Today we crossed the dateline, from 8/20 to 8/21 in the middle of the day.
We were up early in Waikiki. Connor got me a Starbucks as I hailed a cab. His hotel selection had been perfect. The restaurant, location, pool, a great corner room and to top it off a Starbucks next to the Bell desk! We arrived at the airport, checked in with Air Pacific, got into the MVP Gold line and breezed through security without even a cheese inspection. We had plenty of time, and as we got to the gate the crew for our fight was just opening up. We chatted with them for a bit and went for breakfast. Connor chose CPK and while he was ordering Sonia called to chat. We polished off the pizza and made for the Airport Starbucks for #2. The airport doesn’t allow gum sales, so Connor had to go without.
We boarded and got ready for a long flight. We thought it would be 8 hours in the air, but it turned out there was a stopover in Apia, Samoa that didn’t appear on our tickets. Somehow that managed to make it feel like two shorter flights. We got a glimpse of Samoa and the little airport from the plane. We got second breakfast on the first flight and lunch on the second. We made Nada, Fiji on time and in both Fiji and Samoa were able to get roaming cellular. We weren’t entering the country and were remaining on the international terminal, but had to go through a baggage scan as we entered the airport. We didn’t have to fill out a declaration, but nonetheless were concerned about the cheese warning on the forms we saw for those entering the country. During the scan they opened one bag and discovered that the strange cylinders were cheese, and they let us pass. We sent one of our many text updates to Fidelis, letting the crew know that OPC had moved on to the next phase.
We got a couple of drinks in the airport, and Connor made sure we were at the right gate. As we boarded for Tonga for our third flight of the day, we noticed that it was the same jet on which we flew the first two. Connor had completed his math work and did a lot of reading on the previous flights, and even watched Clash of the Titans. The last flight was short, just 1.5 hours. We got yet another, smaller meal and then pulled up in Tonga at about sunset. We snapped a couple photos and then got into line at customs. Still having the cheese as we passed the amnesty drop we a little edgy. The line was taking quite a while, and a Tongan security guy pulled us out of the line and let us go in the empty line for old folks and disabled. I told Connor he was “special” and he told me I was old. We got through quickly, still wondering about the cheese that we had declared as food. There were no questions asked, except for how were we leaving. I told them about the boat and we were directed to a small room behind the woman who stamped our passports.
I stuck my head into the room and saw Vince, sitting and talking with a very stern-looking Tongan man in a palm frond skirt. As We said our big hellos the man immediately and asked us to leave the office. Oops. So we made good friends with the big Tongan with the sunglasses who was watching everyone in the line. He was really nice, told us how to make an octopus lure with a palm tree root. Vince got out of the room eventually and hustled us toward the exit. We then had to pass our bags through a big luggage scanner. The computers didn’t have to come out this time. Connor saw the screen and said the tubes didn’t show. After learning from Vince that the office guy told him that we could not enter the country and would have to go back, I was a little concerned about what he had to do to get us in, and what would happen when they found the cheese. Because it was Kraft tube cheese we weren’t really sure if it was technically cheese (or food), and that was our plan. They let us pass and we hustled to the “taxi” that Vince and had waiting.
We met Ben, the Tongan cabbie, tour guide, etc., and Diego, the 18 year old Fidelis first mate from the Galapagos islands in Ecuador. It was now getting dark, and I’m guessing that driving through Tonga was a bit surreal for Connor. People had random fires burning in their palm-laden yards, to get rid of their trash. We saw a single very large fox bat. It looked like a small pterodactyl. The main road looked anything but “main.” We had to pull over to the side at one point as a small motorcade passed. The vehicles were nothing fancy, but Ben told us that it was the prince. We passed a lot of roadside stores that looked more like drive up fruit stands with bars on the openings. There were lots of folks just hanging around. Ben said that they are mostly run by the Chinese, and that the bars went up after the riots in 2006. Apparently there is some resentment of the Chinese because they send their money home to China. I’m not sure what else they should do with it, since property ownership is totally hereditary and sale to even Tongans is severely punished. Land must be given in a hereditary pecking order and by default passes only to the oldest son.
It was dark by the time arrived at Fidelis. We carefully boarded Dob (the dingy, Daughter of Bubbles) with our luggage. Ben helped us out with his headlights. Later we heard him yelling from the dock that his battery was dead. I went out in Dob and lent him my cell phone. We later learned his ride didn’t show and he pushed the van to the main road, and then got some help. After a few stories and some good eats Connor went lights out in the aft stateroom. After some more stories Daddy joined him for some well-earned sleep. After that night we’d be sleeping in crew quarters (main cabin couches).