My Saturday routine usually consists of shopping for weekly essentials and hitting the market in Neiafu before hitching a ride back home to do lots of laundry and malolo [relaxing]! However, variety is the spice of life, right? With that lovely sentiment in mind, myself and a few Peace Corps friends decided to have a little adventure on a recent Tokonaki [Saturday].
On this aforementioned Tokonaki, we all trekked to see Brandon [who is my closest Peace Corps neighbor…He lives in the village next door, which is about a 20 minute bike ride away.]. Brandon’s village is home to the only Lake in Vava’u! The name of the lake is Lake ‘Ano. Interestingly, ‘ano actually means lake in Tongan. I suppose since it’s the only lake, no one felt it necessary to make up a more descriptive name. ‘Lake Lake’ it is! We decided we’d very much like to see this ‘Lake Lake’ and swim in some fresh, non-salty water!
We all slathered on the sunscreen, filled up water bottles, and set off for the lake. We hiked for about 30 minutes dodging quicksand-like mud puddles and hopping over enormous pig droppings. Finally, we reached ‘Lake Lake’ and it was quite a sight to behold. I definitely think the lake is deserving of a much more meaningful name. The lake was much bigger than I’d expected and surrounded entirely by lush vegetation and big cliffs. There just so happened to be a genuine ‘Tom Sawyer’ raft waiting for us at water’s edge. We all hopped on and kicked around the lake, all the while watching for the elusive and slightly frightening eel we’d been told inhabits the lake. No eel sightings! However, we did see a few Tongan men out fishing in outrigger canoes.
There we sat floating on a bunch of tied-together logs, watching men fishing in hollowed out tree trunks. There are no buildings, cell phone towers, or other signs of modern human life. This should spur deep thoughts on the beauty and simplicity of nature. However, as we’ve already been tainted by pop culture, we all just keep feeling like we’re in some new episode of ‘Lost!’
After we’d thoroughly exhausted ourselves, it was time to head back to Brandon’s house and make an ‘ifo [delicious] dinner. Lucky for us, Brandon had just received a care package with barbeque sauce [YAY!] and he was feeling generous. We had a fantastic meal consisting of hamburgers [some mystery meat somewhat akin to ground beef had appeared in the store the day before] and barbeque chicken. I know…how gluttonous!
Shortly after dinner, I decided it was time to hop on my bike and head home. I was slowly tooling through Brandon’s village and saying ‘Malo e lelei [Hi!]’ to his neighbors. I was in what I like to call the ‘Peace Corps Daze’ thinking all sorts of hippie Peace Corps thoughts. ‘Man, Tonga is beautiful…’ ‘I can’t believe I live here…’ ‘Is this real…?’ and so on. Naturally, while my head is off in the clouds, one of Brandon’s charming neighbors shouts a ‘hello!’ to me and wants to give me some of the fruit she’s just picked. Delighted, I slow to a stop and am attempting to chat with her in Tongan. I fail to remember that my feet don’t quite touch the ground. I wobble, attempting fruitlessly to regain my balance before I topple in slow motion into some bushes next to the road. I, naturally, am laughing hysterically at myself while this woman is sort of quizzically staring at me. [Sorry, no pictures captured of this moment.]
Delightful day complete with a bicycle tumble to keep me ‘grounded?’ Done and done!