Friday, September 12, 2014

'Eua island and a whale swim or two

The situation so far is that we haven't yet done one single work related dive after 3 months. The magnotometer is not working. The captain sent it back to Canada where its been stuck in customs for two weeks. The workhorse boat has not yet arrived and occasionally tempers are getting frayed (with me).

OK. I snore. Sometimes I snore fucking loud. Some of the remedies I use - the chin strap - don't work. But the fact that I snore irritates the hell out of my crewmates. The captain and electrician don't realize this so much cos they are sleeping in their own separate bulkhead room.

I also don't seem to be getting along with my two crew mates - not sure why - I think its just a personality clash. I also sometimes tend to get a bit silent and withdrawn. I read my books on kindle, drink my tea, I'm easygoing but maybe they think I'm being aloof.

Anyway we came back to the main port of Nukualofa, Tongatapu in August. I could feel things were a more than a little tense - so I decided to stay on the mainland where I met with a group of whale researchers at the hotel lodge I was staying. All white aussies. They seemed a bit friendly at the start - then turned rather WASPish. Partly my fault I guess - After three months on a boat - I'm rather rusty on the conversational skills area. You can feel the awful screech of rusty gears when I try and speak. I was hoping to get a go on one of the whale tours but no luck. Full house. One of the marine biologists on the waiting list said I'd have to fight her for her spot in the que.  I wouldn't mind :) She was gorgeous, a tall, slender and very attractive blonde.

Since I was getting bored the lodge owner suggested I go to the island of 'Eua. About 20km away from Tongatapu. The ferry ride was in this rusty old ship crammed with building equipment and over 100 Tongans - mostly women and children. I should have been terrified when the waves came slamming over the side of that rusty Ferry hulk. (The world's 2nd deepest undersea trench separates the sea from 'Eua and the main island).  But the Tongan kids seemed pretty tough and didn't look worried - so neither did I.

Listening to music helps tremendously on these voyages. A tremendous amount actually. I'm currently listening to this album a lot. "I saved Latin" - its a tribute album to the songs used in Wes Anderson movies. Anderson movies were luminously filled with music from the 1980s - and contemporary artists like Beth Orton, Brandi Carlisie, and Escondido cover them  reinterpreting them in subtle ways.

I like it here at Hideaway. It's a rustic resort - a handy row of simple but elegant timber and plywood huts painted a delightful duck egg blue color (a color more green than blue). My room has a lovely cosy feel - the windows face west, and has two cute wooden writing desks by both windows. Its spacious enough to fit three people - There is a double bed and a single bed which I use to place my camera gear on. Bonus it has an ensuite bathroom with hot water - oh wow!!! a luxury in this part of the world. I haven't had a decent hot shower in months!!! On the boat I had to wash often when it rained - and when it rains here its also very windy. I do that when it rains to avoid getting chided for using too much water. :D

The resort has its own small farm! The owners keep a two large sows to bear piglets. Its good money - one small piglet can cost $200 - the sow can fetch $1000. Occasionally some of the piglets get stolen esp during the feast days. But the owners love the sows and have nicked their favorite - Princess :) Its got pretty eyes for a pig. During meal time its ambles by looking forlornly at us for a bit of food to eat. 

The rocky shore is about 70m from my room and dinning area. A coral and granite reef lining the shore like a submerged fort wall provides a natural breakwater. The sea angrily pounds away at it furiously with an aggrieved giant.  Its as if the sea is trying to reclaim back the land which the island took from it. You can find ancient coral shells embedded in the rocks in the shore and garden of the resort - proof that the sea covered the island before.

We can see whales swimming along the coast line - most of them near the horizon a few miles away. Its been overcast and cloudy - but when I went for the whale swim last Friday the sun shone proudly for awhile. I paid $200 to sit in a wooden fishing boat and chase after the leviathans. The fisherman deftly maneuvered his small vessel close to the whales - sometimes directly in their paths and shouted "Go! Go! Go!" to encourage us to jump out. I wish I knew enough Tongan language to advice him to exercise more sensitivity.

The visibility in the water wasn't clear - about 10 - 15m - and sometimes we couldn't even see the dark grey whales at all in that dark grey sea despite being about a stone's throw away. The whales also usually descended straight down to the deep whenever we jumped into the water.

It was fun for awhile but the cold quickly got to me for some reason. I was wearing a full 5/3mm wetsuit + thick rashguard underneath. But two British tourist were swimming in their swimming trunks and saying it was ok.

A day ago I hiked to the National Park which rises toward a mountain peak. There is a small narrow cave which leads to an fissure in the side of the mountain overlooking the seaward side of the national park. It was breathtaking. You could see the entire forest - a cascading wave of green marching towards the roaring sea - only halted by the no-man's land of the white sandy beach. Huge trees looked like small miniatures models. Miles below my viewpoint a flock of white long tailed birds circled the trees.

The weather was mostly wet and drizzly during my 1st week in 'Eua. On the 2nd week it started becoming nice and sunny and it was perfect during the Agricultural show on Friday. I tried to take photos of the king but the security wouldn't let me get close. Actually no one was allowed to get close to the king. cos he's the king I guess :)

A couple of pretty NZ girls showed up on the 2nd week - I attended a kava ceremony with them. But they were drunk when they arrived and got bored quickly during the ceremony and left early.

Back in Tongatapu now - saw a lot of whales on the weekend including a close encounter with three big ones who came right alongside the boat - it was so shocking I had trouble lifting my jaw off the floor. Didn't take any photos as a result!! 

I'm going back to Eua I met a Japanese nurse working there - she invited me over for banana cake.

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