Nuku’alofa, Tonga

I write at my desk as we make our way towards Auckland, New Zealand, where we arrive tomorrow morning.  We have been in some unsettled weather and I expect that, later today, we are in for a ‘blow’.  It is Cyclone season in this part of the world; cyclone “Oma” has been churning away off Australia’s east coast for days, if not weeks.  It has caused endless disruption to the schedules of Cruise ships operating from Sydney and Brisbane, most of their most popular ports of call are in the region of “Oma’s” influence. Our last call, Tonga, even now has a cyclone warning and had we been 3-days later in our schedule, we would have been caught in it, (or rather I would have had to avoid it, thus missing the call). Our ‘blow’ however is just a weather pattern and not caused by the above.  

So it was, at 5 in the morning of our Saturday we found ourselves weaving through the outlying reefs that surround Nuku’alofa.  It calls for some intense navigation and the Bridge team were supplemented by myself and my second-in-command, Thomas.  The depth of water improves once we were over the ‘shallower’ reefs and it was here we embarked our compulsory pilot, having done so (and supplied him with coffee and water) we continued our approach to the berth.  Built by the Chinese, (as a ‘goodwill’ gesture), it is much shorted than our length, our mooring lines having to go to ‘dolphins’ at either end.  Thomas having docked and having safely tied-up and given clearance by the authorities, our guests could go on tours or just ‘browse’ the market stalls and those in town.  We were greeted by the Tongan Police band who were giving us rousing renditions of many well-known tunes.

Approaching the berth

The pier and town in the distance, stalls foreground

The reef, close to the pier

The Amsterdam alongside, seen from the waterfront

Karen and I had called here before, in 2015.  Having toured the island at that time, we decided to just wander ashore, me for photographs and Karen to browse stalls, (bad move on my part :-)).  Being a Saturday, the town was full of the local populace, buying their vegetables and produce before the island ‘closes down’ on Sunday, everyone going to church and being with family.  We had decided that we would find somewhere for a nice lunch and, using Trip Advisor, we found a highly recommended restaurant near the ferry terminal.  That was to be our destination, however before we did so, we went into the large ‘town’ market.

The stalls adjacent to the ship, on the pier.

Wood-carvings galore

A stall-holder

Away from the pier and out of the refreshing wind of the lagoon, it became unbearably hot.  The ‘locals’ seemed unaffected, however we mere mortals were sweating profusely, temperatures being around 88F or 31C, on top of that the humidity was high too.  A wander around the ‘town’ market and then a 2-mile walk to the restaurant, thankfully along the waterfront and in the 20-knot wind.

Beware of falling coconuts, even in the main street!

On the hunt for Red peppers.

Fresh flowers on sale everywhere

A peek into the street-side ‘Internet cafe’

Our destination, the “Waterfront Restaurant” was all we had hoped for.  A quaint Colonial-style building, nestling off the road, one walked through a tropical garden, chickens roaming on the lawns.  A verandah with tables outside, inside was impeccable too.  Trip Advisor reviews had mentioned their lobster and ‘salt and pepper’ squid, so who were we to argue?

A carved octopus in the lounge, an amazing piece

Whales frequent Tonga in the summer months and carvings decorate the walls.

Karen had a cool glass of wine with the delicious meal, while I, as ‘designated driver’ stuck to a chilled coconut milk.  Initially we were under the impression that the menu prices were in U.S.$, however it transpired it was Tongan $, we had this superb lunch for $60 U.S. 

Across the road lies a fish market and locals were there in numbers, so after the meal,  I popped across the road, camera in hand.

Lobster

Octopus

Squid

Before I leave you for the day, I’ve been asked, via your comments, numerous questions about the blog, camera and videos, so here we go…. I use a Sony AR7ii mirrorless camera; it can take photos up to a whopping 42MB, although I stick to the 18MB choice.  The videos are done on the same camera, the time-lapses on a GoPro.  I edit both on iMovie, (I’m a Mac man) and I do not use a tripod.  I was educated as to how to lose ‘camera wobble’ by one of our readers, Noel, who recommended I use the ‘stabilisation’ edit in iMovie and voila!  No more ‘wobbles’ 🙂 

Having taken the videos and photos, I then have to get them to the blog, this takes the time because the originals are far too large to post on the web.  The photos, once I’ve chosen which ones, are compressed using a programme, “Blogstomp”; this crunches them down from MB to KB, small enough to post without losing the detail.  Videos, once edited are compressed using “Handbrake”, a 70MB video can be compressed for posting to around 10MB or less.  Once all this is done, I then post them to the ‘back’ of my WordPress site and, as I write I insert the media in the paragraphs where I want them.  There you have it!

Nuku’alofa, Tonga