Nuku’alofa is the capital of Tonga, a kingdom located in the South Pacific some 2,000 km north of New Zealand. I arrived here after a long overnight flight Toronto-Los Angeles-Apia Samoa-Tonga. After a few hours sleep it was full on with meetings so I was unable to get in my usual post-travel run. That had to wait until the next morning when at 06:00 I wandered past the sleeping front desk staff out onto the dark waterfront street in front of the International Dateline Hotel.
I had two options: turn left or turn right. I always choose the right in these complicated situations so headed off along the deserted street. Or should I say semi-deserted. There were actually people out walking, a few running and even two cyclists. How unusual! I’m usually alone on my early morning jaunts.
Nuku’alofa is a delightfully laid back place and Tonga is not called the ‘Friendly Islands’ for nothing. The people are wonderfully friendly and every person I passed greeted me with a smile. It is hard to equate such friendly people with the incredible rugby players they produce. Jonah Lomu—the first global superstar rugby player—is Tongan and they do love their rugby. At 65 kg I feel quite tiny here: even next to the women. Good thing they are so friendly.
Not so the dogs. I was ambushed by an aggressive pack which I managed to face off. Bother. I had been idle by not having a few stones to toss. Guess I got spoiled by the relaxed dogs in Kiribati. I soon armed myself and sure enough I had to use a few well placed stones during the remaining course of my run.
Tongatapu is a low island so it is flat. How flat? Well, if you are more than about 100 m from the ocean there is no way to drain the roads. OK. That’s a slight exaggeration, but only slight. So I decided that I would do the run at a 10 km race pace.
It is winter here now so the weather is perfect for a run. Ran to the east end of the road and then turned around before heading back towards the hotel. Since that was only 9 km return continue onwards towards the royal palace (right). There was a rugby pitch and even though it was now approaching 07:00, there were about 20 fellows playing a pick up game. With lots of hard hits. Managed a 43:15 for the 10 km. Not great, but not bad considering jet lag. Had an easy run back to the hotel and then sat in front of the air conditioner cooling down.
Decided that I would have a day off and then do a long run on Sunday. However, on Saturday I was chatting with a local who reminded me that it is illegal to run on Sundays here. That is true. In 1999 when I was last here a colleague was stopped by the police and told to walk.
Looking forward to some more exploring about the island over the next week that I’m here. I’ll just be sure to carry some stones for the dogs …