A Very Quick Tour

Tonga is such a complex place: this incredible hospitality; almost no tourist infrastructure to speak of (they burned the city of Nuku’alofa down in a fit of civil unrest a couple of years ago and there are still places that have not been rebuilt); a lot of highly visible poverty; an enormous number of churches; oh, and did I mention that it’s flat?

The island is like a big coral biscuit, the windward side of which is undercut in places leaving these amazing limestone shelves with holes (and even caves) in them. Up on the western end there are a series of blowholes that are not to be missed where the surf comes roaring up and crashes into these cliffs, blasting up through holes in the surface exactly like a whale. Even sounds like a whale clearing its blowhole.

windward coast Tonga

Here are a couple of shots of what you’re walking on when you get out to the edges of the island (that is where it’s not mangroves and mud):



And here’s what it looks like from another angle:

Tongan coast

We also visited the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon, but which I believe is the largest megalithic structure in the Pacific outside of Easter Island. Here it is, with some people we met there for scale.

Ha'amonga Trilithon

This, actually, is what I went to Tonga to see, because until you see something with your own eyes….well, you’re pretty much just faking it.

In the Kingdom of Tonga:

Food and Friends

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Editor of Harvard Review and author of "Sea People: The Puzzle of Polynesia" and "Come on Shore and We Will Kill and Eat You All."

6 thoughts on “A Very Quick Tour”

  1. Are they still in a state of emergency from the riots? I remember reading that the government had taken some criticism because it lasted at least through 2009. It’s a good example of faking it unless you see it with your own eyes. It’s impossible at a distance to get a true sense of the damage in Nuku’alofa, or what the practical impact of the state of emergency is.

    I should have stowed away in your luggage. You barely would have noticed me, I swear. 🙂

    1. It all seemed pretty normal and calm, but I had the impression that they were hurting for outside investment. I’m only guessing though. Certainly no state of emergency when we were there; it was business as usual.

      1. I think that’s why there was such criticism. The legal “state of emergency” lasted far beyond the actual emergency. It was seen as something of a power grab by the government, as it gave them expanded powers of the sort that are useful in a dire situation but dangerous when things return to normal.

        It’s also not surprising that they’re hurting for outside investment. The rioting in Nuku’alofa was directed at foreigners. I suppose potential investors are scared off because of that.

  2. Dear Christina, it’s been great following your blog and visual / descriptive adventures through Polynesia with Seven, Abraham, Matiu and Dani. It’s fantastic that the combination of all of these grants enabled you all to head down under to visit family after so many years and to spend time hanging out together at all these new/old places. Your last entry mentioned that you might be returning to the States via San Francisco – please give me a call if you’ve got time and would like to catch up as I’m still on holidays.


    1. Dear Janet: Sorry we missed you in SF. It was another very quick pass. Maybe we’ll get back there before too long…now that we’ve got the travel bug again. XXC

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