Tag Archives: Captain Cook

Let’s do a Tonga-line!

ImageIf ever you think Canada is too spread out to be efficient, think of Tonga.

Tonga is 176 islands scattered over a huge number of sea kilometres, hanging around the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and New Zealand. Only 36 of the islands are inhabited, thank heavens, or you’d be going a heck of a way for a cup of sugar. There are about 100,000 Tongans on the islands plus many more off island, who kindly support the economy by sending money home.

A lot of money home.

This is a good thing, because:

a. They have a monarchy to support,

b. Their economy is based on yams and fish and such, also available elsewhere from other tiny island nations,

c. It has a bit of a history of government corruption,

and d. their tourism industry is still small. Why, I don’t know. The place is gorgeous, and there are all these uninhabited islands just perfect for those crazy folks who want to really, truly get away from it all. And then go back to Tongatapu Island and email all their wonderful photographs to the entire world to engender envy.Image

Things aren’t all challenging – I like the way the Tongeans put women above men in the social scale (huzzah!), how they provide free education to all students to high school, and offer hugely supported college education. They have universal health care and universal suffrage as of 21. And they are the only country in the area to avoid colonization, always being independent (with treaties) from the larger first world countries who wished to take them over. The last British Ambassador left long ago. The last tourist was cooked in 1806. When Captain Cook came to visit, they couldn’t decide how best to cook him, so they left him alone and he, in turn, called Tonga “the Friendly Islands”.  He also gave the then-leader a turtle in thanks. The turtle, Tu’i Malila, was made a chief and ran around the palace on his own for several years. There are no reports of whether or not he was eventually made into soup.

God love ’em, they even sent a few troops to support the Americans in their coalition of the willing in Iraq. Wrong-headed, but it shows a desire to play big on the world stage.

ImageAnd then there’s the Rugby. They are currently 11th in world standings which is pretty darn impressive, given how few folks they have to draw upon. I have a terrible weakness for rugby, and rugby players, muscly and tough as they are, heavy drinking and yet the sweetest fellahs you’d ever want to meet (unlike footballers who either whine a lot (soccer) or prance around in tight pants and then go home and beat their wives (American Football)). Rugby players just play, fall down, get up and play more.

I still remember my dear son calling from the rugby field to let me know that in practice, someone had “apparently torn my ear partly off. Can you come get me?” He was smiling ear to damaged ear when I got him, and the entire ER was impressed.

Anyway, you can see their ranking info here. The Ikale Tahe (Sea Eagles) do pretty well, all in all.

ImageWhat with that and the pro-woman thing and the tolerance for obesity (Over half the population rates as obese), perhaps I need to visit here, as well. I’d fit right in.

Look, there’s a coconut!

ImageOr so the name of today’s entry tells us. Much like Canada, a country named for a native word meaning small village, today’s country, Niue, was inadvertently named for an exclamation about food. Captain Cook called Niue the “Savage Island”, another mistake, as the inhabitants are peaceable but given to eating red bananas, thus staining themselves with red gore-like substances. I don’t know if they are still messy eaters, but let me tell you, Niue is top on my list of paradises I wish I could go visit.


No poisonous animals (unlike nearby Australia). They speak English, good for the linguistically challenged or lazy.

A total of 1269 inhabitants by latest account, though since their birth rate is strangely negative, and their death rate is 9/100,000, I suspect the crowd has thinned even more. For this population, apparently they have 4 physicians (good for those of us with a disability), and support themselves by selling coconuts, honey, and souvenir postage stamps.

They grow crops here and there, but it’s the largest coral island, so arable land is small. Lots of enchanting limestone cliffs, cool pools with lots of fish to play with, whales to swim with, wonderful pathways to hike.

It looks smashingly gorgeous. Image

Curiously, there are 1200 phone lines and 600 cell phones, as well as 1100 internet users. One has to wonder who they are talking to, when a saunter down the street could link people face to face and calling costs off-island are enormous.

It hasn’t been a happy land always – newly independent -1974 -they’ve been wracked by typhoons and debt and just when they thought they had a good thing going, the international banking laws changed and they could no longer hold offshore accounts. Still, they are supported by the lovely New Zealand, so it can’t be all bad.

And the chance of visiting a coral island that probably very few of your friends will ever go to – tempting.

On second thought, don’t go. I want to get there first.