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The last 24 hours have been a little tense on Starry Horizons as we try to figure out our plans for the next few weeks. We’ve done all the major things we want to do in Tonga, although like with every country there are plenty more things to see and do. Ultimately it’s David’s decision and he was between a rock and a hard place trying to make up his mind.
We knew we wanted to stay through Saturday to attend a dinner and thus stay through to Monday, since we can’t clear out on a Sunday. However, two factors have contributed to us deciding to extend our stay in Tonga.
There was a tiny bit of wind through our region on Monday, but now it has died and stay dead for the next seven days.
If we really needed to get moving we’d go without having any wind and just motor but unfortunately we don’t have enough fuel, and that’s not for a lack of trying on our part.
Normally, you can order diesel through the amazing Sandy at Vava’u Adventures, and the diesel will be delivered to the dock via fuel truck. If you clear out before taking fuel from the truck, than your fuel is duty free, which can be a hefty savings if you are ordering 400L.
Apparently, the Tongan government bought a new tanker to deliver fuel around the islands, but someone screwed up. The tanker can not make the turn into Neiafu Harbor. There is no other place on the Vava’u group to dock and pump out.
First to go was the petrol (or gasoline in the states). When we first caught wind of the shortage I filled up our dingy tank from the nearby gas station. The gas was not high quality, as for a little while the outboard kept dying and belching smoke.
Sandy said it was only a matter of time for the diesel to run out. Saturday David and I decided better safe than sorry; we need diesel to run our generator and watermaker, so we got our jerry cans out, hailed a taxi and went off to the one gas station that had diesel.
On the way we passed another gas station that had petrol coming in via barrels on a supply ship. The road was lined with cars, and about 60 people were sitting around waiting with jerry cans to purchase petrol.
This is not just to run their cars. A good number of people live outside Neiafu, and thus off the grid. While government donations from Japan have provided some of the people with solar panels, many homes are outfitted with generators.
To top that off, we mentioned earlier that the fuel shortage caused a price increase in our whale swim. Imagine the economic impact this shortage is having on Vava’u in the peak of tourist season. With no tour boats going out, no money is coming into the locals who work here. Prices are increasing across the board, as getting food and staff in to work at restaurants becomes more challenging.
Once again we are reminded how lucky we are to have been born in America. Tonga is the poorest country (via GDP per capita) that we have been to on Starry Horizons with a GDP per capita of roughly $5,000 (compared to the US at $55,000). However, it won’t be the poorest on our circumnavigation; that will go to Madagascar with $1,400, the 10th lowest in the world.
But on to happier thoughts. We have no urgency to leave yet, as our next time commitment is in mid-October in Fiji. We have plenty of friends here and are having quite the time socially. Our 31 days in Tonga we are allowed will expire next Thursday the 29th, and we needed to extend our visa by this Thursday the 22nd. We got the paperwork out of the way this morning, so we are set to do whatever we want in Tonga until we get some wind and/or diesel!