A Travellerspoint blog

Day 4

Kava is ready!

overcast 24 °C

Today was another grey day for the most part, but as they’ve recently been in a drought I can hardly begrudge the Tongans a little relief from the scorching sun.

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Heilala Holiday Lodge grounds

I spent most of the day doing pretty much nothing then this afternoon went snorkelling at the end of the beach where it’s rocky, hoping to see a bigger variety of fish, and to find Nemo. It was disappointing on both counts, so I walked back to our part of the beach and enjoyed tootling around here and seeing a much better array of aquatic critters.

This evening a group of us went along the road to the Liku’alofa Resort, where they were having a barbecue buffet and kava ceremony. The food was simple but really good, with swordfish, chicken, lamb and sausages, coleslaw, potato salad and watermelon. There isn’t a lot in the way of vegetables here it seems – I could kill for some broccoli!

The kava ceremony was interesting. The owner of the resort, a Tongan man, told the story of how one of the Kings of Tonga went to an island (things got a bit mixed up in his story and it was hard to follow for a bit – maybe that’s what too much kava does!) and he saw a rat eat part of a tree then it couldn’t walk properly. Then it ate part of another plant and had lots of energy. He concluded (smart man that he was!) that the first plant had narcotic effects & the other must have been sweet. So he and his men brought both plants back to Tonga. The first plant was, of course, kava & the other was sugar cane. And the rest is history…

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The storyteller & the kava bowl

They brought out a big wooden bowl with legs that was filled with the muddy looking kava. The man said, “It looks like crap and tastes like crap”.

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"Looks like..."

They arranged the tables in a long line so that everyone in the restaurant could sit around them, then had us each write our names on a piece of paper. The ceremony went like this: the girl stirred then ladled the kava into a cup made from a half coconut shell, the man on her right would call out in Tongan, “The kava is ready”; the guy on her left would say (also in Tongan) “The kava is for…” and pick one of the names on the paper, and the cup would be passed to that person who would be obliged to drink it.

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The ceremonial pouring

After each round of the table, the quartet of musicians that was there would sing a song with the most gorgeous harmonies. Then it would start all over again. Thankfully they were happy as long as you had one cup. That was all I could stomach. They say it tastes like dirt, but I’m pretty sure dirt tastes better! “It looks like crap and tastes like crap” for sure. And it makes your mouth slightly numb, but with just one I didn’t feel any other effects, and I wasn’t about to put my taste buds through that again to find out.

A few of the men, especially the younger guys in our group, had quite a lot – maybe 15-20 cups. One of them said his face was starting to go numb! The Tongan men – including our driver – just kept going. One of them told me they drink it every night, and for a group of 20, they would go through 20 of those bowls. But he said if they drink “too much” they sleep too much. No kidding!! They can keep it. It was a fun night just the same, we had a few laughs and the singing was lovely.

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The band

We eventually prised our driver away from the kava bowl and we got back safe and sound. If he had drunk that much alcohol he wouldn’t have been able to stand, let alone put the key in the ignition, so I guess it was the lesser of the two evils, considering he had to get behind a wheel.
Tomorrow I’m taking an island tour, then going to a cultural show (with suckling pig buffet!) at night. It’s held in a cave & is a Lonely Planet must do, so I have high hopes. Will be a long day and a late one so I may not get tomorrow’s blog done until Saturday morning – see how I feel

Posted by judesbucketlist 03:54 Archived in Tonga

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