Thursday, October 27, 2011

Exploring 'Eua

PHOTO: The famous land bridge of 'Eua that we couldn't find for the longest time.

I finally had the opportunity to explore the enchanted island of ‘Eua. It truly is a unique destination. ‘Eua is very different than the other island groups of Tonga. It is the home to the only rainforest in the entire Kingdom and wild horses! Yes, you read correctly—wild horses! Carolyn (PCV from Tailulu College—Vava’u) and I enjoyed a little weekend retreat and had the opportunity to visit the few Peace Corps Volunteers who live in ‘Eua.

PHOTOS: Some of the scenes from the boat ride.

The trip all started with a quick two hour boat ride from Nuku’alofa. We boarded the ship ‘Ikale (Eagle in English) and saw a couple of massive humpback whales en-route to ‘Eua. Being use to the island commute to Matamaka, it truly wasn’t bad boat ride—though others were over the rail most of the trip throwing up. Note to those with weak stomachs: bring some motion sickness medicine.
PHOTO: The 'Ikale

Upon the first sight of ‘Eua, I could already tell it was beautiful in its own way. You could see huge cliffs all around the island. The main city of ‘Ohonua is a quaint little town. It has your typical local banks and the few local shops. Most supplies and food are available here, though fresh vegetables are limited unless shipped from Tongatapu.

Without any taxi service in the island, Carolyn and I attempted to walk to the Wesleyan High School where our PCV hosts are residing. We were told it would be about a one hour walk or so—not bad we thought. Wrong! The hill from the wharf to the main road nearly took our breath away. We were so lucky a nice Samaritan offered us a lift to our final destination. For the record, ‘Eua is actually a lot bigger than you think on the map. Our host was a married couple from Oregon (though they are originally from the Alabama). They live in the Wesleyan High School compound. We enjoyed a delicious Mexican dinner conjured up by Breand with the help of our fresh vegetables. After dinner, we were pretty much pooped and spent the evening relaxing in their cozy house.
PHOTOS: Paul and Breand's house at the Wesleyan Campus in 'Eua.

Fully rested, we attempted to do a lot of hiking and exploring in the Southern end of ‘Eua. This is where the wild horses roam around free and the famous “land bridge” is located. On our hike, we documented the entire thing with video footage. It took us almost two hours to finally reach our destination! We were only able to hitch a ride for the last five minutes of the hike. The horses and cliffs were amazing! The scenery can be compared the highlands of Scotland but with a tropical twist. The view was absolutely breathtaking!

Then we got lost. Yes, lost. While trying to find the famous “land bridge” we for some reason followed the wrong marker sign and ended up hiking toward the rainforest until we could no longer hear the ocean. Disappointed we turned around, but luckily ran into a British friend we met on the ferry over to ‘Eua. She asked us how we missed the bridge. It turned out we were walking over it multiple times and never realized it! Wonk, wonk, wonk---FAIL. After following the correct marker trails, we found the lookout tower and WOW! Beautiful! We had a quick picnic from the food we brought.
PHOTO: The cliffs at the southern end of the island.

Walking back to the Breand’s house, there were no cars forever. After hiking for an extra hour and a half the wrong direction, Carolyn and I were already exhausted. On top of it all we were short of water and sun gave no mercy. We fortunately got a lift after walking for almost two hours back. By the time we arrived to Wesleyan compound we had hiked for a good six hours. Our legs were jello and exhausted.
PHOTOS: More highlights from 'Eua.

The rest of the weekend we relaxed at another PCVs house at the 'Eua High School compound. We made some delicious Japanese tofu and homemade carrot cake. We were so tired from our hike on Saturday that we spent all day Sunday bumming around the school library to use the super fast internet. The weather was bit wet the day too, so a malolo day was very appropriate (rest day).
PHOTO: 'Eua High School

The boat ride back to Tongatapu was a bit tricky. The one ship leaves around 4:30/5:00 AM from the main wharf in 'Ohonua. However, you need to get to the ship early to secure a seat. As a result, Carolyn and I were up at 2:30 and got there at 3:00 AM. We were lucky to get a seat, but note to self: BRING AN EXTRA FLEECE. The weather was freezing! The boat is pretty open so you can't really hide from the wind anywhere. In the end, 'Eua was awesome and definitely worth a visit.
PHOTO: Some PCVs of 'Eua!

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