During our stay in the island of Eue’iki, we not only enjoyed its paradisaical isolation, we also got a taste of Tongan tradition. Sunday is a very important day for Tongans, who are devoted Christians; they abstain from working (for real, they don’t even have flights), and families get together and attend church. Our host Veronica organizes a “Culture Day”, where guests visit the neighboring island of Taunga for several activities… and there we went.
At 10 am, Elena, me and the Australian family that was sharing the island with us met at the pier. We got on Mark’s cool boat, shaped like the traditional Tongan kalia, and sped across the lagoon. The skies were mostly clear, and the color of the water was out of this world. We anchored in a small pier in front of the main village, and headed to the church. Unfortunately, the minister happened to be in some conference and the service had been cancelled. It as a shame, but at least we had already experienced the power of Tongan hymns in Tongatapu a few days earlier.
To make time until lunch, we started walking eastward on the beach. The landscape was unlike anything I’ve seen, and I’ve been to gorgeous beaches, like Bora Bora or Zanzibar. The sand was white and thin, the ocean azure, and the area looked completely deserted. The water by the shore was so crystalline, that we could clearly see schools of fish moving around. The best part came when we reached the edge. The low tide had exposed a sand bar connecting the main island to a little islet, covered with palm trees and perfectly round shaped. It was so scenic, that we probably took over a hundred pictures.
We eventually walked back to the village and were received by Nunia, a local woman we had met the day before, when she was spearing octopuses on Eue’iki’s reef. It was feast time, so she walked us to her home. The food, which for the most part had been cooked in an umu (underground oven) and was wrapped in leafs, was beautifully arranged on the floor. We each got a rustic spoon, made of coconut shell, and jumped on the exotic dishes: raw tuna, tapioca, coconut octopus, fish, minced meat, sea cucumber (the only one I didn’t like), fruit salad, custard… It was a super interesting and satisfying culinary experience.
But the “Culture Day” was not yet over. In the evening, back at Eue’iki, Mark gave a presentation on Tongan maritime history. It was fascinating to learn about how Tongans built the best vessels, the asymmetric double-hull kalias, and ruled the South Pacific. Mark himself is a captivating character, a well of knowledge with notorious windsurfing patents and speed sailing records. And his passion for these topics, which brought him to Tonga, is contagious. At the end, Veronica played a documentary on Tongan history, and a song the two of them were producing with local star Angela Afeaki. That day we went to bed enamored of Tonga.