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