Aug

23

We have arrived into Nuiatoputapu…………just try and think back to about the 30th September 2009 around 7.30am ish……we were all probably running around, having our first cuppa for the day, or sitting in traffic going to work, probably pondering about what the day has in store for us.

Main Beach Nuiatoputapu

Main Beach Nuiatoputapu

Nuiatoputapu meanwhile had an earthquake hit it, then within 15 minutes a huge tidal wave came roaring through the reef and wiped out three local villages to the utmost devastation of the worst kind.  Anything of any substance was annihilated, animals, food crops, seabed’s, housing, water access and any type of communication to the outside world.

Whats left of there house and still being used

Whats left of there house and still being used

There was no time to think, everyone felt the quake and then ran for the hill on Niuatoputapu for their lives.  Sadly nine people lost their lives, 7 adults and two children.  A small consolation though was that a yachtie who couldn’t get his yacht out in time, managed to turn his yacht around with anchor semi detached and ride into the tsunami wave, if it wasn’t for the reef breaking the strength of the wave for the yacht it could’ve been a tragic ending.

Panacia was the name of the yacht with a Swedish couple on board her.  The only communication for Nuiatoputapu was  Panacia’s  Satellite phone.

As kiwis we have done the Red Cross proud, the NZ government has definitely put money into their pockets this time, rebuilding a whole school with a few extra buildings to get Nuiatoputapu under some normalness.  They have very little and what they do have, the people would give their shirt off their backs to you.

This trip really puts your lives into perspective when you come to a place like this.  Some homes still have blue tarpaulins for shelter, their food crops are just starting to thrive and give them some sort of hope and income.  Not many people come here as it is the further most island from Tonga.

A container ship would come here probably twice a year and we were the first boats they had seen since the tsunami.

We were treated like royalty and you felt like a fraud as they just welcomed you into their lives of devastation and gave you their precious everything.  They are very proud though and would not take payment for nothing, they would prefer to earn it by us purchasing their trinkets or taking you on tours of their island.  The ladies are huge income earners for their villages by making all the souvenirs which in turn get sent back to Nukulofa and sold at the markets.  This is a huge thing as the men are normally out hunting and gathering to get food on the table for their families.

The villages put on a huge feast for us.

We had a performance from the children and the women gave us a demonstration step by step on how they make their mats and clothing.  Much to Diedes delight (NOT) he was volunteered to wear the ceremonial wedding costume.  We married him off to a lovely mature aged lady. 

Diede's Marriage Ceremony

Diede's Marriage Ceremony

I’ve never seen a Dutchman go so red.  And he certainly high tailed it quickly back to the truck by himself when we were ready to go back to the boat.  You might say it was like a Flying Dutchman at high speed.  The next day we were put to the test of our tramping skills.

Nuiatoputapu at the top

Nuiatoputapu at the top

We were going on a nice 2 hour walk up the hill where all the villages ran to for safety, but low and behold the guides decided we must have been such a fit bunch that they would take us along the ridge instead, this was 5 hours later, scratches, bruises, sliding on butts, torn clothing, a near death experience for one,  rock climbing, and abseiling all in one and to finish it off nicely a soothing and refreshing swim in the local mineral fresh water spring…….

At the top of the Volcano looking across to Nuiatoputapu

At the top of the Volcano looking across to Nuiatoputapu

ah the relief, so the next day was a day of nursing wounds and chilling out whilst the handful of mountain goats  (Gavin, Vinnie, Shae, Diede, Bob from Duet and Steve from Recluse) caught a long boat across to the local extinct volcano and tramped up and down that.  Apparently this was better than the goat hike we did the day before.

Another glorious meal was put on for us on another island which was a little way off.  This was meant to be a pot luck to be put on by all the rally but the villagers decided to put on a full umu (meal cooked in the ground)for us.  We were on a little remote island with sand and trees blowing in the wind, it was very idyallic.

We had guitars playing and had a singalong. No, Gavin still cannot sing.

Until our next update,

Lica, Gavin, Diede, Vinnie
Sol Maria
www.solmaria.co.nz