Today we’re moving on from Tongatapu to Vava’u. Before coming to Tonga I assumed Vava’u would be a nearby island. That’s usually how countries work, right? Island groupings within a reasonable distance? Well not really in this case. Vava’u is an hour’s flight away, about as far from the neighbouring country of Niue as from the Tongan capital. At least that somewhat explains why our tickets cost so much.
I’m a heavy sleeper, and can sleep through dogs barking, roosters crowing, and bells ringing, but not all 3 at once. And not at 4:30am.
It’s finally time for Tonga! I’ve been dying to go to some of the pacific islands since moving to New Zealand, so when my boyfriend and I found flights for $380NZD (250USD) return, we had to jump on it.
Guys. I have to tell you about how much I love this cafe. It’s my new home. There’s a “take a book, leave a book” shelf, couches, solid wifi, a decent selection of teas, a giant window I can sit in with my laptop, and a random little vintage pac-man arcade game in the corner. I’m obsessed. This is where I spend every morning.
Alright. Round 2 of trying to make it to this Shipwreck Beach tour. Today it’s at noon instead of 9am. Bless.
I get picked up hitching and make it early to the pick up spot. This is conveniently located in front of a super market, where I go in quickly to buy some fruit for breakfast/lunch.
Committing to an 8:30am tour feels like the biggest mistake I’ve ever made. I didn’t go out last night, I had a very chill day, but I haven’t had to get up early in weeks. My body clock is rejecting this. But hey! I’m goin’ to see a cool beach (famous Shipwreck) and some caves so I do eventually drag myself out of bed.
Yo. While I think this island is crazy and might as well belong to the UK, I’m here. So I might as well immerse myself and get into the nightlife, right?! DJ MK is playing tonight at some “white only” party (attire, not people) and Abi got us tickets.
It never clicks in that I’m really leaving until I’m already gone. I say goodbye to my friends, pack up my bags, and hop on the airport bus, leaving Barcelona behind me. It’s the end of an era!
Lately I’ve been waking up early; I don’t even know who I am anymore. Maybe it’s just because there’s so much fun stuff to do and so little time to do it. Excited to start my day! Our plan today is to rent motorcycles and your around the island. There are some lagoons, beaches, waterfalls etc., that I want to check out. I wait until 9:30 to wake Ilona, who’s super tired and doesn’t want to go. That’s cool, the boys from Manitoba will totally still want to come with me. I walk the 10 minutes down a steep hill to their place to see if they’re ready to go. They’re asleep. I wake them the hell up. They’re still down to go but need some time. I hope by the time they’re ready Ilona will have woken up so we can all go together, but it doesn’t happen. It’s now 11am.
We rent 2 bikes for $25 each for the whole day (another reason we should have left earlier, to get our money’s worth). I want to drive my own but realistically I’d rather save the $10, so I just hop on the back and get chauffeured around. Our first stop is to a natural lagoon, “El Ojo De Agua” which has been built up and turned into a tourist attraction but is undeniably beautiful. Here they sell “coco locos” which are fresh coconuts that are filled with a white rum, dark rum, condensed milk and obviously, coconut water. Needless to say they’re amazing. An 8 year old boy chops open the coconuts with a machete, and his brother of maybe 12 mixes all the alcohol in. They’re a good team.
We hangout for a few hours, dipping in and out of the water which is cold and refreshing. Supposedly super healthy, too. I don’t remember all the details, but similar to the blue lagoon in Iceland the water is full of vitamins and minerals that are beneficial to your skin.
The food at the restaurant is absurdly expensive, like $10 for a salad. $8 for a quesadilla. Hell nah. So we go back to get Ilona (who, if she’s not awake, is probably dying) and all go out for lunch. We find her lounging in a hammock reading a book.
We go back to the boys’ hostel where the food is better, and I order another one of those giant beet filled caesar salads. Yummm.
We spent so much time at the lagoon that it’s now 3pm and the motorbikes need to be back by 5. Instead of trying to squeeze in a bumpy dirt road ride and 3km hike up to the waterfall, we decide to skip it. I blame everyone who couldn’t wake up before 9. Aka, everyone but me. Instead we get our use out of the bikes and just drive around the island. I get to drive for a little bit but not with either of the guys on the back of the bike, they’re too heavy and it’s weird. So I just take it out for a quick drive on my own. I wish it made sense to have these little scooters at home they’re actually so great!
By 5 we’re home and I’m ready for a shower and some down time.
As per usual, as the night goes on, everything shuts down and there’s nothing to do but head down to Little Morgan’s to chill with all the Canadians.
The best thing in the world happens to me. I meet two guys from Toronto who mention that they’re flying out of Managua on Sunday, which I am too. Later they mention that they’ve rented a truck to drive around Nicaragua instead of taking all the chicken busses and shuttles (they’re fancy). Shot in the dark but I ask when they’re flight leaves. 8:30am.
My flight leaves at 8:15am.
It’s a damn miracle. Also super weird, because they’re flying back to Toronto like I am, but they have a stop over in Atlanta while mine is in Houston.
They say I can totally hitch a ride in the car with them, and I am saved. I wasn’t exactly looking forward to the long chicken bus rides and transfers I’d have to take, not to mention the unreliability that goes along with them. In the car, and with two other people who need to get to Managua just as badly as I do, there is very little room for error. I. Am. Stoked.
Somehow, I wake up at 11:30. We’ve made plans to meet some friends around 9 to go kayaking and I panic, assuming we’ve unintentionally ditched them. But jk, I’m delusional and it’s only 7:30am. Now I can go back to sleep. But jk, no I can’t. It appears I am up for the day.
I spend the morning hanging out, reading my book, and admiring the view of the volcano in my backyard. Hard life.
At 9:30 the guys show up at our hostel and we head out to rent bikes. For $5, you get a bicycle for the day, which is a little more fun than simply hopping in a cab to the beach. Not that cabs are super easy to find here anyway. The road is rough; mostly composed of sand and rocks. Eventually I give up and just let my bike carry me over the bumps, hoping for the best. It’s a relatively hard ride, partly because of the terrain but also the sweltering heat. It only takes us about 45 minutes to reach the beach, but we’re all knackered when we get there.
We sit down to order some food and drinks before heading out on the water. Our food takes an hour. This is not an exaggeration. We’re not exactly in a hurry but we do need to have the bikes back by 5, and I am eager to get out and go! The food eventually comes, and to no surprise, it’s pretty mediocre. Not bad, but certainly not worth an hour wait.
We rent kayaks for $5/hour and are told it takes about 1.5 hours to make it out to “monkey island”. Sounds fun, who doesn’t like a good monkey? Our paddle starts off great but it’s a windy day and the water is pretty choppy. I manage to keep up with the boys for the majority of the journey out there, which surprises me because I haven’t kayaked in forever (Super duper proud of myself). We make it to this “monkey island” which is basically unaccessible. I assumed I’d be able to get out of the boat and chill, but nope, we just get to do a quick tour around it. We catch a glimpse of a couple monkeys in the trees, getting up close to the island for a good view. I manage to sort of wedge my kayak between two rocks so I can stay put, and not be pushed by the relentless wind. I think all is well in the world, but the next thing I know a monkey has run down the tree branch directly above my head and is HISSING at me while rattling the leaves of the tree. I’m so caught off guard, I’m certain he’s going to jump in my boat, bite me, give me rabies, and ruin my life. I’m about to die. I had a good life. Goodbye world. I don’t know what else to do but yell “ok ok ok ok!!!” and paddle myself away from the rock as fast as I can.
Mike is pretty certain he’s got a GoPro video of it (didn’t try to save me or anything, just video taped my near death)… I want it. I don’t really know how GoPros work (I know, I’m so behind the times) but he said he’ll get it to me later. He also got hissed at, so we left ASAP.
Originally we thought we’d have smooth sailing back to the beach where we rented the kayaks because the wind would be in our favour, but somehow it just made it harder to steer. However, there’s an incredible view of Conception Volcano the whole way back so I mean it’s pretty hard to complain. To prevent my phone from being lost I left it at the hostel and couldn’t get any photos. I regret nothing. I never tipped but I mean, is it ever worth it? I’ve lost too many cameras/phones for foolish reasons that I’ll (hopefully) never do it again. I have very few photos from this trip but I’m just too cautious and a little paranoid to bring it with me everywhere I go. I honestly don’t know how it survived so long is Asia. Miracle, really.
After the kayaking we have another beer before making the same bumpy trek home. At least this time, we’re prepared for the ride and brutal roads. We take it nice and easy and even walk up a few hills; I know my body is going to hate me tomorrow. It already hurts.
We go back to the hostel and recuperate. Around dinner time we walk back down to the only good bar in our area, Little Morgan’s, and have a salad because those are few and far between in Nicaragua, and some friends who are staying there told us they actually have a good Caesar salad. We make the walk again in the dark, this time, just the two of us. It’s totally fine and I feel much more comfortable.
The Caesar salad has beets and cucumbers in it, but it’s legit.
Tomorrow we plan to rent scooters to explore the crater lake and a waterfall. Ometepe is full of cool, naturally beautiful places, and I really really really wish I didn’t have to leave two days from now. Is it too late for me to pull an Ilona, skip my flight, and stay here forever?