We lost a day... (Vava'u, Tonga)

Since our last blog entry from Tahiti, we continued our downwind sail with stops in Moorea, Huahine, Ra'iatea and Taha'a island, and finely the well known Bora Bora. These are called the Society Islands of French Polynesia and are well known for their magnificent lagoons, toothy sharks and some very luxurious and pampering hotels. It's a busy place, especially Bora Bora, with lots of tourists, car traffic, charter cruises and other tourist activities (Huahine and Maupiti are the only ones which escaped overdevelopment and are very keen to keep it that way!). The isolation of these islands in the middle of the Pacific is reflected by the price of goods, everything costs three to four times more than in North America with one exception only, and that is the excellent cheese from France, cheap by our Quebec standard. All of these islands have a main road that follows the coast while the interior of the islands remains mainly wild with a very high steep terrain. Apart from local fruit everything is imported and 2/3 of GDP is from France's contribution! – JP teases our French friends to keep on working and paying steep tax to keep the high standard here – and surprisingly, although tourism is their main income here, in general we haven't been overly impressed by their attitude. Next, after eight days and 1,000 nautical miles West of French Polynesia, the world's smallest independent nation, Niue Island is a real gem! Everything is done to welcome you, and to make your stay pleasant. The island doesn't have any lagoon and as the anchorage can be very exposed at times, the locals installed several moorings and let us used their crane to hoist our dingy out of the water and away from the costal surge when going on land. The rocky coast, the limestone chasms and caves and many well marked hikes are worth a visit. Sadly, because of lack of work opportunities more than half of the populations had left and we were astonished to see so many abandoned houses. And now, in the Kingdom of Tonga, Vava'u islands group, some 250 nautical miles W of Niue we are one day ahead of you! Yes, we lost a day! Tonga sets its time and date with their biggest trading partners, Fiji and New Zealand. This is the only Pacific nation never brought under foreign rule! Here life goes on in a more traditional (Christian) way, Tongans are conservative in their dress, women even swim dressed and men are never seen without a shirt. Most of the kingdom still functions under a subsistence system in which families are allocated two plots of land, one plot for living and the other for growing food. There is no begging, no homelessness, and Sundays are real rest days with powerful harmonies coming out of many local churches. The Vava'u archipelago of 60 islands has a lot of nice and protected anchorage, so at the moment we are cruising and snorkeling these islands and slowly gathering info and preparing for our next passage of 1,300 nautical miles to New Zealand. Life is good!