20 March 2011

Shopping Trip on Bikes

In Tonga, you very quickly get used to seeing large baskets of root crop, coconuts, and huge piles of vegetables by the side of the road for sale. What you don't typically think about is how heavy root crop and coconuts actually are when you have to carry them by foot or on a bike.

Bicycles are fantastic for getting around, and they give you a fun excuse to exercise, but they usually do not come equipped to carry cargo right out of the box. For this you need racks mounted over the back or front tires, or a basket mounted on your handlebars. While in New Zealand for our early December vacation, I bought a back rack for my bike to allow us to tie things to the top and carry bags attached to its side. This has vastly increased the amount of groceries we can buy in one go, and for the first time since we moved to the main island of Tongatapu, we are willing to buy bags of root crop and coconuts (both of which are extremely heavy and difficult to transport in any quantity on foot, let alone by bicycle).

Lining the road into town, people have built quite a few stalls to sell vegetables, root crops, coconuts, and occasionally clothes. If they only sell on Saturday, then they usually line up their goods right on the side of the road or under a collapsable tent to cater to the hordes of shoppers looking for food in order to make their 'umus (underground ovens) for Sunday lunch. Late Saturday evening, these stalls and roadside operations stay open until 10pm or midnight because people here, like everywhere else in the world, tend to wait until the last moment to do their shopping.

We went down in the late afternoon to the roadside stalls to select some veggies, sweet potato, and green coconuts to take back home. We occasionally crave these things, but as I said above, it's usually too much of a hassle to bring it all home. Well, we found some great baskets of each, so we loaded up all the coconuts until the saddlebags were bulging, then lashed the basket of sweet potatoes to the top of the rack and stuffed the veggies in wherever they would fit. Riding home, I felt like I was carrying another person, the cargo was so heavy. We made it home safely and were able to enjoy chilled green coconuts for the next week, and are still working through the sweet potatoes.

Our little trip to the market won't be repeated every week to the same extent because while we can now transport a whole basket of root crop home, we still can't eat it all within a week. However, we can bring home a lot more variety of produce so our diet will expand a bit. 


  1. We would have taken some on the way back from the market, but a. I was trying to keep my bike steady, and b. We had forgotten the camera at home. The pictures are taken a few meters from our house :D


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