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The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson

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TONGA

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Islands-Tonga

The red arrow points to Tonga

From Suva, there was a short bus-ride to the airport. I’d been told this would cost 50p, so I held on to some pocket-change. But there was one chap in our small group bound for Tonga who had depleted his local money: I bought his ticket for him, and we thus struck up a brief friendship as travelers often do. His name was Peter Salisbury, from Australia, and our respective itineraries were the same for a few days. I eventually deduced he was spending his inheritance on a round-the-world trip; a genuinely friendly chap, he was a trifle disorganized. In Tonga he stayed at the Intercontinental, but I booked the “bunkhouse” a bit further along the main street. Both were very close to the water, where there was a bit of beach, and many youngsters swimming, often nude. They were so cute: one hated to think of them grown up into multi-hundred-pound behemoths.

Swimmers-Tonga

I love to watch kids frolicking in water

Swimmers-Tonga

The guy in the white shirt ignores the kids

Since I was the only person Peter knew on the island, and vice versa, we hung out together a good deal. Peter often invited me to share the entertainment at the Intercontinental, mostly dancers, fire-breathers, and so on. Some of the guys were breathtakingly handsome, not yet having built up the excess avoirdupois that tends to characterize men there. I was particularly struck by the variety of ways the guys wrapped a lava-lava around themselves, and the speed with which it was accomplished: beginning with a simple strip of cloth, it could be fashioned into a crotch-hugging “bathing-suit” in a trice. Alas, they all had on skimpy posing-straps to keep the family jewels from showing. Damn!

One day Peter told me he’d arranged for a luau for the two of us; he introduced me to the local fellow setting this up, and my gaydar went to the pin. Not that he was attractive: too much adipose-tissue for my taste. I was pretty sure Peter was not gay (my gaydar stayed at zero around him), so I was not sure how all this was going to work out. The luau itself was entertaining and the food was excellent, but there was a lot more beer than was necessary to wash it down: I took it easy but Peter did not, and when he was pretty well sloshed, our host(ess) pounced: Peter freaked out! The luau was suddenly over! Thank gawd the host(ess) didn’t want me. Later that night, with Peter tucked safely away in his expensive hotel, I met a much nicer local chap as I was was walking back to the Bunkhouse: we repaired to one of those elevated houses the Tongans favor, and with his brother, the three of us had a grand romp!

Peter recovered, and the next day hired a local chap with a boat to take up out to a little island a bit off-shore. He had lunches packed at the hotel, and we went for a day’s outing—swimming, beach-combing, and so forth. There were two problems: the island was tiny, we could walk right around it in ten minutes, and there was not much of a beach. Nevertheless we managed to while away most of the day, until the skipper indicated it was time to head in—clouds were gathering. Of course, he could read the weather and the water, but we could not. By the time we got our act together, the wind was up, the water was choppy, and there were the three of us in this tiny dinghy with an ancient put-put motor heading for the home shore. Water broke over the bow, we got soaked, and all I could say to myself over and over was, “The Tongans populated the whole South-Pacific by boat: we must be safe in this guy’s hands”. We were safe, as it turned out, but  got to shore bedraggled and happy not to have drowned!

Nuku’Alofa, Tonga
13 December 1968

Dear Everybody~
Here beginneth the final epistle in this, the second phase of my 1968 pilgrimage; any letters I were to write following this would probably get home
after I do. Such is the way when one flies, these days!

On my last day in Nadi I took another boat trip, mainly for coral-viewing. I did no swimming, as I was still smarting a bit from over-exposure the day or two before. But it was a relaxing half-day trip—all of four people aboard! Then on Tuesday, at the unholy hour of 6 AM, I boarded a DC-3 Fiji Airways plane for the flight to Suva. Egad! How small the plane seemed! My last ride in a DC-3 was in the passionate-pink “Standard Airways” flight Oakland to Burbank in 1963, the first leg of the infamous Terry Davis debacle. Of course, the seating is really superior to (tourist sections) of the larger jets, and visibility from the air—it did get off the ground, and with less effort than I’d remembered—is better as well.

Now, Suva is on the “wet” side of the island of the Fiji group (there are 300-odd in the group), and the contrast is quite remarkable. The dry side, which has low coastal plains (given almost entirely to culture of sugar cane) rises quickly into dry, California-like mountains—forest fires here, too. The whole South Pacific has been unseasonably dry for about the last 6 weeks; water shortages are common. Even so, Suva is conspicuously more moist, with lots of lush growth, beautiful flowers, wild fruit, etc., etc. The town itself is quite a small & quiet place. I took a car tour here in order to make the best of the one day I had; then yesterday, also very early, boarded a Hawker-Siddeley 748 Prop-jet for the approx. 2 hr flight to Tonga. We landed, to my surprise, on a grass air-strip; there was a big crowd because the King & Queen were on their way out on the return flight, and were indeed present & waiting. We then proceeded to cross the whole island in less than 15 minutes to Tuku’Alofa (sic) the capitol city. Now, I’d been led to believe Tonga was quite a prosperous place, but it seems not to be so. However, there is oil here, and that is under investigation for development, which could transform the island practically overnight. There is one Intercontinental Hotel with appallingly stiff tariffs, and one “bunkhouse” in which I am lodged at less steep but still too high rates. There is, essentially, nothing to do, which is just fine with me as I anticipate a pretty hectic time when I get back, and need some good, deep relaxation just now. A group of us may take bicycle rides around the island tomorrow, but otherwise it will be just lolligagging, swimming (fair beach here) and eating & sleeping. It looks as though three days in Apia (W. Samoa) and 1 or less in Pago Pago will complete the whole shebang—and certainly will exhaust my current supply of funds! The flight to Apia (DC-3, maybe 4) is “scheduled” for 11:15 Monday, but we are told it may go anytime thereafter, surely not before! Polynesian Airways obviously is run the polynesian way, which is, to put it the nicest way, “relaxed”.

So, I shall be seeing everyone quite soon—I hope this letter gets there before I do—and of course I look forward to at least the brief visit I shall have on the mainland.

Luv to all~

Bruce

Arrival in Tonga

The plane which delivered us to Tonga

Palace-Tonga

Home of the King & Queen of Tonga

Main Drag Nuku'Alofa

There really wasn't much to Nuku'Alofa

Wharf-Tonga

A long-wharf at Tonga

Wharf&Boats-TongaBeautiful sky over boats at Tonga
BunkHouseyard

The bunkhouse was just across the road from the ocean

TongaBillsFace

Rather staid currency from Tonga

TongaBillsObverse

The backsides were more colorful

I was unable to find any crisp clean ones!

Further adventures awaited me in Western Samoa, although an unscheduled stop in Pago Pago was amusing. Coming up!

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Written by Editor

March 4th, 2010 at 9:43 am

Posted in Tonga