Up on an early Sunday morning on our second day in Tonga, we decided to take in an unguided walk to Lakufa’anga Cliffs and Ha’aluma Beach with two UK medical students we met – Ed and Dave. The local taxi driver (who also happens to be the local preacher) dropped us at the end of a dirt road for our hike. We felt a bit guilty skipping out on the church service (we did hear the singing was supposed to be incredible) especially since it was the preacher driving us, but with our limited time on the island we wanted to get out and explore as much as possible.
A short walk down an old farm road brought us to the famous Rock Garden – a scattering of coral formations that were once along the bottom of the ocean. Pushed up out of the ocean by volcanic activity, this dried, sharp coral reef is filled with fossils embedded in the rocks and a tempting spot to do some rock climbing to get a better view.
In the distance, a herd of (semi) wild horses were grazing in the fields. Beautiful and wild, we were able to get quit close, with one curious young fella coming right up to me and even let me pat his nose. Only for a second though before he galloped off to re-join his group. With no fence or a barn in sight, these horses are left to graze on their own (although being so close to the giant cliffs I wondered if any lost their way to an tragic end)
The cliffs on this side of the island were quite dramatic, this time leading into the ferocious ocean instead of a beautiful secluded beach (like at Fangatave Beach). It was nice to take a moment to enjoy the view – one that I’m sure would make most people’s stomach stand on end!
Luka Fa’anga cliffs get their name from a tragic story of a family that lived in the area a long time ago. The only source of food for the family of seven was the local Fa fruit (a dry, hard fruit not normally eaten). As the fruit became scarce, one family member after another jumped from the cliffs into the ocean and legend says if you recite a special poem and throw the Fa fruit off the cliffs, seven turtles will emerge from the ocean to eat the fruit. (unfortunately at the time, we didn’t know what a Fa fruit was to throw)
As we walked along the cliff’s edge, we took a detour to the left up through the woods towards the Li Anga Huoa Maui. The locals believe this natural archway was created by the ancient God of all of Polynesia, Maui, who threw his spear from the center of Eua. When he pulled out his spear it created this enormous hole (the actual size of it just isn’t justified in this photo) that is left here today.
We walked back towards the road and ended up actually crossing the natural archway (although hardly noticed as it was so wide and the trees overgrown). We emerged on the other side to find more steep cliffs and fields full of more ancient coral reefs. We went a bit further before the track became too overgrown, so we retraced our steps towards the Rock Garden and began our walk down the road towards Ha’aluma Beach.
Along the road we passed plantations filled with banana, papaya, coconut, orange and lime trees. If there’s one thing Jordan loves about visiting tropical places like Tonga, it’s getting the chance to find his own food and taste the delicious flavors of the ripe, natural fruit. It wasn’t long before he was up climbing a tree in search for fruit and managed to grab a good handful for us to enjoy at lunch along the beach (these were on trees along the road, not from the plantation 🙂 )
Knife in hand, Jordan began preparing our delicious fruit medley of papaya, (tart) oranges, limes and a coconut to drink. A perfect pairing with our toasted ham and cheese sandwiches that we brought from the Hideaway.
After lunch it was time to explore the secluded white sand beach. It was amazing we had this oasis all to ourselves!
This section of the coast was also covered by a large coral reef so we set out to wade in the water to explore the sealife along the shore. There were also a number of blow holes that would send water shooting into the air as the waves crashed on the reef.
As we walked up the beach we managed to find a deep rock pool. With little time left before our scheduled pick-up, Jordan decided to jump in quickly to cool off and explore a bit of the underwater world. Wishing we had more time we would have pulled out our snorkeling gear and hung out there for a while, but our ‘taxi driver’ had prayer to get back to so we had to move along.
Back at the Hideaway we took a walk up the other coast in search of a similar rock pool for some snorkeling. We walked along the each for quite a while, but only found palm trees and shallow pools.
Eventually we found a small underwater crevasse that was just deep enough to swim, so we threw on our masks and went exploring.
Little fish – some bright blue ones, black stripped and white ones were swimming along the beautiful (sharp) coral. Although the crevasse was filled with fish, it was a bit dangerous as it lead to the sea, so every time a wave came in it would suck the water out to the ocean creating quite the current. We didn’t venture too far and just clung to the sides before turning back towards the shore and exploring more of the shallower pools.
Back at the Hideaway they were preparing for a traditional Tongan umu. Often served on Sunday’s, a pig is roasted with root vegetables wrapped in banana leaves using rocks heated by fire and buried in the ground for several hours (vegetarians shield your eyes). A similar cooking method of New Zealand’s Maori people.
We had a feast of fresh pork (little creeping seeing the little guy on the table) accompanied by a variety of salads, root vegetables (my favorite was the purple sweet potato) and a number of other meats (chicken, beef, fish) wrapped in banana leaves. A delicious meal put on by our lovely hosts at the Hideaway, we enjoyed our dinner as we watched yet another incredible sunset. We even saw a humpback whale from the Hideaway lookout give us a tail wave goodnight as he swam into the sunset! A good omen we hoped for our upcoming whale watch and snorkeling adventure!
Once the sun dipped under the horizon, the stars came out and provided quite the midnight display over the lookout point!