Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Volcanic hike

Jordan joined many of the other sailors in 2 pangas for a wet ride over to Tafahi Island, about 6 miles to the north of Niuatoputapu Island (Kingdom of Tonga) for a hike to its summit.

Tafahi Island is a cone-shaped extinct volcano, covered in lush tropical vegetation with less than 40 inhabitants, mostly living there to farm the slopes. There was no barrier reef to form a protected lagoon. The beach landing was done through a short channel dug out of the coral that fringed the island. All hands hauled the boats over small logs up the beach for protection from the waves.

2 loaded pangas heading to volcanic island

At first, the hike was down the beach before climbing stairs to the smattering of shacks that make up what is called a village. On the way up, they were met by a farmer with his horse carrying huge stalks of taro root and a couple other villagers carrying a squealing pig hung upside down on a stick, all heading to the pangas for a ride back to the main island of Niuatoputapu.

It was a strenuous 2-hour hike up to the top, through thick tropical bush patched here and there with small plantations of banana, papaya, taro root, kava, mango, even a mandarin orange tree dripping with ripe fruit. Oh yes, of course the ever present coconut palms, one of which the guide (Niko) climbed, knocked down enough coconuts for all, and hacked the tops with a machete for the thirst quenching liquid inside.

For the collected fruit, Niko chopped down a palm frond, and within 5 minutes, weaved a carrying basket.

Nature's basket

The summit was shrouded in misty clouds so the photo shots didn't see the island they had departed from (Niuatoputapu) but the stop made a great spot to do lunch. The down-hike was through dense Jurassic Park-like forest, woven with vines, vanilla plants, giant ferns, orchids, and many other topical species.

No dinosaurs

Before boarding the pangas again, a local lady had cooked up some taro root in a chicken broth and spices that all sampled. Jordan thought it to be similar to potatoes but more delicious.

On the ride back, Niko threw out a line and within 10 minutes caught about a 12-pound tuna!

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