Tonga to Samoa (Apia), November 24 to Cook Islands November 25, 26, 27
Pictures: The first three are in Tonga of the church, the pig in the church yard and Alan pointing out the state of most cars in Tonga. The second three are in Samoa where RLStevenson lived the last four years of his life. Dancers performed at his house. The last picture is the Catholic church in Samoa.
The Tonga arrival early in the morning allowed us a half-day to wonder the streets. Alan and I chose to visit several sailboat-leasing companies including Moorings. We received sailing maps and got information about provisioning. The local market was also held close to the dock and we wondered through the produce stands and craft barns with a myriad of carvings, weavings, and jewelry and grass skirts. The fishhook necklace is the desired ornament for Tonga. We climbed to the Catholic Church sitting high on the hill overlooking the harbor and were amused to find a pig in the churchyard rooting along the edge of the church. Gospel singers performed on the opposite corner. Everyone was extremely friendly as we wondered the streets. The afternoon saw us anchored at a remote island for snorkeling and swimming. Coral, an array of fish and pristine beach made this a perfect place. And, coming up from our snorkel we were greeted by a bell—yes an ice cream bell! The wonderful staff brought ice cream bars to the beach for our refreshments. We hated to leave.
Part of the expedition called for landing on a reef atoll. However, once through the reef, the tide started to drop and with our boatman pushing the boat back across the lagoon, we narrowly made it back to the ship before the water dropped too low. As a result we snorkeled on the outside of the reef, jumping in from our zodiac.
That night as we left whales surrounded our boat and put on quite a show: humpbacks, two sperm whales and a pod of pilot whales. Amazing show! The sperm whale spouted many times and then flipped us his tale to dive deeply. What an ending to Tonga. A very tired tern landed on our deck and actually allowed the naturalist to pick it up.
Apia is the town we visited in Samoa. Samoa is comprised of three island groups. The one we visited was the middle group with about 40,000 people, but the most inhabited group is to the south. A visit to Robert Louis Stevenson home was the highlight for us. R.L. Stevenson only lived there from 1891 to 1895 when he died at the age of 44. After that dignitaries lived in the house until the damage from recent hurricanes. But several years ago a Mormon man from Arizona who had done his missionary work here paid to have the house restored. He still comes twice a year to visit the house that is a museum now. A group of Samoan dancers entertained us with a cava ceremony after the house tour.
Of course we visited the city cathedral, passed the Mormon temple, saw where several famous chiefs were buried, where their parliament meets, and where the government buildings stand. We took cabs to additional jewelry stores and then talked to people from the huge Norwegian liner heading on a 79-day pan Pacific trip back to Hawaii. We also had a very nice visit with an art professor who now runs a gallery show-casing local artists and their works: carvings, jewelry, paintings, handbags, etc.