Tonga claims to be the first inhabited place to see the start of each day as well as the New Year. It consists of about 170 islands of which only 36 are inhabited. Family and religion are very important to the people.
It was raining when we disembarked. Luckily, a new pier had been recently completed and we did not have to tender in. A police band was playing and there was dancing to welcome us (this was QE's first time in Tonga).
We had an independent tour and visited most of the famous places on the island of Tongatapu. About 800 years ago Ha'amonga was built. It is believed it was designed to show the longest and shortest days of the year. We also visited the blowholes and the places where Captain Cook and Abel Tasman were supposed to have landed. We saw the Tongan bats called "flying foxes" that are considered sacred (they can be hunted by the royal family only). The step pyramid styled tombs of the ancient kings at Mu'a were also seen.
We saw dozens of churches and schools. By law, only Christianity is allowed to be practiced openly. The Mormon religion is the fastest growing one on the island. Students have free elementary education but have to pay for higher levels.
Because families are so important to the people, there are elaborate graves throughout the island. Many are decorated with beautiful hand-made quilts (that can't last too long with the amount of rain the island gets). They also decorate some of the graves with beer bottles.
Although the people are very friendly, according to our guide, many are light-fingered. Because of this the local "convenience stores" (and we passed many) have bars on the front. You do not go inside, just tell the clerk what you want.
We returned to the ship around 1:30. I walked around the stalls for a short time and then had lunch in the Lido. The sail-away party was cut short due to a rainstorm.
I listened to one of the Royal Cunard Singers, Jonathan Dearden, perform before dinner. Decided to make it an early night so no show after dinner.
Ha'amonga 'A Maui
Tongan style pyramid
one of the cemeteries with a quilt
beer bottle decorations on a grave
High School students going home
an elementary school
some of the blowholes
the L.D.S. Temple
the "flying foxes:
one of the local "convenience stores"
Smooth sailing until next time!