We’ve lost an entire day!!! We went to bed on Saturday and woke up on Monday in Tonga! I’m sure we were subjected to alien experiments during this lost period of time.
Actually, we crossed the international date line late yesterday. When we leave New Zealand to fly to Hawaii, we’ll arrive the day before we leave.
The international date line was drawn to zigzag 500 miles east of Tonga, and east of the 180th meridian. This gives Tonga bragging rights for being the first land in the world to see the new day, or a new year.
We took a bus tour of one of the 176 islands that make up the kingdom of Tonga. The islands are separated into three groups: Vava’u, Ha’apai and Tongatapu. Only about 50 of the islands are inhabited.
The nation’s capital, Nuku’ Alofa is located on Tongatapu. Tonga is the world’s only remaining Polynesian monarchy. The current royal family can be traced back more than 1,000 years.
Luckily, we had a nice day. Our tour guide said that it had rained straight for the previous four days. This is the end of their rainy season.
We stopped at the royal palace, but could not go on to the grounds. We then headed to the beach to view their famous blowholes. On the way, our driver spotted a tree full of “flying foxes.” Actually, the flying fox is a bat with a fox-like face. They are quite large compared to the brown bats we see back in Minnesota. Even though it was daytime, they were somewhat active, flying around and then returning to hang upside down from a branch.
The blowholes were interesting. There was plenty of wave action, so we were well entertained.
After we returned to the ship, the island’s Police Band serenaded us. They played for about an hour, a wide selection of music. A group of Tongan dancers arrived and, after performing, waved us off as we left port.
Captain James Cook nicknamed Tonga the “Friendly Islands” in the 1700’s, and that reputation still stands today.
After dinner, there was a show called “iLuminate.” The theater is completely dark, and the dancers are dressed entirely in black, with electro-luminescent rope designs. These ropes were lighted with LEDs, and controlled by radio signal. The lights were choreographed to the music, turning on and off by section on each costume, and individually. It looked, at times, as if the dancers were floating in air. Sometimes you’d see a disembodied head, arms or legs. The dancers remained on stage for the entire performance, but unless you looked hard, they were invisible until their costumes were lit.