Rae got crew
to sail the 7-10 days Tonga to New Zealand leg of our trip. I chose
the easy way (3 hour flight). Well things are not always so
On Wednesday Nov. 15, I stood on the
dock and waved goodbye to Mustang Sally and crew as they headed south.
After they left I walked into downtown Nuku' Alofa, Tonga to purchase my
airline ticket to NZ. My flight to NZ was scheduled for 10:30PM
Thursday Nov 16.
For the last week there had been
small groups of people protesting against the government in the park
downtown. I spent Thursday walking all over downtown Nuku' Alofa killing
time, waiting for my flight.
For the last few days the locals had
held low key political protest against the new King in the park. The
protesters setup information booths. The people had seemed quiet and
orderly – most of the protest signs were vague wordy proclamations that
seemed wordy and lacked focus.
I noticed that there were many more
people attending the protest today but did not think too much about it.
The crowds grew and got more vocal all day long till I started to feel
uncomfortable. Around 4:00PM I decided the atmosphere had changed and I
should probably get out of the area so I went back to my hotel and got
I stopped at a restaurant next door
to my hotel for dinner before heading out to the airport. While
there I heard reports of buildings being set on fire and suddenly the
power went out and the owner of the restaurant kicked everyone out and
boarded up the restaurant. I was now standing on the street waiting for
a cab to the airport.
No cabs came along but a family
stopped and gave me a ride to the airport, skirting most of the trouble
in town. I was very happy to be leaving town and at the airport
.....until all flights were canceled.
The airlines felt it was unsafe to
land aircraft because more and more buildings were being set on fire.
The airport in Tonga is very small and only staffed if planes are
arriving or departing so we had to leave and find accommodation.
The hotels in town were burning by
now so the city was not an option. I had been talking to a woman
from Australia and she and I went to a Transit Lodge just outside of the
airport. Little did we know that we would become roommates for the
next 4 days.
The people we were staying with drove
us into the city the day after the violence and we witnessed the
devastation. Over 80% of the town core had been burned to the ground.
Most Chinese business had been looted
and burned. It was so sad to see places that I had visited not 24
hours ago completely gone. Eight people were killed. The airport
My new friend Angela called the
Australian Embassy and was told that they were bringing in an air force
jet to evacuate Aussies and Canadians. Boy did I hook up with the right
We were finally evacuated on the
Sunday and flew not to NZ but to Australia where we were met by the
Canadian Embassy, the Federal Police, trauma teams and the media.
I was the first person through customs thanks the the embassy guy and
was immediately met by the media.
Over the next 3 days I heard
myself interviewed on the radio and read my interview in the papers in
both Australia and NZ but the biggest surprise was lying in bed in NZ
watching BBC World News and watching myself on TV!!!!
My 3 hour flight took 6 days. Rae
arrived 1 1/2 days later.
We are both very happy to be in New
Zealand. It is very beautiful and reminds us very much of home.