Tonga: the kingdom of heavy metal and men in skirts

Vavau, Tonga pointed out on Google Maps. What you see is the Tonga-Kermadec Ridge, with Tonga islands sitting on it. It's the most seismically active subduction boundary on Earth, and has the highest density of submarine volcanoes.

Yes, men wear skirts in Tonga. Even the police - they wear skirts as a part of the uniform. And the men make all the food here, women never cook.

I arrived to Vavau in Tonga, to wait for the heavy rains to pass, to see the Kingdom, and to enjoy this culture.

I celebrated Halloween together with locals and other long-distance sailors, and found out that hard rock and metal are very popular here. Also, there appeared to be a lot of male cross-dressers, however it is hard to know with the skirt dresscode – maybe that’s just guys dressed up and made up for the night out.

On Sunday, I attended a traditional Tongan feast in the village. The food was made in an Umu, an underground oven. They cook everything together, the Taro leaves with coconut and corned beef, the chicken, the fish, the roots and vegetables. Even the ice-cream. The only thing cooked outside of the Umu is the suckling pig, which is grilled over the open fire.

As a part of the festivities, the Tongans drink Kava. It's a slightly intoxicating drink made of a root, very popular here and elsewhere in Oceania. All sailing guides say that it looks like dirty water and tastes like it too, but I'd say it looks like diluted clay, and has a taste of clay and dried dust, of though with a bitterness that is almost pleasant. While drinking, the lips and the tongue become numb, and after drinking enough (quite a lot) one becomes relaxed and drowsy. I gave it a try and it worked. Some people mix it with whisky, I did not want to try that.

There are also many tattooing traditions in Oceania to research and explore. I got a tattoo in a Tongan village, with a lot of symbols and authentic Tongan details. Now I cannot swim or sunbathe for a week though, that’s a shame.

I also had to visit the hospital but was not sure whether it’s the right place to do it. Luckily, on the feast I got to know two girls that worked as nurses in the hospital, as a part of some kind of exchange program. They convinced me to go there. The waiting room was very exotic, men had grass skirts and women were breastfeeding, topless. The actual medical care was top notch.

Next stop was Fiji, as there was going to be a crew change. Read about the adventure here!