Tongan Saturday Morning Market

DSC05783 (Custom) The Saturday morning market got underway around 6am but many of the vendors were only just getting started at that time. The kids walked from where we were attached to the customs dock just after 6am to say that people were still setting up and that they wanted to wait a little longer. I headed over around 6:45 am to find the market in full swing. Vendors had piles of fruits and vegetables all heaped up on tables while others had lain out leaves and fine mats around the exterior of the  marketplace to sell their bananas and root vegetables (yams, taro, etc.). Tongans, locals and visitors were all busy buying their groceries for the week.

I saw local Tongans, some wearing their traditional fine mats around their waist, picking up woven baskets of root vegetables and plastic bags full of other items walking around the marketplace. There was a continuous stream of vehicles driving around the market as well. The locals who were buying large quantities, especially of the heavy root vegetables for their imu pits, were loading their items into the back of their cars and trucks and then driving the circular route around the market before heading home.

While all of this activity was going on, there was a covered tent area across the street from the market where the various preachers and choirs were entertaining the market goers. The most heated of the preachers were calling all to repentance or so it seemed and he was speaking rather boisterously in Tongan. I asked a local Tongan lady at one of the stands what he was saying but she just smiled and said, “The various religious groups all come to the market in the morning and take turns presenting under the tent”. The following groups were mostly small and large choirs with some preaching mixed in over the speakers. Some would play beautiful Tongan gospel recorded music while they were setting up. This certainly added to the atmosphere around the market square.

Behind the choir tent there was another tent where fishermen were selling their recent catches. They had all types of cut up and filleted fish in coolers ready to sell to all of those who wanted some seafood. It seemed that the entire island had gathered for this Saturday morning ritual which continued until 12 noon. It is the only half day that the market is open. Monday through Friday it is open all day and it is closed on Sunday.

We purchased a number of items including watermelon (8 paanga), 3 peppers(3 p), 2 pounds of cherry tomatoes (3 p), 3 cucumbers (3 p) and a stalk of a hundred bananas (15 paanga). Once we were done purchasing our produce, we headed inside the enclosed building where the artisans were located. It was there that we met Leonati (Leonardo), a Latter-day Saint who had done many carvings for the King of Tonga. I have been told that he is one of two master carvers in Tonga and looking at his work it was obvious that his carvings stood apart from the rest.

We gathered up all of the kids and sent Orin over to the dock where Alyssa was still sleeping on the boat. Each of the kids picked out a necklace that they wanted from the many unique designs on the table. Teyauna was the first to choose with the little seahorse pendant after which the rest of the kids took about 30 minutes deciding what they wanted. Jaeden and Dailin picked sailboat carvings, Orin and I picked out whale necklaces, Alyssa a dove, Eli a whale tail and Kirsten a hook. We even picked out a present for our boy Dallin who is serving as a missionary in Florida. Leonati was very good to us as he substantially lowered the price for us given the quantity of our purchases and that it was for our children to be a momento of our sailing trip to the island. The necklaces regularly are about 20 to 30 paanga each ($10 to $15).

I think this is the first true souvenir that we have purchased on our trip for each of the children. Until now we have been rather frugal in our spending. While in French Polynesia the kids had been given gifts such as a wooden drum and black pearls which some of them drilled into necklaces, we really have not gone out of our way to purchase items or souvenirs. It was however a treat for everyone to get a small something that will easily be able to fit into their luggage when it is time for us to conclude our journey and fly back to Canada.

DSC05840 (Custom)After two hours at the market, we all walked back to the customs dock where we had left our boat. We were anxious to explore some of the other islands of the Vava’u Group. We motored out past the narrow channel into the main harbour before hoisting our sails. The winds were strong and steady from behind us and so with 10 to 17 knots of wind we made some really good time as we spent an hour sailing past islands that dotted the coastline. While most of the islands are small there were others that were even smaller pieces of rock that stood out as sentinels between the various passageways of islands. I was grateful to have electronic charts to help me navigate through the maze as we headed off for an island called Nuku island. I was told that it was a beautiful and small little island that looked like the typical palm fringed, white sand beach dream island. Just before we approached the island we noticed a little bit of an issue with the ttravelerbehind the mainsail. The traveler moves the boom from one side of the boat to the other with the use of a rope and series of pulleys but one of the boats holding the rope down had almost raised entirely out of place. Dailin got up on the top of the back section of the boat to tighten the screw down and after some difficulty removed the bolt in an attempt to try to reset it into place. That’s when I heard “Oh no!” followed by, “I lost the bolt”.

For a few frantic minutes the kids were all trying to decide what to do. Dailin had lost something into the water and we were unsure as to how we were going to fix this regularly used piece of equipment. It wasn’t until at least five minutes later that Dailin realized that he still had the bolt in his hand and that it must have been a washer that had gone scurrying along the solar panel and into the water. We had after all been spared a major dilemma. He tightened up the screw and tacked around so that we could maneuver the boat beside the little island. As we tacked over we realized that there was still a problem with the traveler holding the boom into place. Looking up at the traveler we realized the problem. Dailin had put the bolt into place but had forgotten to loop the rope around the piece holding the bolt. As a result the boom was swinging free with nothing to hold it in place when the wind gusted into the mainsail.
Once again Dailin mounted the back of the boat and quickly adjusted the piece and we were back to sailing once again.

I guess if that is as tense as the moments can get while sailing then its not so bad after all. We have however had a number of close calls with small specialty pins, bolts or other pieces of equipment falling onto the deck and almost into the water. While we have been spared in most cases, we have lost at least one crescent wrench to King Neptune’s sea while mounting our solar panels. Each time this happens I like to remind the kids to attach string or tape to the items that are being worked on… but it isn’t until something bounces on the deck until they really remember my council.

We spent a few hours anchored on the edge of Nuku island. The winds were blowing us very strong away and North from the island which helped our anchor hold firm into the sandy ocean floor. We had to anchor rather close to the island and the coral by it so I was happy to have a strong wind pushing us away from it. The kids each took turns shuttling each other in the kayak or snorkeling to the island which was only about 400 feet away. It was truly a paradisaical dream beach complete with the white sand, blue lagoon and palm trees. The kids went exploring the island and found a place to light a small fire (I later had found out) while mom took a nap and I took care of our little Zakary). After about two hours when mom was all rested up I snorkeled over to the island (not much to see as the ocean floor had no coral and all white sand) and Jaeden returned to paddle his mom and Zakary over to the island. I think this was the first time that we all had gone to an island exclusively through the use of our Kayak and flippers. We didn’t even lower the dinghy down to motor over.

As the day drew on we pulled up our anchor as we had a different location we had wanted to go to so that we would be close to a church building for the following day. With the winds blowing the right direction, we were able to hoist our sails right where we were, and start to sail to our next island. We were just going to the other side of Kapa island which was in front of us but had to go around the island. Our new anchorage was by a village called Talihua in front of Mala Island.

While we were able to take a great direct course up the one side of the island, coming back down the opposite side was a little trickier with the wind direction. We had to tack back and forth about three times before coming to the spot we were going to anchor at. While I did not realize it at first, it is a good thing we did not pass Mala Island as I had thought we were instructed to do. On both sides of the island the water is too shallow and filled with dozens of coral heads that would just rip the bottom of a fibreglass boat to shreds. I picked a 25 foot deep pocket of water and there we anchored our boat in front of the Mala island resort.

After a hearty dinner, I went with Alyssa and Kirsten to shore in order to scout out the little village and find out how far it was to the little Latter-day Saint chapel. After asking a family that lived on the beach, we discovered it was a short 4 minute walk from the beach to the small chapel. The village was absolutely incredible and reminded us of the rustic Tonga we had been looking for. Pigs were running wild on the beach and down the streets, little buildings were scattered up and down the streets with some looking a little sturdier than others.

One could tell that each home was a special place but simply used as a shelter from outside with a nice sized mowed lawn around each house. Many of the yards had a small little plantation/garden adjacent to it where the resident could grow their own bananas or other foods. It is obvious from this little village that a good percentage of the population works hard at agriculture and spends the time to grow their own food.

We met up with Stanley whom we met at his workplace in Neifu the day before. He saw us walking down the street and came out to greet us. He comes with his wife and two children every weekend to go to church and spend time with his family who is located across the street from the chapel. As the sun set he walked us back along some different dirt roads back to the beach where our dinghy was still pulled up onto the sand. It was an incredible to stroll around a small little village in Tonga and see the simple uncomplicated life that so many here experience as they live off of the land.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Norm, Kir, and Alyssa, (where is Jaeden, Dallin, Orin and Eli ? We’ll give Zachary and Tayauna a break for a few years) you guys do such a super job of describing your adventures. There is nothing in your reports that is mundane on not interesting to us. Please remember that. What you may sometimes think is not exciting enough to report is just thrilling for us here in boring old Canada. Don’t get me wrong. We love Canada and where we live but your guys are the ones seeing the world and what an adventure it is. Your reports are stellar. Thank you for them. To summarize most accurately our feelings about your reports in three words, “WE ARE JEALOUS” and two more “AND ENVIOUS” Please torture us a lot more. Dad

  2. Wow!!! this is getting better with each post. I can’t wait until you get back and can show us all your great pictures.

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