October 26 - November 2, 2005
Lifuka is the island on which Pangai, the administrative center of the Ha'apai group, is located. So all boats passing through Ha'apai need to check in and out with customs in Pangai on Lifuka.
Pangai on Lifuka is in the far north of the Ha'apai group. We had been trying to plan an itinerary during which we could 'circumnavigate' the Ha'apai islands so that we could start and stop our travels in Pangai and check out from Pangai before heading south to Tongatapu. However, when we checked in, the customs agent was willing to give us our check out immediately negating our need to return to Pangai. This greatly simplified our plans, and it is reflective of the friendliness and helpfulness we experienced wherever we went on Lifuka.
The village of Pangai is small with dirt roads and a unique charm. It is neat and clean, and its people are friendly. It has miniature versions of institutions one might expect only in larger villages - a museum, library, bookstore, and hospital. It also has a small grocery market, produce market, and even an ice cream shop. We hit them all except the hospital. Probably our greatest surprise was to find a DSL internet connection at the Tongan Communications building - this on an island where there are few telephones.
Also on Lifuka is the Mariner's Cafe. This is a small cafe run by Trevor Gregory - an Aussie expat. Trevor is a former cruiser who swallowed the hook here eight years ago. As a former cruiser, he is well attuned to the wants and needs of visiting cruisers. His cafe offers excellent - albeit a bit pricey - food and cold beer. We ate there a few times. It is an oasis.
Lifuka also has a secure harbor in which visiting boats are welcome to anchor without charge. We prefer anchoring out, so we stayed outside of the harbor for a few nights. However, weather conditions began to deteriorate somewhat, so we moved inside. We stayed for a few nights until the weather calmed again, and it was a comfortable and secure place to be during bumpy weather.
But the weather calmed, and we were off. Our next planned stop was at Ha'afeva. More from there...