Let me tell you a little tale of a fateful pair of adventurers. While I was teaching at Taufaahau Pilolevu in Ha'apai, I happened to meet a French backpacker named Michele. We decided to plan a trip to Tofua. After deciding to make the plan, well it was only to do it without any doubts. I had spoken to one visitor a few years earlier who went to Tofua alone without any camping equipment or anything, and he made it there and back. I knew some people who had been there several times, and yes I heard several stories that were pretty bad. The Peace Corps volunteers went one time and got stuck there, so they are not allowed to go anymore. It's an alluring place and if you search online you can find quite a few stories. We found a New Zealand yachtie who offered to take us over and pick us up a few days later. He gave us a portable VHS radio that we could use to contact him when he was nearby for the return rendezvous, and it worked out well too. He went on to visit Ha'afeva for a few days and came to pick us up as planned. I had heard such bad stories about jumping off the boat and onto a particular rock that I decided to get an inner tube and float our provisions on that and swim from the boat instead. That worked out just fine for us. We had heard that there might be some people living on Tofua, but it was quite unlikely that we would see them and in fact we saw no one. The landing place is right at the top of the aerial view where the surf is visable, but the kava farmers are down along the bottom part of the island. As we approached I noticed a fire on the east side of the island, but it didn't mean anything to us.

Our first campsite was a precarious spot along the edge of the island. All night long you could feel the shaking of the waves onto the rocks, like the whole tent might shake loose and tumble into the surf. In the picture you might just notice some bandages in the lower left. I took a bad fall shortly after we started climbing up from the shore. I tried not to let this ruin my adventure, but when we got back to Ha'apai it was clear enough that I would have to return to the USA for medical attention. It turned out that I had badly injured my shoulder and had also broken all of the fingers on one hand. It took one year but everything did heal properly without surgery. The real issue was the not knowing and since there are screws in my shoulder from a previous injury, the doctors in Nuku'alofa really didn't know what a Bancart repair was and couldn't advise properly. Michele may have been shocked at my injury but he held up pretty good. Here he is that first morning with Kao in the background.

After we found a suitable place we clambered up the hillside and made our campsite. We really were not prepared to make trails and had not appreciated how tough it was to make our way in the jungle without a machete. I had heard stories of the ferns but didn't think they were so widespread. You simply couldn't make your way through them, it was like a six foot thick carpet of velcro. But someone else had been making trails. We found many signs that there had been a machete in use, and were thankful to be able use those jungle trails that we found. We got a nice campfire going. There is something about having a fire that makes anyplace you are staying into a sort of home. We hadn't brought that much water with us, but there was an abundance of coconuts and Michele really got into harvesting them. I did a fair bit of walking around along the trails, and at some distance towards the east I happened to find an orange tree. I brought some back to camp and Michele was thrilled. We made a trip to harvest all we could find and picked the ones that were the most orange in color. That was a mistake perhaps. They tasted like battery acid, and it hurt your mouth and lips when you ate them. But we mixed them with coconut juice and ate them anyway.

Here's a few different trees I liked on Tofua. There's the coconuts of course, which kept us from dying of thirst. There were many of these Australian pines I think they are called. They gently sweep back and forth in the breeze and make every view a 3D experience. I remember looking up at the night sky through these and saw what I am pretty sure was the space station as it went by. One day I took a hike alone and ran into this group of carved trees. I wondered what the meaning was. My friend Folau told me sometimes they carve these little bowls into the tree to collect rainwater. I had gotten somewhat disoriented in hiking back from the 'Tiki Trees' and for a while it seemed every time I left this place I would end up coming right back to them. It was like I had fallen into some kind of spell. I tried the water and it seemed to taste OK. Finally I started crashing into the bush and found my way back to camp. Michele was really glad to see me return. It would have been nice to be able to hike up into the volcano and see the lake but maybe it was best that we did not since we really didn't have enough preparation and something worse could have happened.