17 January 2013

Visit Hufangalupe: The Refuge of the Doves

Hufangalupe, the natural arch
For the last few months, we've been struggling with what to publish. You've already read about feasts, celebrations, funerals, our daily schedules, having fun, what Nuku'alofa sounds like. You've read about easy cultural faux pas, the top five pests in Tonga, cooking underground, and hierarchy in daily life. You've followed our holidays, our work transitions, our observations from globalization to chop suey

We wanted to talk about our experiences here and how they related to daily life and culture in Tonga, but surprisingly, after three years, we're largely out of material!

If there's one thing we've predictably been miserable at, it's that we've been very slow at visiting some of the must see sights in Tonga! It took us two years to visit a beautiful underwater cave pool on the island, and three to see a gorgeous natural archway, 30 minutes' drive away. So, we've set ourselves a new question: what is it like to visit Tonga, from our perspective, after having been here for a while?

This week, we'll talk about that gorgeous natural archway: Hufangalupe.

Most of Tongatapu is very, very flat, but Hufangalupe happens to be one of the few places on the island you can stand at the top of huge cliffs and look out at the breaking surf far below. Highlights are several lookouts with beautiful views, a tiny trail you can climb down to the beach, and of course, the huge natural archway.

We first checked the tide charts in hopes that the tide would be low enough when we got there. This time, we weren't so lucky, but if it's low tide, you can hike down to the beach, and walk across the exposed coral rock to stand right under the archway. During our 30 minute scooter ride east from Nuku'alofa, we drove on the only main road out of the city, past roadside tables in each village where people had laid out nearly identical selections of goods for Saturday shoppers: cabbage, coconuts, capsicum, used clothes, and random assortments of packaged goods from relatives overseas. One table with nothing but boxed soup mix. Another with nothing but Chinese deoderant and Mrs Butterworth's butter flavoured corn syrup.

Directions: Turn right at the Vaini Police station, where the car is emerging in the picture

Reaching the town of Vaini, we turned right at the police station, and went down the suddenly very rural road, which after a desolate intersection, turns into a dirt road. Nothing is signed, so we followed our memories and landmarks we'd made a note of, like the police station, and a bush house on the right as you cross into the dirt road.

Reach a T-junction in the paved road, and continue straight  on the dirt track

The darker clump of grass directly in the middle of the frame is the start of the path to the beach. Can't you see it?
A little ways down the dirt road, we started to see the ocean on the horizon, and motored through a huge field of tall grasses before arriving nearly at cliff's edge.


Several meters down the road, it comes to this Y-junction. Right is to the lookout, where Mark's going, left is to the arch

The lookout opens to this gorgeous view of the cliffs and coral below


And the archway is almost un-capturable in pictures: it's massive stone towers above you and on all sides in person. Mark is actually very far away from the archway in this picture.
Hufangalupe is actually one of the only actually dangerous visitor sites in Tonga, and there are no paths marked, edge rails, or trails maintained there. It's essentially publically accessible private land, and so you go there at your own risk. We feel comfortable with going there because we know which paths to take and where to walk, but the most recent calamity at Hufangalupe was a tourist who died when the edge she was standing on crumbled into the ocean far below. For first-time visitors, its best to go with a guide or a friend, which willl make it very safe and easily enjoyed.

In the next few years, Hufangalupe may get some basic signage and trails, which will really help everyone, including visitors, enjoy it a bit more for it's strengths: a spectacular natural hiking and lookout site.

1 comment:

  1. Your posts make me homesick for Tonga! Gorgeous pictures. Gorgeous spot. And until reading this post I'd somehow forgotten about that beautiful cave swimming hole. Alex x

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