Cruise days 17,18 – Jan 21,22
Visit Tongatapu, Kingdom of Tonga –
Missing our stop in the Cook Islands meant that we got to spend two days at Tonga, so we took advantage by joining an impromptu bus ride to a beach resort after our arrival on the first day. Nothing special, but a good way to look around and get a feel for the island during the drive. We spent less than two hours hanging out at the beach, then returned to the port for a little shopping before re-boarding the ship.
Along the way, we learned another cemetery story. Each village here has one or more “community” cemeteries, although homeowners are allowed to bury loved ones at their home if they wish. Graves are constructed in such a way that they can be re-opened later to add additional deceased into the same grave. Sorry, but that’s just plain gross!
The ones we drove by were obviously well cared for and had colorful flowers all around:
On the second day we took the included walking tour of the port city. It was better than the one in Tahiti because it was much smaller and not as busy/noisy. Our guide was knowledgeable but not very organized. She told us that since this is a kingdom they are ruled by a King and have a Prime Minister and parliament that is voted into office. But the King has the final say on whether laws proposed by parliament will be approved or not.
When the King dies everyone is required to wear black and do no work for some time. They are also expected to give their best animals or products to the new king as a welcome offering. How sad that these poor people with hardly anything must part with their most valuable belongings to a king who has more than he knows what to do with!
The major source of income for many island residents is earned through seasonal work in either Australia or New Zealand, where they harvest agricultural products for several months each year. Some women create “tapa cloth” from tree bark, or weave mats and baskets from several varieties of pandanus leaves. Handicrafts are a large part of the Tongan culture, and selling those products to tourists like us is another source of income.
Our guide took us to the city’s main market where root crops are sold. These crops are both a staple of the Tongan diet and an export crop: