we met Alan, Maria and Eduardo, Ana and Evaristo, and two Chileans, Andres and Christian of the boat Lobo. Going to LA PAELLA is like stepping into another world. You know you’re still in Tonga when the chickens walk into the main house, birds land on tables, and a cool breeze comes through the grass wall with large cut out windows overlooking the overgrown, tropical landscape. But Spanish bull fighting posters, paella pans, and the smell of the just off the oven frittata smoking on the table in front of you make it easy to imagine for a moment you’re in some strange restaurant off the coast of Spain some where. We had so much fun there. LA PAELLA was more than a restaurant for these people, it was a touch of home. Maria and Eduardo welcomed people into their restaurant any time of day to talk and share stories. Being able to speak to other people in Spanish was a definite plus for these travelers as well. Most of them having sailed well over a thousand miles with plenty more to go.

Eduardo used to play in a band in Spain called Las Papas (the potatoes). When the band started doing well, there was a conflict of interest between band members and Eduardo left Spain with Maria shortly afterwards. They sailed for ten years looking for adventure and a new way of life, a less material way of living. They found what they were looking for in Tonga.

When the last dessert plate is cleared and coffee is served, Eduardo steps out from behind a golden, seventies style curtain with his guitar, a stool, and a gnarled tree branch which serves as a mic stand. A basket filled with maracas and mismatched guiros makes its way around to each table. At first only the bold and daring grab a set, but by the end of the night everyone is tapping and banging something. Then Eduardo starts jamming. Eduardo, performs anything from old Cuban son to the Beatles. He is often accompanied by Maria, a young Tongan gentleman who helps them out in the kitchen when they need it and whom Eduardo taught to play drums, and/or a game audience member. Strain as you might to decipher in which language he sings, you will never be able to identify its origin as it is truly original. It seems Eduardo has never been too interested in lyrics. As a 20 year old in singing for LAS PAPAS, he would often play the Beatles music, but sing whatever sounds seemed to fit the song. In other words, no language at all, although it sounds like many. He’s been thrown out of a bar in Spain when the patrons thought he was singing in Armenian. He’s also been told he sings exactly like a famous blues singer from Chicago. A journalist actually named him creator of the as of yet, very very underground Latin Music movement, the WANCHIE WANCHIE, a word Eduardo made up one night while singing. After being around Tongans and French Polynesians who speak their own dialect of French, we never knew what anyone was saying anyway so Eduardo’s special language seemed perfectly normal to us

Our time in Vavau slipped by rather quickly. It was the first time we stayed anywhere for so long, really without any plans other than exploring. It was great. When it was time to sail to Tongatapu, the main island, a good day and a half of sailing, the weather was not very favorable. We waited and waited, but it seemed like it was not going to get favorable any time soon. Since Jorge had already left Argentina and was arriving in two days in Tongatapu we knew we had to leave, even though everyone told us not too. I had been a little concerned because days before Andres and Christian had left Tonga to return to Chile only to return the next day, dismasted. But we left anyway. That passage turned out to be by far the worst sailing we have had. There is a trench beneath Tonga that makes the waves in this particular leg, when the weather conditions are right, very choppy and unpleasant. With strong winds on our nose, and those waves, for the first time since we left Miami, I got completely sea sick. It was so bad that I could not do anything but lie down, completely flat. Whenever I got up to do anything, I got sick. The worst was when I could hear Dio crying and could not go to him. I felt so worthless. Luckily Sophia had taken something a nice British couple from a boat called Trade Secrets had given her so she was Ok, not great, but she would manage. Unfortunately there isn’t anything a pregnant woman can take. Even Wence got sick. It was truly terrible. By the time we arrived at Tongatapu I had pretty much decided sailing to New Zealand was not an option for me. I decided to still wait for the final word from Bob McDavitt, our weather guru. I was pretty sure it could not be good though.

Jorge’s arrival was as fun as any national holiday. First he brought so many presents, I am surprised they let him on the plane, and to this day have no idea how all of them fit in that little suitcase. He must have had an elephant step on it so he could close it. We love Jorge and always have such a great time with him. He is the perfect explorer: courageous, but with intelligence, not wreckless, appreciative without being cheesey, funny, without taking Wences’s spot light, and kind. I love seeing Jorge and Wence together because I know they both get so much out of it. Jorge and Dio hit it off too. Jorge called Dio his little soldier and did all kinds of fun things, like packed him in his suitcase, hung him upside down like a fish, put him in all kinds of small places and Dio loved every second.