Friday, September 18, 2009

Uoleva camping

This last week was another school break so since Brett, Alicia and Sarah all had more time off we decided to escape our little island and go camping on a deserted island - Uoleva, just south of us (where we also spent new years and easter). It's probably my favorite place here in Ha'apai, it has some of the best beaches and reefs for snorkeling, and we can wear our swimsuits and be foreigners/tourists there. It's nice to just get away from here every once in awhile, you almost need to.

For this trip we decided to travel the Tongan way - by hitching a ride with a local boat going to Uiha, the inhabitated island just south of Uoleva. Our neighbor is from Uiha, so we set up a ride with his sister. And of course, Wed. morning the day we were leaving it was raining, but then cleared up. It got to be nice and sunny, we were all packed sitting at our house waiting to leave, they'd told us we'd leave by mid-morning and they kept coming to and from the neighbor's house going to church functions. At one point they said "hurrying", but then disapeared for a couple of hours late in the afternoon by this time. Then they rushed back, and Anna our neighbor yelled loudly "Katie NOW!!!", and we all ran out and were driven to the old wharf where the boats were waiting. By this time it was about 5:30, just enough time to make it before dark. That's the downside to traveling the Tongan way - it's on their timetable which is always very slow.

At the old wharf there were about fourty Tongans scurrying around between three boats, we passed in all our camping gear and bags and took seats along the outside of the small boat. All the boats were sagging so low in the water with all the weight that the ocean was almost coming up over the rim on each side. And the ocean was pretty rough, it looked like a painting with all the pointed waves swaying up and down slowly in the glossy last hours of daylight. The Tongan boat skippers are really experts at what they do, manuevering among huge rolling waves without a drip of water coming into the boat. Once we got to the island we had to pass up all our supplies and throw them onto the beach, then jump out into the ocean and swim ashore.

The first night we had enough time to set up camp and gather firewood before dark, and we roasted hot dogs, veggie skewers for the vegetarians, fish, and potatoes and corn cooked in foil. We brought a lot of cooking supplies to cook over the fire. And we had marshmellows and s'mores that had been sent from home, they were good!! The resort we stayed at, Tiana's, was completely booked - all four fales and a rented tent, the fales rent for $35 and camping is $20/tent. This is the same resort we stayed at over New Years, and it was amazing to see how much it's changed in less than a year - there were two big storms that shifted the beach, it's much steeper now, and they had to rebuild all the fales and move them farther up from the beach. They look really nice now, and are set up very well.
The next day was gloomy and rainy, we spent time reading and just hanging out. There were friends of friends that were visiting here in ha'apai that we hung out with, and an australian volunteer from the main island, and tourists from many other countries - france, spain, and more. It's always a big mix of tourists on Uoleva in tourist season (which should end soon, by Oct.) We were able to get a fire going for breakfast - pre-mixed pancakes and coffee/tea. And another fire in the evening for marshmellows again. We weren't able to get out snorkeling at all, but we'll have plenty more times down there to do that.

The day we left, Friday, it was really windy and rainy, we packed up all our stuff under a hut on the beach and huddled waiting for a passing local boat to flag down. But with the bad weather many boats decided to wait until Saturday. So we jumped on a boat that had been arranged from town to pick up two tourists at our resort, it was just a little more expensive. After we were a ways off shore the skipper of the boat started messing around with a tied up bag on the floor. As soon as he got it untied he dumped the contents into the ocean and kept moving on. We looked and saw immediately that a cat had been inside the bag, and was now struggling in the ocean trying to swim towards shore!! We asked why he did that, and he said he was trying to kill the cat, it had gotten into some food or something. It's crazy that he'd do something like that, it was sad to watch, I hope the cat made it ashore.

Yesterday our friends at Fins 'n Flukes had organized a harbour clean-up so we went to help pick up trash along the wharf and roads near there. It's amazing how much garbage was cleaned up, some of it had been there for a very long time, the locals never really clean up these areas - only their own houses and the churches. And they litter a lot - mostly plastic bags or packaging, but lots of random stuff too. Then last night we had a birthday dinner for Kyoichi, our japanese volunteer neighbor. There was a birthday dinner last Saturday too for Brian. So we've been pretty busy. This week we'll be working more again, I'm actually doing a little cooking class tomorrow with the ladies I work with at MAFF so that will be interesting (those of you who know me back home know how I don't cook!) And our country director is visiting our island this week as part of his round of goodbyes.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

Thank you for the nice read, my girlfriend and her friend are there now on Uoleva, you may have even seen them.

It's been a week or so without any contact so it was nice to read about the island where they are. Sounds like a great trip!