A cultural experience
24.10.2014 - 25.10.2014 22 °C
Oholei Beach Resort, the venue for Lonely Planet's most highly recommended cultural show in Tonga, is across the other side of the island from Heilala, a good hour's drive away. We were picked up at 6, a scant half hour after we got back from the tour of the island. It was raining when we got there so they handed out umbrellas for the walk down the many steps to the beach below and through the sand to the large restaurant fale set into the cliffs right on the beach.
There was a band of four young Tongan guys playing a variety of music. The place was set up with narrow tables covered with banana palm leaves and narrower bench seats, all cemented into the ground. The wait staff were really attentive then the owner stepped up to the microphone. Picture a well-coiffed gent with an ample belly, a red flower behind his ear, shirt with a Tongan tapa pattern on it and a long black lavalava. Socks and sandals completed the ensemble. He said a few words of grateful welcome and began singing Englebert Humperdinck’s Blue Spanish Eyes – very badly.
He talked to us about his family history and the background of the resort, which was destroyed in a hurricane in 2010. Turns out, he is a very religious man and before dinner he preached to us, sang a hymn and had his four grandchildren recite a psalm before he said a long grace with all the staff and his family on stage. Then we could finally eat the delicious food they laid out, including, of course, a suckling pig with fantastic crackling. Yum!
After dinner, we were ushered into the cave next door for the cultural show. It was fantastic, and just the right length of time to leave us wanting more. The women were graceful in their tapa cloth costumes and the guys were energetic, jumping and swirling in their grass skirts to the drums and music.
The last performance was a fire dance. The first to come on was the chubby 12 year old grandson of the owner, who was very impressive, throwing the flaming torch around. Then his skinny 10 year old brother or cousin ran on stage and did the same! They were great, even though they dropped the torch a few times, bless them, not to mention the burns you could see on their legs. Then the real experts arrived. Young men with lots of energy, crazily twirling and throwing the torches. It was incredible, and well worth enduring the preaching to see such a spectacular performance. The photos don’t do it justice but you will at least get a taste.
After such a long day it was a very quiet trip back to Heilala.
The next day – day 6 – was another overcast one with quite a bit of rain. Did pretty much nothing but read, other than a short walk along the beach for lunch at Holty’s Hideaway. They make the best burgers and chips in Tonga, and possibly the world! It’s run by an Aussie woman who showed me the accommodation they have there too. She was very hospitable and I’m going back tomorrow (Sunday) for lunch.