So there I am, freshly woken up by the drone of mosquitoes trying to give me dengue again - I'm immune, I tell you, immune, hahahahaha - too much time on my own perhaps? - and I'm struck with the urge to do something with the day - something perhaps a bit grander than going to the local photo booth, take 4 photos of my arse and superglueing them over those example photos on the outside of the booths of happy smiling people you donít know - last time I did that someone stole the photos of my arse Ė whatís wrong with people?
So I decided to head off on the bus to the Trilithon, the ancient archway of the capital of the Tongan kings and queens of years past. So I went to the front desk and asked the receptionist where the bus station was - 'opposite the loose pearls shop' she replied. Well I donít know about you, but loose pearls means something else on Tyneside, but resisting the urge to embarrass her, I set off into town to find the right bus.
Not so fast - the bus station though easy to find was still a shambles - buses all over and not really any formal timetable system or even set routes as far as I could determine. I started to ask around but it was really difficult - for one most Tongans donít speak English very well and Tongan is a bugger of a language to understand. For instance the word for 'Emergency Exit' is Matapa'iha Fakatamaki - not a word to be looking for in an emergency is it ? And secondly they are all soft talkers. For some reason everyone whispers and over the noise of the buses its hard to hear someone whisper 'yes, I do go to the trilithon' especially when they have really said 'Yes, you are a stupid tourist' in Tongan
Eventually however I did get what I thought was an affirmative to my question and onto the bus I got - the price was right; 2 pa'angas (or Tonga Wonga as I called it) so off to the trilithon I went! Hurrah! Well no, I didnít actually. After about an hour the bus pulls up in the middle of nowhere and the driver turns round and whispers 'this is your stop'
I looked out the window - its a jungle on mounds - 'Is this the Trilithon?'
'No, its the Langi'
'But I want to go to the trilithon'
'This bus doesnít go to the trilithon'
'So why did you say that it did?'
'This bus goes to the Langi'
I quickly realised that; a - I wasnít going to get any sense out of this chap- b - even if I did I wouldnít be able to hear him, and c - I might as well see the Langi, the ancient burials mounds of the Tongan kings and queens - a top sight in their own right. So off the bus I hopped to view the Langi.
My God, the distance between a tourist office map compared with reality - the map looks like a lovely day out having a picnic, eating strawberries and lazing on top of the sun drenched Langi whereas reality is a festival of shit, eating thorns, insects and mud whilst fighting your way through hairy mans underpants.
It kicked off with the largest Langi, height wise which proved to be easy enough to find one I'd kicked through the overgrown graveyard to get to it - easy to find because it was the last king to be buried in one of these Langi and he'd become a catholic, so a large cross was on top of it. Why he'd become a catholic I donít know, dozens of sects to choose from and he decides to follow a bunch of senile of misogynistic old men in a faraway European capital who know nothing of the world but want to tell everyone else how to live! No. hold on, thatís the English cricket selectors Iím thinking of.
Actually what really puzzles me are the 7th Day Adventists - is that like Pims where you only ever see Pims number 1 or maybe Pims number 6 and the others have just disappeared from view? Are there 4th day adventists who are not very popular? By the way, for those of you who donít know what Pims is, its an alcholic drink, very English, made with different spirits and drunk at big multi day sporting events like Henley - so very much like the aforementioned sect you become 7th day event pissed.
So I struggle to the top of this Langi for what I hoped would be a view of some others - not, just forest and houses as far as the eye can see. I trudge down the side of the Langi getting more and more covered in some kind of thorny grass seeds that are pricking me through my socks. The vegetation starts to get worse and soon Iím fighting my way up to the next Langi through thorn bushes with the added delight of mosquitoes and flies -its also getting very hot and humid so Iím now soaked through with sweat.
The next Langi conquered I move on through the bushes. Itís at this point I notice something following me from the movement of the bushes behind me and grunting noises. Oh great I thought, I know this scenario, so I glance around and find a huge cudgel of a stick - if its one thing this trip has taught me its how to fight animals. So I walk gingerly along with the 'thing' following me but so intent was I on watching this thing that I didnít see the edge of the Langi - I must have fallen only three feet but because the animals run wild here the Langi have been turned to mud where the animals roam - good news was that I was only grazed, bad news was that I was covered in stinking mud.
So on it went, I climbed the next mound with the 'thing' following me to hear more grunting ahead - 'Christ', I thought, 'its Jurassic fucking Park out here'. I crept up through the bushes, stick at the ready and burst through, only to run straight into a fence, fell backwards into even more mud. Some bugger was keeping 3 pigs in a pound at the top of the Langi - it was a bloody swamp in there! Anyway, the pigs semed friendly, so I climbed over the fence and walk quickly through the pound - ankle deep in muddy water - down the other side of the Langi and onto a track coming between Pig Langi and the next one. At this moment an old lady came along and started having a go at me for not respecting their cultural sites! I'll save you the full version of my tirade against her but suffice to say she was left with no doubt that I thought she might hold higher moral ground if there wasnít a pig farm on the sacred site.
As we parted, not exactly on the best of terms, I pushed through the next load of bushes to find my self face to face with another tourist - I guessed New Zealander from his accent but I didnít have much opportunity to tell as , and I quote the full conversation between us here, I didnít get many words to work on
'Fuck me!' he said, gasping, covered in mud, thorns, grass seeds etc
'I'll say!' I replied covered in mud, thorns, grass seeds etc
I donít suppose Iíve ever had such a short conversation where so much was understood.
I did glance back to notice that the 'thing' was now following him back the way I had come - funny thing is I never saw him again.
Anyway, as my own shite fest wore on, and Langi after Langi went by, and I got more and more dirty, sweaty, cut and bothered, I realised I simply wasnít enjoying the day out anymore. This was compounded by the sound of an almighty THUMP! and then some grunting. then THUMP! and some more grunting. I grasped my stick even tighter and carefully edged closer to the noise - 'whatever it was I'm taking its head off' I thought - I burst through these bushes to find two rams having a fight - a Ram-a-Langi-Ding-dong, if you like.
They looked at me and one scarpered into the bush whilst the other jumped up onto a plinth and made goat noises at me .
And then it was over. I stumbled out onto the road, flagged down a bus, and headed back to the hotel.
Imagine my surprise then, when the receptionist says, bearing in mind that Iíve got twigs in my hair, Iím covered from head to toe in mud and grass seeds, I'm cut on the arms and legs and face, soaked with sweat, stinking of pig poo and she has the audacity to ask 'where did you buy those boots, Mr Findlay?'
What is it with women and shoes? All hell breaks loose and all you worry about is what shoes everyone is wearing. ĎIm sure the biggest insult to a woman is to say she has cheap shoes. I wouldnít mind so much but the minute youíve bought a £200 pair of shoes you come home, take them off and walk around in bare feet!
Anyway, I didnít give her the benefit of my knowledge, because Iíd eaten too much fruit for breakfast and needed the toilet for a quick Matapa'iha Fakatamaki.