January 18th: Tonga
First impressions: Tonga is flat, sufficiently so that global warming must be a concern for those that live here. There’s not a great deal of high ground for the locals to run to, if and when the seas start rising.
Secondly, suddenly, after what must have been the worst summer on record for the Kapiti Coast, we're in the warmth again. Actually, it's almost too warm for our sun-deprived, winter whitened skins. Armed with sun-screen and sun hats we are bravely battling to cope with this situation.
We were warned by the captain that there was a problem with Zika virus in the islands, and that this was a particular issue if any of us were trying to get pregnant. As the average demographic on board the Sea Princess is 65+ this has caused us some amusement. However, in a spirit of co-operation and compliance we remembered to spray ourselves with insect repellent before we left the ship.
We took a coach to explore the island, see the royal palace, royal cemetery, and various other royal homes. The protocols around maintaining the purity of the Tongan royal blood line were explained to us. None of this wishy-washy liberal thinking indulged in by our own dear Queen and the Windsors these days. No commoner marries into the Tongan Royal Family! Unfortunately, there did appear to be a large number of elderly maiden princesses left on the shelf by this stringent policy. As the young, female, guide cheerfully explained, they were just too old to be suitable wives.
We saw blow holes, fruit bats and finally had a swim in real, warm, tropical water. It felt like heaven. In short, the islands gave us of their most generous best, from the police brass band and the dancers on the wharves, to the ladies selling their wares in the stalls. It was a lovely day, and a great introduction to the pattern of ‘shore days’ we’ll follow over the next couple of months.
We're a bit spaced out and confused because overnight we crossed the date line, with the consequent, groundhog effect of reliving the 18th of January. We are now officially in New Zealand's yesterday. This is NOT helping internet communication with home.
Pago Pago tomorrow, and then off across the pacific to Tahiti. I've just been told that landing at Easter Island is notoriously difficult and that it's very likely we won't be able to put foot there, even though we will anchor offshore and then sail around the island. Apparently Moai are visible along the coast, so there will be photo opportunities for us as pale compensation for the up close encounters of the real thing. If this happens, I'll be gutted. Please, please may all the gods smile on us and let us ashore.