An Amazing Weekend in 'Eua

The island of ‘Eua is located about a 2 ½ hour boat ride south of the main Tongan island of Tongatapu. While Tongatapu is flat, ‘Eua is a South Pacific Paradise with tall majestic mountain ranges, sharp cliffs and lush tropical rain forests. 'Eua boasts the most varieties of plants in all of Tonga. It also has the only river in Tonga and has one of two bridges in the entire Kingdom. What makes ‘Eua so attractive though is its almost total lack of tourists. Most tourists to Tonga either come to the main island or to the Kingdom’s top tourism destination: Vava’u. Very few venture to ‘Eua.
My friend Craig and I spent the weekend on ‘Eua and our tour-guide for the weekend was Taha, the ‘Eua Branch Manager of the Tonga Development Bank, where we both work. We leave Nuku’alofa on Friday afternoon, arriving before the ‘Eua branch closes for the day. We get to meet many of the staff who work there before venturing out to the island’s one resort called “The Hideaway”. The Hideaway would not fit most people’s description of a resort, but they do serve food and have six rooms and two small fales (houses) right on the water. It’s very rustic but the owner Taki is personable and speaks great English. We dine on fresh fish. A funny thing happened to us when we first got to the Hideaway. A Tongan man approaches us and says “Are you the two palangi (Foreigners) from the bank? Clearly the coconut wireless was in full operation as we had never seen this guy before.

Saturday, it is sightseeing time and Taha picks us up, taking us first to a small waterfall. From there he puts his truck into four-wheel drive and we head into areas that look like no one has been there in years. After winding through more roads and mud than I can imagine, we get out and hike down to one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. (And remember, I used to live in Hawaii).

What makes this waterfall even more attractive is that it is completely unspoiled. Except for a rope that you can hold on to keep from falling into the pit that drops hundreds of feet below, there is no sign that man has ever been here before. This waterfall is far away from civilization and there are no signs indicating that it is there.

Back to more winding roads and another hike, this time up to a lookout where we can see the cliffs on the South East side of the island. It’s truly a spectacular site. We are so high up that we can look down and see birds flying below us. The forest below is green and lush, the sounds of the waves crashing into the white sand beaches travel upwards to where we watch. The ocean is as blue as any I’ve seen.

Next stop is the state park at the tip of the island. From here, you can look across the Pacific Ocean and see Fua’amotu, where I had my first home stay in Peace Corps. It’s on another island, but it doesn’t look that far away.
In the state park, we head up another trail. Taha doesn’t tell us where we are going and we hike behind him. There are no signs. We finally end up at another overlook, but this time we are looking at a natural land bridge with a view through it to the ocean blue. Another spectacular site.

From here we go back down into the park, into a natural rock garden and we stand along more cliffs. There are not as high at the ones we saw previously, but we are a lot closer to the water and it’s a bit scary to think what would happen if you slipped.

Our final stop with Taha was a trip to the beach. We went down a road that could only be accessible by four wheel drive and spent time just relaxing and wading in the water out to the reef.

There are four Peace Corps volunteers permanently assigned to “Eua and we had dinner Saturday night with three of them. (The 4th is on Tongatapu because she has contracted Dengue Fever.)

We eat outside Bria’s house and get a chance to catch up. Both Bria and Krystal were in my training group and I don’t get a chance to see them very often.

On Sunday, we eat a couple of sandwiches at the Hideaway and then meet back up with Taha who takes us to a drop off point where we can climb the mountain to see the largest Banyan tree in Tonga and also visit Rat’s Cave.

The first stop is the Banyan tree which actually has a cave at the bottom. Craig climbs the tree while I explore the cave. It’s pretty amazing to see something this size.

From there we begin the long hike up the mountain to Rat’s cave. We both have seen a picture of this in a Lonely Planet guidebook. It was a good climb and while we did take the wrong road once, we finally made it to the cave. When we first arrived, we were disappointed. It was a narrow cave with a hole at the end that looked out to a fabulous view. We actually thought we were in the wrong place at first. Then we realized, you have to drop yourself through the hole into the cave below. And remember, we are on the edge of a cliff, so one false move and “it’s over”. Getting into the cave was a challenge for me. I was just a bit too tall, but finally made it. It was well worth the trouble.

We spent a good amount of time enjoying the cave and just taking in the breath-taking views. Finally, we realized it was starting to get dark and we had better head back. We finally got to the main road just as it got completely dark. From the main road we walked all the way back to town. Along the way, two young Tongans approached us and we chatted with them for part of the walk. They were very curious as to what we were doing and where we were going.

The only bad part of the trip was Monday Morning. In order to get back to work, we got up at 3:45am to catch the 5am ferry back to Tongatapu. When we got to the boat, around 4:30am, we got the last two seats. The ferry was a little late leaving and it was a pretty rough ride, but we made it.
And get this, during our Sunday hike, we were gone for seven hours and during that time we did not see another person. It was really getting away and was another amazing weekend in Tonga.

***Other News***
Tonga has very few hazards. There are no snakes, except the sea snake and its fangs are so far down it’s throat that it is almost impossible for one to bite a human. There are no alligators or other dangerous animals in the forest. In fact the worst hazard is probably a large centipede called a molakau. Until last week, I had only seen very small ones. Thursday night a large one made it into my home.
The molakau are tough to kill so in addition to spraying it with insect spray, I got a knife and chopped it into pieces. I’ve heard that the bug spray will sometimes not kill them so I wasn’t taking any chances. Even after cutting it up, it kept moving, so it got another does of spray which seemed to finally do it in.

As mentioned above, another volunteer has contracted Dengue Fever. She is the third person in my training group to get it this year.

This is probably my last update from Tongatapu unless something major happens. I move to Vava’u on Friday. My stuff was picked up today, but the boat that was supposed to transport it is not sailing this week, so it now will not arrive in Vava'u until next Wednesday.

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