20.10.2009 - 26.10.2009
After colder reception in NZ (I don't mean customs, it was also the rainy weather), it was time again for some tropical chill-out.
Kingdom of Tonga, the only kingdom in South Pacific, lies slightly east of 180 meridian, and - by the measure of longtitude - this is the most distant place I could go from Europe. They should be on the eastern side of International Date Line, but they cheat: they pushed the Line to their eastern border. Therefore Tonga is the place "where the time starts" - they are the first to welcome a new day. Fine place to visit if you want to celebrate two New Year parties, one day after another.
Main island Tongatapu is quite large - by Polynesian standards - some 30x20 km. It completely does not fit the image of South Pacific paradise with Polynesian dancers, coconuts, drinks, stuff etc. The whole island is a huge village, with its buildings resembling much more Eastern Europe than Tahiti. In between, some plantations, several king's palaces and unbelievable number of churches - I wouldn't be surprised if the "churches per head" ratio were the highest in the world. This results from a fierce competition between several Christian churches, trying to win the new followers.
After living Tongatapu, I moved to the smaller island of Eua. This one is much less crowded. It offers some possibility for hike in the tropical forest, however you must be careful not to run into the sea. It is like less than 2hrs walk coast-to-coast. In order to get to the island you may take a ferry (2hrs) or fly on probably the shortest air route in the world: 6 mins. The plane takes 8 passengers and I was lucky enough to get co-pilot's seat