Monday, April 19, 2010
Tonga is Great!-The King & I
Tonga is GREAT!
Well today we had the most amazing official send off that you could ever want for any expedition. The Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers, Australian, New Zealand and Japanese Ambassadors A host of other dignitaries and the heads of the Defence forces along with the Tongan National traditional Dance troupe all made for a very special day that I will not forget for some time.
Sorry I have been so busy to even get these blogs up and even know it is still frantic in so many ways but there is one thing that I have to tell you...Tonga is a very special part of the world, like nothing else I have seen or experienced so think about coming to spend time here..not just a holiday...and for all the pictures and Talisker bounty Boat action PLEASE got to the TONGA HOLIDAYS web site..links in the previous blog...and you will see what I mean..there are many posts on all the things we have been doing and plenty of great Photos...
So here a a nuts and Bolts of the past few days....
We hit the ground running with a press conference on Monday straight off the plane, then sorted some paper work to clear the container for opening the next day. Tue we found the Travel lift was not working so organised a crane for wed, met the head of customs who was a Bligh fan. The crane broke down on Wed so we accepted the offer of a Tongan Launch for Thursday and met with the Prime Minister that afternoon which was quite exciting. He too has been very helpful with direct involvement for so many things associated with the Expedition for which we are very grateful.
We slipped the boat into the water in the poring rain...see TongaHolidays web site..and towed it out to the Royal sunset Resort four miles offshore..that was a great moment I tell you..that night we received word the His Majesty the King would like to meet us the next day...YES!! we were a little excited and nervous.
His Majesty is truly a great man and he is a Bligh fan also . We discussed may things and to my great surprise he told me of his meeting with an American who attempted the Bligh voyage in 1975 in a replica single handed..he had an outboard motor , charts etc. I had been given a Photo of the boat at Thursday island about nine months ago. The capt. had stopped there and could go no further because of the Timor conflict, but no one knew anymore about it...Except the King of Tonga, who suggested he may be in his 80's now if still alive.
I was able to present to the King a bound Facsimile set of letters Bligh wrote to his wife and Banks when he finally arrived in Kupang at the end of his epic voyage. These had been organised by the Mitchell Library (who hold the originals) and Louise Waterhouse the Hon. Consul for Tonga in Sydney who has been our great supporter for so long.
The King gave me a beautiful Brass Hour Glass for our boat which was very fitting. It was a special moment and I have to tell you I was a little nervous! but so proud to be a part of reliving an interesting part of Tongan history. The Kings personal assistant is from Hobart..Please see the Tongan Holidays web site for all the Pic's.
We are staying on the Island of ATATA and there is a small village here so we asked if the school children would like to see the boat. They arrived at 11am in Traditional dress, about 18 children from the age of 6 to 10..we all went sailing in the Talisker Bounty boat on a beautiful day with them all singing at the top of their voices..back at the beach they sang while four boys did a traditional dance in front of the boat and then when I thought it was all finished the most gracious little girl stood beside the boat and did such a beautiful soft traditional dance to the singing of the other children it made me cry...I don't know why..but I could have picked her up and just taken her to another world she was so Cute! That moment is now burnt in my mind....I will never forget it
Sunday was busy preparing and loading the boat for the official departure today.
In amongst all that we have had serious troubles trying to get out Iridium satellite gear and computers operational. Dave Pryce arrived on thursday and with Chris as Back up they have just about sorted it. It has taken days of frustration with all out camera gear but finally after buying another $4000 of SD cards and installing some new software they all seem to be working.
Our support boat went missing in action so I have been busy organising another charter boat here in the harbour but it turned up late today, GOOD NEWS!.. so no we did not leave today but are back at the Royal Sunset resort waiting and working. We now hope to get away on thursday morning if the support boat is ready ,so things are bunching up...Some of our support crew are stuck in the UK and the Netherlands because of the Volcano and we will have to leave without them..the BAD NEWS! is that they were bringing our safety harnesses and the Inmarsat Bgan system to transmit video from the Boat...Margie has been suffering through all these dramas trying to plug the holes, organise substitutes etc. so today has ordered new harnesses from NZ to fly up tomorrow but we cannot replace the Bgan...beside the fact that we are running out of money we do not have the time...
Yesterday while ashore a huge storm cam through and I was trapped onshore not able to get back to Royal sunset so checked into a hotel with three of the support crew, My Big toe got very hot and Painful from a raging Gout session which I had been holding off with some drugs that were all back on the island, so not a happy night..Margie is now worried about my Kidney stones? but all is good....during the night two more of the Royal Sunset resort boats sank , that makes four in the last 10 days so they had to charter another to get us around. When it rains here it REALLY rains.
The Mozzies are hungry, the humidity is high but I love this place. So Happy to have Dave Pryce here backing me up, as tomorrow I think I will be on the computer and phone all day...yes I really want to just get out there!!