Thursday, October 02, 2014

Fafa Island Paradise

I found an island paradise when I was in Tonga, and it's too good to keep a secret!

Just the week before I traveled to this nation of islands, I had helped a client of mine look up the word paradise in the Arabic-English dictionary, after someone had used it sarcastically – little did I know that my following destination could very well have fulfilled the definition perfectly. Fafa Island is just a 30 minute boat ride from Nuku’Alofa on the main island of Tonga, and a world away from everything. A tropical oasis in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

When I arrived on the tiny island, my bags were taken to my fale, as I was introduced to the friendly Resort staff, and then the features of the traditional Tongan wooden hut that was to be all mine for the week. The king bed was clad with a mosquito net, and so comfortable. The bathroom was an enclosed open-air space to the back of the fale, and showering was like you were out in the jungle.

The staff took time to learn my name, greeted me each time they saw me around the island, and checked in to see if there was anything I needed. Being the last guest to arrive at dinner one night, one of the restaurant staff had said that they were just about to come and check in with me when I arrived, to ensure I didn't miss the kitchen hours - now that's service!

The island is environmentally conscious, with rainwater and solar panels keeping the amenities running. Everything was clean and simple, keeping the island as pristine and natural as possible.

A massage therapist is on site most days, based on bookings made the previous evening, and I took advantage of her services at the beginning of my week to ensure the worries of the world were completely gone. Day trips were also on offer, back to the main island and also to an adjacent one for snorkelling and swimming.

Each fale was enclosed from the other, so you truly felt like you were away from the world. A path down from the door to the water’s edge was provided, along with a hammock and pairs of deck chairs both in front of the fale and out at the sand and ocean.

Walking through the bushtrail in the middle of the island, I discovered rainforest-like coverage, and little entrances to the beach on the other side of the island. Tropical plants and flowers dotted the way, as did bird calls and fallen coconuts. The occasional spider web across the path told me how much I had this space to myself.

The morning light and the birdcalls were the only thing to wake me, and then each morning I found that a jug of hot water had been delivered to the table in front of my fale, for coffee. The oil lantern was also returned to the table just as darkness was falling, to light my return back from dinner at the restaurant not far along the beach.

The only thing to worry about each day was when meals were served in the restaurant. The decking overlooked the ocean, and at night oil lanterns lit the edges. A changing menu each day, the local starter was always a treat – banana wrapped in bacon was a winner! – before a three course meal was on offer. Once per week there is a Tongan cultural night, where a full BBQ buffet is on offer, as well as local dances put on my the staff, showcasing the different traditions of many of the islands around Fafa.

Originally, I had booked for a few nights, with a vague idea of researching the notion of exploring some of the other Tongan islands further afield. But once I had found this paradise, there was no need, nor desire, to leave! A week of walking around barefoot, spending time lazing in the hammock, lazy swims at high tide, snorkelling above the fish life and coral so close to the island edge, and taking a walk through the middle, or around the perimeter of the island most days – a much needed rest!

Jouljet Notes:
Serious Tip: The staff are amazing, and nothing is a hassle to them to help you enjoy your stay. Transfers to the island from the main island will be arranged around your needs.
Time Spent: One week. It is a half hour journey by boat from Nuku'alofa to Fafa, and the Resort will arrange this.
Cost: My fale was $259 per night, which is well over and above my usual style and budget for travel. But was worth it!
Quirky Tip: Watch out for the little treehouse in the middle of the island (I don't think you can get up to it, mainly because it doesn't look like it would hold anyone anymore), and the swing in the middle of the rainforested area.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Friday Night Drinks By The Sea In Honiara

One of the most beautiful settings for Friday night drinks! In the Solomon Islands, I got to spend time with Fi and Dave, and this was the setting for local beers and a couple of pizzas, as we caught up on our travel stories between seeing each other last. With the sunset, of course! Gorgeous!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Nuku'alofa Market Stacks

The sights of vegetable wares in Tonga were colourful and perfectly portioned, ready for purchase. As I walked along the main road beside the harbour from the outskirts of Nuku'alofa into town, I passed a long row of little stalls set up, displaying their goods.

They were presented on tables and permanent stalls in little purchase-size stacks. From tomatoes, big and small, to baskets of taro, bundles of corn, and neatly aligned carrots.

Yer man here has neatly tied up, even bundles of fish, presumably caught that morning. Ever vigilant with that stick, to keep the flies away!

The scenes at Talamahu Market, right in the heart of town, looked so ordered and uniform. Little piles of each vegetable, carefully lined up and awaiting to be claimed.

Missing the usual chaos of a main food hub anywhere else in the world, the Market was quiet and calm, regardless of the steady flow of people in and out, completing their weekly shop.

One of the main attractions on Tongatapu, the Market also has sections of handmade gifts and jewelry, among the smells of fresh seafood and meats, clothing and everyday basic needs upstairs, as well as a kooky selection of touristy souvenirs.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Campbelltown Food Trail - Foodie Treats Tour In Suburban Adelaide

If you had have told me that the neighbourhoods of Adelaide are rich with multicultural food experiences before I attended the Words To Go conference, I surely would have scoffed at the suggestion. Despite going to visit the Australian city of churches on an annual basis, I usually only scratch the surface on what this city has to offer. But I can now tell you there is amazing food, all ranges of treats from all corners of the globe on offer! And the Campbelltown Food Trail is the way to sample many of them, for a day out.
A community project, the businesses of Campbelltown City Council are benefiting from a clever idea of running tours around the area to taste their wares - a council showing off their top qualities, in a pretty lovely way!

There are 21 businesses on the list at the moment, and we got to sample six of them, including morning tea and coffee, plus a lunch stop.

After the drive out to the North Eastern suburb, we stopped at Java Lifestyle Coffee and Tea, for coffees and churro treats to start the day.

Next was the olfactory pleasures of Mercato. The nonnas above were sitting, rolling pasta among the shelves of every pasta type you could image. The smells of this Italian gourmet food emporium were heavenly. From cheeses and wines, to coffees, deli goods, and sweets.

Our third stop was a wholesale cake store that was run by a very proud Latin American patisserie, Elbio, and his All About Sweets. A tour of the mini factory was part of our visit, which had us sampling decedent Postre Chaja, Massini Chantilly, and other equally exotically named cakes. We were also present just as the Lovingtons were being dipped into chocolate, and their coconut layer was being added. You can surely imagine the smells filling this room!

Our mini bus then ventured into residential streets, away from any shops or stores, and pulled up out the front of a house. The whole bus was puzzled when we were invited to jump out, and visit a home here.

The Kumar's Indian Cuisine Services is home based, serving home cooked Indian curries and savoury snacks - from their home, aptly labeled The Kumar's At Number 20! Once inside we met the family, as dish after dish was laid out in front of us.

Lunch was three different and delicious curries, with rice, and pakoras. Finished with the surprisingly sweet jalebi - a red coloured curly swirl of sugary treat!

Next up, as our stomachs very getting very full, we stopped into Salta In Bocco, which is another mini factory producing almond breads. The fig and pistachio was a hit, in it's curling, crisp and colourful form.

Amazingly, lastly we had a proper lunch stop, with a sit down restaurant experience at Assaggio, a Mediterranean inspired cafe. Wine and tapas sized tastings were served, alongside pizzas which were very good.

All in all, a very full day trip in Adelaide, pun intended! Such a delight to experience so many tastes, but also to meet and hear from the people behind the businesses. Each visit oozed the love and care each of the owners put into their food, and shed warmth onto their visitors, making them welcome to sample and discover their wares. A really great community run foodie experience in the suburbs!

Jouljet Notes
Serious Tip: Don't eat beforehand, as you'll need room for all the treats available to sample
Time: Campbelltown is about a 20 minute drive from Adelaide city, and our tour of 6 locations with tasting and purchasing stops, was around 5 hours
Cost: A bus tour, like we took, is around $60, depending on how many there is of you, and how many stops you want to make. Or you can download the map of places, pick out the ones that spark your taste buds, and drive yourself!
Quirky Tip: Call ahead and pre-arrange a visit to the Kumar's onto your tour selections if you can. A very entertaining, and delicious stop!

Being a participant at Words To Go, I was lucky to be included in this tour as part of the experience. But all thoughts and flavour recalls are all my own!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Tonga's Abode Of Love

Looking for a place to go during a respite break in May, I recalled a long ago notion of wanting to visit Tonga, and experience the remoteness and culture that the cluster of islands that make up the Kingdom has to offer.

Just a 4 hour and 40 minute flight from Sydney, I arrived in the middle of the night into this Pacific Island gem with no concept of where I was. An airport transfer took me to the guesthouse I had booked for this arrival time, and when I eventually got to the other side of the island and Nuku'alofa, I was so grateful for the bed and the ability to get some sleep. I could have been anywhere!

The morning greeted me with seaside views, the lapping tide and a view of a rusted, ship hull in the harbour. After breakfast with my guesthouse family, I set out on foot to get a feel for the city I had reached in the dead of night.

I wandered past the harbour, past the market stalls of vegetables on sale and tiny BBQs cooking corn or chickens all along the main road, and took in the smells and sights of this new country to me. People were friendly, and curious about this traveler on her own, wandering about on foot.

Nuku'alofa is the capital of Tonga, and located on Tongatapu island - one of 171 islands in the Kingdom. Nuku'alofa means "Abode Of Love", and with it's small village feel, simple ways of living, and a church on every corner, it was hard not to get caught up in the happy-go-lucky feeling of the place.

Into town itself, I took in the sights of the main street and the quite stores. I walked through the Talamahu Market, before making sure I saw the handful of notable churches, all in close proximity.

At the top of the arc I was walking through the main streets of town was the site of the Royal Tombs, which are not open to the public, but through the fence into the vast park you could spot the statues marking the final resting place of Tongan Royalty since 1893 - starting with King George Tupou I, and including the late King George Tupou V, buried in 2012.

Just a little further along my walk, and back towards the sea, I found the Royal Palace, easily the most well kept building on the whole island. Set within lush green, and heavily manicured gardens, the simple Victorian style is now five times the size of it's original structure, but this royal residence is still the centre piece.

The place of governance and the home of the Kingdom's archives and history, this is the primary landmark of Nuku'alofa.

The weather was glorious, warm and noticeable fresh, clean air - the perfect way to soak in the sights of this remote, simple capital of the Tonga Kingdom.

Jouljet Notes
Getting There: Flight was from Sydney, Virgin fly on a weekly basis
Serious Tip: Have a local tell you about the Royal Tombs, as there are several stories worth hearing
Cost: Flight from Sydney was around $600 each way, night one guesthouse was around $60 and the middle of the night transfer was $20. Walking around town was free, and a local cab back to my guesthouse when I was done was $5
Time Spent: About 2 hours in total, round trip from my guesthouse on the outskirts of town, just wandering around on foot
Quirky Tip: Sitting in the little park areas in town and people watching was actually my highlight of this wander into town - the way to see the goings on of every day life in a place!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pacific Island Tranquility

Walking to the other side of the tiny island of Fafa, the secluded beach faces out into the ocean, with very little humanity to be seen towards the horizon. Such peace and beauty.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Victory At Newlands - Third Test

The most beautiful sports ground in the world, with Table Mountain as the backdrop, gave us a full test match for the third and final for the Australian tour of South Africa - with an Aussie win, right to the wire.

We arrived at Newlands with the series even after the first two tests, and found that our Waving The Flag crew had the best seats in the house - in a little triangular patch of grass on the bottom tier of the stand. Perfect.

The Aussies won the toss, and set out on a cracking batting pace, to set a target in the first innings. This ran across into Day 2, our traditional Chick Pink Day, where many of us managed a photo in the middle of the pitch, with the SA Lion.

(This photo, and the last one, are from Colin's collection)

Rain, would you believe, ended Day 2, allowing for many Third Session drinks in the nearest pub - where we met Saffas dressed as Smurfs. Almost as weird as wearing pink to the cricket!

South Africa got to have a bat on Day 3, but did not last the day, with Johnson and Harris having great days at work, 4 and 3 wickets respectively.

Setting the South Africans a target of 511, the Aussies declared in their second innings, and set up the remainder of the test as a race the the win/draw.

The task of just 10 good balls to win always sounds easy, but this last day delivered on drama and tension, before the Australians claimed those last wickets to win the series.

A month in South Africa, with three cricket matches, and so much to see, our tour was topped by a visit out to the pitch after the crowds had left. Our group in the centre of Newlands, soaking it in. It was pretty amazing!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...