Arriving in Nukualofa and walking across the tarmac to the arrivals shed, the heat just hit us. And it was nine at night! Not sure about the quarantine rules though – or perhaps it’s that I am so used to first world rules and regulations - but after chucking my uneaten brioche in the bin under the watchful eyes of two strapping Tongan officials we noticed another passenger making her way through customs with two bags of Burger King – and no one said a word!
That night we stayed some thirty minutes from the airport at the Seaview Lodge. Good room, great bathroom, great location and great service. Happy to give a plug! And if you ever stay there look out for Rosita. 10 out of 10 for customer service – and her sense of humour!
With a few hours to kill before the domestic flight took off we wandered into town the following morning passing two places I just have to mention; the property that was once home to the British Consulate, and the Kings Palace (left). Both just metres away from the Seaview Lodge. Wow doesn’t even come close. Not in terms of grandeur although the Kings Palace is very large, it’s the colonial architecture that captured me. Someone said it was built in New Zealand and shipped over in pieces, which would explain features such as the detailed timber fretwork. The ex-Consulate building on the other hand might be simpler but the cannons and a flagpole in the garden certainly make a statement!
Back at the airport, this time the tiny domestic terminal, we found the plane delayed and so sat in the open alongside ladies fanning themselves and children – well, just being children! Thankfully the aircraft, a Jetstream, was in far better condition than we’d been lead to believe and - AirNZ take note - we had far more legroom. Though having an ash-tray above the pull-down food tray was a tad concerning!
I won’t bore you with a description of the myriad of coral islands we flew over, since just one word will do. Breathtaking! As was my first view of the runway at Vava’u, although not in quite the same way! Apart from the fact it didn’t appear to be tarmac, surely it was way too short? But the pilot clearly had no such qualms – that, or he was fearless - and we touched down with barely a bump. Some five minutes later we were in our host’s car, driving to the other end of the island where a small boat waited.