Biding our TIme

Dealt a glancing blow by a fast-moving cyclone, we find a delightful way to spend an afternoon in the Friendly Islands.

Walk on the beach

A receding tide uncovers a wide shelf of rock and gives us good footing as we walk the beach. Peggy (left) and Sue humor my need to snap a photo.Mark Pillsbury

Wilma our welcoming cyclone turned out to be a shrinking violet of sorts. An hour before sunrise the rains started in and a deluge ensued, but the wind, well it never really got here. Wilma veered past Vava’u, missing the island by about 150 miles. By 10 a.m. clouds still swept past, but the heavy rains eased off to showers and slowly the wind clocked from south, round to north.

Still, the powers that be at the Sunsail base were reluctant to have us board our boat and asked us to wait another day. Gangways to the docks had been hauled and the docks themselves pulled into deeper water for safety. To compound matters, the staff was on what we determined was a Tongan snow day, and so was nowhere to be found. Instead the base manager, Kerris, came up and gave us a briefing as we sat on the porch. As she talked, the skies cleared and a gusty north wind filled the harbor with whitecaps.

As promised, Wilma swept the stifling humid conditions along with her and in their place a perfectly lovely afternoon unfolded. We lunched on ham and cheese sandwiches, our Wilma provisions, and went for a hike. Down our dirt road and across the hardtop, we found a road that led us down to Veimumuni Cave and Fresh Water Pond. As we walked through the village a gang of kids sitting on the trunk of an old car spotted our cameras and hammed it up for us visitors. Piglets ran about our feet as we walked along, and we found a likely source of the midnight dog brawl that woke all of us out of our slumbers.

We climbed the hill past a grave yard, where flowers and intricate altars celebrated the recently departed, then down a steep stairway, past the fresh water cave where a young maiden once lived; as she fled a suitor, she let out mouthfuls of water, and they are the source of the many fresh water wells around Vava’u today.

Stretching out from the beach, the ankle-deep water atop a wide shelf of brown dead coral dropped off abruptly into a sea of deep blue water. Across the bay, we watched surf explode on the reefs between the islands. Walking across the coral was a dicey affair; spiny urchins lurked in every crevice, and climbing back up after a swim required some care.

We walked the beach south, waded across the mouth of a fresh water lagoon pouring the night’s rain in to the sea, and then around the point to a causeway and road that led us back to the cottages where we’ll spend one more night.

Tomorrow we’ll sail. Can’t wait.