02/05/2018 - TONGA (South Pacific)
The Kingdom of Tonga! Somewhere in between the Cook Islands and Fiji, somewhere in the middle of the vastness of the South Pacific. When thinking of the South Pacific Islands you might think about turquiose colored waters, perfectly crooked palm trees along white sandy beaches. You might think about pirate stories, friendly locals, and maybe you think even about Gaugins paintings and William Blighs novel about the mutiny on board the HMS Bounty. Maybe you think about climate change, cyclones, huge islands of plastic floating in the waters of the Pacific Ocean. This is all right, but this first post will concentrate on the truely picturesque sides of this part of our precious planet.
As I desperately needed to escape the cold and rainy weather in New Zealand and needed to figure something more out, I spontaneously booked a flight to Tonga. I always had a thing for the South Pacific: as a small girl I spent hours staring on these blue pages in an atlas showing the Pacific and dreamed myself away. 12 years ago while spending a couple of months in New Zealand I visited the Cook Islands and was blown away. This time it’s several islands in the Kingdom of Tonga: the main island of Tongatapu, the Ha’Apai and Vava’u group. These islands are very different: on Tongatapu you can expereince authentic island culture and see some surprisingly interesting sights, Vava’u is where all the sailing boats and yachts stop and in the Ha’Apai group you might find the paradise people think of when thinking of the South Pacific Islands. But apart from all the picture perfect beauty of the place it’s a truly magic place for me. It’s not the scenery, it’s the whole location: surrounded by nothing but thousands of kilometers of water, being in the middle of nowhere you start to change your perspective on things again, it definitely clears and resets your mind. The laid back atmosphere unplugged from the world – all that makes the South Pacific extremly fascinating for me, it’s a magic and happy place for me, it gives me goose bumps and that time I won’t say, like 12 years ago, that this is a once in a lifetime experience. No, this time I say I will be back, I have to come back.
02/05/2018 - TONGA (South Pacific)
The Kingdom of Tonga – I promised a second posting and here we are! Despite all that stunning paradise-like scenery there is always a different story, a reality that I don’t want to hide. First of all Tonga is no first world country. The Kingdom struggles of poverty, severe weather events, the lack of satisfying and good jobs and way less tourists come here than to the „neighbouring“ islands of Fiji and French Polynesia. In the Kingdom live about 750 000 people and outside Tonga live at least that many. The people who could make it left and leave the islands for a better life in New Zealand, Australia or the United States. Life here seems to be laid back and easy – for tourists that might be true. But living here is a different story. Only 2,5 months ago a cyclone category 5 destroyed Tongatapu and Eu’A heavily. The islands were out of electricity for quite some time, schools stopped for about a month. Fortunately nobody lost its life, but many lost their homes and fundament of living. I was told that evil things and crimes happend after the storm. The people only got back to daily routine with the help of massive donations from UNICEF and a couple of first world countries.
Especially while spending time on Tongatapu it’s frightening to see how flat and low the island is. On the north shore the communities started to build barriers to prevent the rising water levels to flood the land. Yes, climate changes is happening and on Tonga it is visible with all its brutality. Severe weather events are getting more common – more big storms are hitting the islands and while I am typing these lines it’s raining heavily outside for hours now. The locals say they never had so much rain before. Yeah, the climate has been changing all the time, but in former times the people could hop on their ships and look for new places to live. But now everything is happening way faster and nowadays people just cannot hop on a flight and start over in another country. We have boarders, laws and visas, you have to apply for. All the surrounding countries are not open for exile now. (continue in the comments)
The island of Kiribati, for instance, just bought land within the islands of Fiji to evacuate their inhabitants when the water is rising even more.
Fortunately I did not see a whole lot of waste in the clear waters around the islands of Tonga. But it is there … unbelieveable masses of plastics are floating around in the waters of the Pacific. While being here I got way more aware of the vulnerability of our earth, of places like these islands. The locals here don’t consume a lot of plastic. 99% eat what they grow on their own fields. But Chinese are keep on opening shops where massive senseless plastic crap is sold. It’s all happening and as we live in the age of globalisation, a globalisation that feeds the rich and takes from the poor, we are responsible. And we have a responsibility to do everything possible to avoid plastic, sustain and reduce consumption. We should appreciate our precious earth and start to save it!