Nobabu village on Nuapapu island Vava’u group

Mostly accessible by water lays the village of Nobabu near Matamaka which is located on the same island and linked by land via a traitorous path through the woods/bush as all maps and satellite photos confirm. But when you discuss to either side they all talk about it as if the village was just another island, though most definitely they must be related to one another at some point in their genealogy. Nether the less we sense a split has happened a few generations back and since then they live on different islands within the same one!

We took the long bus route (read a cart pulled by a tractor, yep it’s that muddy) toward the village since Valerie has now developed an allergy to my mosquitoes infested short cuts in the bush, muds etc… kids please no comments we can hear you from here! With that said and after all the rain we’ve had, our flip-flops were getting stuck nicely to the ground and accumulated a 3-4 cm layer of heavy earth. Imagine the effect of surprise when we arrived in the village, as we didn’t even hear the “palangi palangi” alarm go off when the children see us, well not until we were in the citadel. What is truly amazing is that we are not far from the second largest city of the Kingdom of Tonga (something like a 45min ride with a small speed boat) however we still feel like we just travelled back to the Niuas: no electricity, no running water and no road. Fortunately Japan has made a very good effort to provide solar panels for every family and more at few strategic points while the USA focused on large plastic water tanks replacing the old cement ones which is by far more hygienic. So the basic necessities are met even if life remains simple; as usual the government provides schooling and has a good structure in place with a government representative in place or chief for the other side, both villages feel very harmonious and peaceful, kids run around along with pigs aah life goes on.

Ever since we arrived in the Polynesian belt we have learnt that one resolution you don’t want to commit to is “losing weight” and even more so in Tonga during the first week of January. Indeed that week is dedicated to religious reflections and activities; well… after all we are in Tonga. To add to the matter not far behind there is always an “umu” (earth oven) getting prepared and you are very welcome to attend, there comes again that very special hospitality unique to the Polynesians! Interestingly ever since visiting the islands of Futuna/Wallis and the Marquesas we can sense a blend in the culture tradition and even language showing the long voyages the ancestors have made in their outriggers, this appears also with the use of the “umu” which this time is not too shallow, not too deep, not express (1hr Wallis) though the meal is not cooked inside  overnight ike in Marquesas. With that said as we arrived in Nobabu a feast was being prepared and the invitation was extended. We hesitated to say yes straight away due to the muddy road but were informed that a walking trail was available from the wharf to the village. Here the earth is nicely compacted by years of traffic in the wood, thus I can confirm that for once my short cut was valid…

Breathtaking early morning sunrise on the Nuapapu bay.

In the bush around here you only meet this sort of ladies, the wild one as shown on the photo above and the sophisticated one a little belower. Note that both are scared of each other… As you can imagine the competition is fierce while I am caught in the middle!

And as you can appreciate once more we would not leave without staying for the “little” feast gathering, let us attest that we are even getting the groove of the speeches’ pattern by now! Picture a dramatic eloquent speaker (on the photo above he is in the left corner standing up) talking ensued by few “Malo, Malo, ‘Io, ‘Io” inserted just at the right time; we are telling you in just a few months at that rhythm we will be perfect. The lesson of the day, there is a strategy to get the meal you want to take home after the banquet. You eat as much as you want or can, but the left overs in front of you are a free for all. What wonderful target candies, special chips and exotic fruits (such as apple and orange) make those are in high demand, in other words you need to position them discreetly or not in front of you to be in reach. They love having foreigners next to them, as we don’t take anything home by respect. So we are asked to pass one by one the precious commodities during the feast. Only one request though don’t touch Laurent’s lollypops, the “mega boom bazooka” ones are to die for… mmm sugar rush?

Still there are two cultural issues remaining the first one is Valerie’s inability to absorb vast amount of foods hence her neighbours are getting worried that she isn’t enjoying herself. So they shower her with different offerings making for a nice ballet of explanations; which is not a problem for Laurent as he tries about anything to the pleasure of the young lady sitting opposite. And the second one is watching Laurent folding and unfolding his legs (with a painful look) on a regular basis thus everyone worries he might want to leave although he is improving at the technic to the point of allowing pins and needles! Could this lead to meditation pose? One may wonder… Fear not though you will see him at the end at the feast stretching and moving as his hips are seizing for good. Meanwhile our hosts at any age can sit there in lotus position and unfold gracefully their legs; Laurent looks more comical even compared to the 80 year olds who spring back up to their feet.