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Nuku'alofa - Lifuka (Tonga) 16 February

Stan with the Van said he would take us to the airport, but it was his wife Seini who turned up instead.   She said she'd had enough of the kids and the washing up and it was her turn to get out of the house.  At the airport, Seini and I waited while Flemming went into the terminal to file the flight plan, pay the landing fee and arrange for refueling.   Seini was fascinated to learn about our travels and not in any  hurry to go home.  She told me how frustrated she was to be so housebound and would love to leave Tonga again and see the world.   Stan, on the other hand,  seemed quite content to be back in his home country.

Half an hour later, Flemming appeared. The precious barrel of fuel had not been delivered to the airport as promised.  It was Saturday.  The manager of BP was out of the country.  He called the manager's wife at home and she tried without success to contact the employee who was supposed to deliver the fuel.   Seini suggested that we all go and search out the employee and the barrel, but we felt sure it was a lost cause until Monday.  We didn't want to waste any more time fussing about fuel when we had a beautiful beach awaiting us on Foa Island (Ha'apai), where we had reservations at the Sandy Beach Resort.  We still had 7 hours of fuel left, enough to get us to Western Samoa, although we wouldn't have enough to visit the northernmost Tongan island, Niuafo'ou, as we'd planned.  We could have waited to refuel on Monday but we had seen all we wanted to see on Tongatapu.  So we decided to leave without the fuel in the hope that they would either reimburse us or ship the barrel to us in Vava'u (our third port of call in Tonga).

There had been rain showers while we hung about the airport but the sun was shining again when we took off.  It was a short and sweet flight of 50 minutes to the cute little airport of Lifuka, where we were met by Jürgen, the German owner of the Sandy Beach Resort.  The Resort is at the northern tip of Foa island, reached by a causeway from Lifuka.  Its beach has to be one of the most beautiful in the world.  The snorkeling isn't the greatest as most of the corals have died - due possibly to the warm  El Niño current - but it was wonderful just to be able to swim and relax in the shade.  We spent all afternoon doing just that with no qualms at all.  This may seem incredible, but after 3 and a half months of 'holiday', we couldn't remember ever taking it easy for even half a day!

Apart from Jürgen and his wife Sigi who ran the resort, we only had 7 other fellow guests, from Canada, Austria and the UK.  There was a cosy, family atmosphere and we all dined together at a large table.  The Canadians, Darren and Kim, were also on a long trip.  Actually, theirs was longer than ours - 10 months - and they were able to take it at a much more leisurely pace as they were only visiting Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific.

The next day was Sunday.  Audrey and Ray had told us not to miss Church on Sunday in Tonga as this is THE event of the week.  Jürgen goes to Church every Sunday so he drove us there.   Like the locals, he wore the traditional Tongan grass skirt.  When we arrived at Pangai Catholic Church there was a large gathering outside.  I should think the whole population of Lifuka Island was there in their Sunday best.  The singing during the service was amazing.  The choir had such beautiful voices.  They weren't holding hymn books and I was told that they have to learn about 200 hymns by heart.

Waka hurricane hit Tonga on 1st January this year.  The most affected group of islands was Vava'u, but Lifuka also suffered some damage and we saw several fallen trees.  After Church, Jürgen drove us to Virginia's museum.   Virginia moved here some years ago from the US and decided to create the only museum in the Ha'apai group.  The Waka hurricane damaged her original museum, baptised the 'smallest museum in the world' and she had to relocate to a house on the other side of the street. The museum contains local artefacts and curiosities. Flemming was surprised to see a photo of Peter Goldstern's seaplane there.  Our friends Margi and Gerard Moss met Peter in Tonga on their round-the-world trip about 10 years ago.   They put Flemming in touch with him and we hoped to meet Peter here since he was planning to return to Tonga by this time with a Beach 18 and work for the Crown Prince.   (Tonga is the last remaining Polynesian monarchy).  But Peter's new plane is not ready yet so we won't get to meet him here after all.

The weather was more unsettled today but it cleared up enough in the afternoon to enjoy a swim and a stroll along the beach before a delicious dinner of lobster and crab.

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Stan's wife Seini who wanted to come with us!

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The beautifil Ha'apai island group: Uoleva, Lifuka and Foa

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On final for runway 11 on Lifuka island

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The wonderful sandy beach of 'Sandy Beach' resort on Foa

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Happy Tongan kids outside church

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Pretty girl in Pangai church

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Angela by fallen tree after Waka hurricane

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Virginia's museum

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Jürgen and Sigi's excellent crab and lobster dinner

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