This one will really be the last (I think). I'm at the airport in Fiji, and it is 12:30 on Saturday. I'll be arriving home at LAX in an hour (thanks to the dateline). Tonga was pretty good, but the people on "The Friendly Islands" were a little too friendly - very nosy, which can be ok, but the guys were pretty slimy and gave a new meaning to 'leer'. I had read that they saw too many American movies and thought all American women were easy targets, so I was a bit prepared.
I arrived Wed and was grabbed by the first taxi guy claiming he was a tour guide as well (that's what his badge said). So he drove me to the blowholes where the waves spewed up through small channels in the volcanic rock. Quite dramatic. Then I saw a palm tree that had 3 heads (Edward was very proud of this genetic mutation) and looked at some bat-like flying squirrels high in the trees.
The first night I decided to stay in a hostel-type guest house, and afterwards decided to never do that again if I can help it. Nothing too bad, but just not clean, and the water was not very hot, and the roosters crowed at 4:30am. I was glad I had brought my own sleep sack, but still got a bunch of bites. Thurs I got picked up at 6 and flew to Vava'u, arriving about 9. I checked in at one of the most expensive places on the island ($50) and walked to town to see what I could do until the next day at 3:30 when I needed to return to Tongatapu in order to make my flight today. Unfortunately since it was raining a bit, I had pretty much no choices. The tourism woman suggested getting a taxi to the Tongan Beach resort and then taxi back to go on a boat if the rain had stopped. I decided to walk instead, not knowing how long it was - I had all day to kill. It took me 1-1/2 to 2 hours through some very lush palm fields, and it rained almost the whole time so I was soaked. But I made it there, and they said they did, indeed, rent snorkel stuff in the rain so off I went into the water. There were some pretty cool fish on the coral - blue, yellow, black/white. My favorites were the bright blue starfish and the fish that looked like it was spray-painted blue/green/yellow. The water is so amaxingly clear.
I taxied back to the paradise and took it easy the rest of the day. After dinner, I joined some New Zealand fishermen and together we sloved all the world's problems over a few beers.
Friday I walked around a bit and bought a book on Fiji's coups in the late 80's. The only books in the bookstores were religious, children's and history/art of Tonga. This one probably slipped in because of the regional historical aspect. It must be regulated by the King. Also, I heard an amazing choir practicing - hauntingly beautiful to be walking, checking out the chickens and pigs (and adorable piglets!) on the road and roadside and hearing that.
Back on Tongapatu, I stayed at one of its most expensive hotels, the Dateline ($50), which was exactly like an old college dorm. At least it had an ocean view and TV - I watched a BBC World report on how much mud-slinging there is in the presidential elections. And I think I heard the Yankees won the world series. So it appears I didn't miss too much :)
There were many people in the traditional garb especially on the island of Vava'u - woven mats tied around their waist. It doesn't look to comfortable or slimming, but it it very interesting to see the variations. Also, many people wore leis, either on their heads, around their necks or draped from shoulder to hip. All just as a matter of everyday life. Very pretty.
I'm about half way through the Fiji book, and so I'm a little nervous about being here, given their more recent political disturbances. But everything calmed down months ago, so I'm sure it will be fine.
Gotta go - I booked a half day driving tour. I had wanted to take a quick flight out/back on a little island, but since it is not high season the flights are not plentiful enough for me to do that.
In any case, I will be back home in a day! I can't believe it is over!! I'll send one last mass mailing after I get home, and I'll be putting a whole bunch of stuff on my website by the end of the year.