Trop­i­cal fruit and Palagi guilt


Af­ter spend­ing eight days’ sail­ing in our yacht Peb­bles from New Zealand to Tonga, I was hang­ing out for fresh fruit and veges.

I imag­ined mas­sive bunches of bananas, bowls teem­ing with man­goes and paw­paw and odd root veg­eta­bles to experiment with. In Tonga the re­al­ity is slightly less glam­orous.

The Ha’api group of is­lands where we’ve spent the first two weeks was hit by Cy­clone Ian 18 months ago.

We can’t work out why the crops largely haven’t been re­planted yet and why some fam­i­lies are still liv­ing in tents or half-built shacks. At Pan­gai, a fish mar­ket has been built, ap­par­ently with con­sid­er­able in­ter­na­tional aid money. It’s a dis­as­ter.

There’s one lone woman selling semi- fresh bananas, a kind of spinach and co­conuts and le­mon/ limes.

The fish side of things is a few poly­styrene boxes un­der a co­conut tree and they sell out even be­fore the roost­ers crow.

Even so, we’ve had one of our best meals here.

We met a thin Ger­man back­packer who man­aged to find a loaf of fluffy white bread. At the mar­kets we bought some le­mon/ limes and bananas and the three of us shared a feast on an ugly con­crete block, sur­rounded by rub- bish and par­adise.

It was a beau­ti­ful thing. Food feels pre­cious here.

Fur­ther north in the Vava’u group of is­lands we walked through an outer vil­lage in Neiafu. The two ‘‘shops’’ (caged ce­ment blocks) sell the ba­sics, in­clud­ing eggs.

We’d de­pleted the lo­cals of eggs and ex­pe­ri­enced ex­treme Palangi guilt. We won’t be do­ing that again.

On Vaka’eitu Is­land we had our first taste of lo­cal hos­pi­tal­ity.

The one fam­ily who live here came out to the eight yachts that had an­chored in their bay and in­vited us to their place for a feast. It was an idyl­lic spot: palm trees, white sandy beach, trop­i­cal walk through the for­est where food grows wild. They have 11 chil­dren.

They roasted a lit­tle pig on a spit (I’d seen its lit­tle curly tail run­ning around the day be­fore, so I couldn’t bring my­self to eat it).

Other food was mildly flavoured dishes of taro, potato, cab­bage and chicken. I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber that fam­ily.

I’m imag­in­ing breez­ing through New World in Porirua, tak­ing what I want from the richly coloured shelves.

Here, we know where the food comes from.

I’ve met the fam­ily who grow it and once we get over awk­ward Palangi-tourist speak I hear how their daugh­ter wants to be an ac­tor or their son is go­ing to Aus­tralia to learn box­ing.

I’ve watched them brim with pride when I say I like their is­land. Now it’s time for Fiji, which is meant to be cruis­ers’’.

Part of me is happy that get­ting food will be eas­ier. But another part of me wants to stay here: I’ve been shy and judg­men­tal and want to be braver.

My dad emailed me, ‘‘Trav­el­ling isn’t for sissies’’. Even in par­adise.

‘‘bet­ter for

Trop­i­cal fruit – a welcome sight af­ter eight days at sea.

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