Fafa / Tonga · 2009 Eden arrival
I had never heard of Tonga and if you have, you’re probably dreaming. You could count the tourists without counting. Fiji, sure. Samoa, of course. But Tonga? Tonga was the archipelago next door.
The Bed & Breakfast was more bed than breakfast, but the meager morning provision – toast and jam, a fruit here and there – was served with a full plate of sweet and sticky tunes: Piano Man, Hotel California, all sorts of generic treasures from the 70s and neighboring eras. Always put me in the mood for a day. And every day felt like a day in this kingdom, the only island group in the South Pacific that had kept its sovereignty no matter who came knocking.
Fueled by fresh coconut water and the most savory peanuts that ever crossed my tongue, we bounced across Tongatapu like two bouncy balls, from one mini-destination to the next: lava cliffs, overexcited blowholes, a baby Stonehenge, a beach where I napped so blissfully that I can still feel the melody today.
And then there were the other islands, cheeky little things, peeking out of the waters around Nuku‘alofa. Fafa, Pangaimotu, What Have You. Now those were exactly what they sounded like: little white discs with green hats on turquoise velvet.
Tongatapu / Tonga · 2009 yellow shop
Tongatapu / Tonga · 2009 curtain door
What a trick, how vegetation takes hold anywhere, even on a sliver of sand in the middle of the ocean.
Fafa / Tonga · 2009 between blues
Tongatapu / Tonga · 2009 chocolate cliffs
places / stories
Fafa / Distilled Remoteness
Fafa / Tonga · 2009 smiland
Fafa / Tonga · 2009 bent over backwards to impress
Fafa / Tonga · 2009 thin water
A tiny drop of sand in the Ocean, somewhere in the vast Pacific nowhere, Fafa was distilled remoteness. But there isn't a nook in this world where you don't find Germans. They ran a resort and it didn't leave you wondering why they had left home for good.
Fafa / Tonga · 2009 blonde fringe
Fafa / Tonga · 2009 to be a guest in paradise
Pangaimotu / Octopus & Snake
Pangaimotu / Tonga · 2009 sweeping the sky
To waddle into the water with fins on your feet really made you look like the tourist you were. One time, I almost stepped on a striped creature, which was either a very venemous sea snake or a very harmless eel. Another time, I almost stepped on an octopus. I didn't know that at the time though. All I knew was that suddenly a blackish-violet cloud formed in the shallow water around my calfs and that a mild panick seemed to arise from down there. With my thoughts ricocheting ailmlessly through my skull, the most sensical hypothesis I found in there was that a shark had taken a good bite out of me and that I was standing in my own blood in shock. But that wasn't it. So I put on my goggles to have a look what was going on down there and saw the tiny fella – no more than a handful – take off in a hurry.
Pangaimotu / Tonga · 2009 superstar
Pangaimotu / Tonga · 2009 snake or eel
Pangaimotu / Tonga · 2009 totaled
Tongatapu / Eden Comedown
Tongatapu / Tonga · 2009 asphalt crater
Tongatapu / Tonga · 2009 rockhole
Tongatapu / Tonga · 2009 ocean sneeze
Tongatapu / Tonga · 2009 captaining
Tongatapu / Tonga · 2009 TOKO 5
Tongatapu / Tonga · 2009 front yard store
Tongatapu, the archipelago’s centerpiece, home to the capital Nuku‘alofa, and base for our little expedition party of two, wasn’t exactly Eden and had you plummet back down to Earth from whatever heights your tourism appetite would reach. No cocaine-colored beaches, no psychedelic turquoise in the water. It was a good reminder that even paradise has realities. And this here was a poor paradise.
Tongatapu / Tonga · 2009 fire red
Tongatapu / Tonga · 2009 family kingdom
Tongatapu / Tonga · 2009 batmen
Tongatapu / Tonga · 2009 miniature airport
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