One of the best things about travelling constantly is becoming friends with fun and interesting people from all over the world.
Recently, Kevin and Lucy journeyed from Beijing to join us in Tonga for their first experience with humpback whales. It didn't occur to me at the time, but when they arrived, I realised that they might be the very first tourists from the People's Republic of China to visit Tonga specifically to go whale watching.
There are of course other people from China here (though few and far between), but most are here for government-related stuff or business. It's a long way from China. Kevin and Lucy had to fly to Seoul, then to Fiji for a few nights, and finally to Tonga. Ditto in reverse on the way back.
It would've been easier to fly through Auckland, but apparently New Zealand requires a minimum of 30 days to process a transit visa for Chinese nationals. Yes, that's right. A transit visa...meaning "just passing through the airport, never actually setting foot in the country". The world just wouldn't be the same without senseless bureacracy to make everyone's lives difficult.
Anyway, they made it here and had such a good time that they extended their stay for an extra week. Unfortunately, the weather and whales weren't terribly cooperative while Kevin and Lucy were around, and wouldn't you know it...the day after they left, the sun finally came out and whales were popping up everywhere like dandelions after a spring shower. Oh well.
During our stay, we also had a chance to catch up with Paul and Karen, who own and operate Dive Vava'u. After many years running liveaboard boats for companies like the Aggressor Fleet, Paul and Karen moved here a couple of years ago to set up shop. Paul is originally from the US, and Karen from the UK. They've become a fixture here, and are doing really well.
The dynamic couple have also built a gorgeous home. Actually, the word "home" doesn't quite do it justice. It's more like a private resort, set on a hillside adjacent to a beautiful strait, with an amazing wooden deck overlooking the water. The house is tastefully designed, spacious, well built, and features self-sustaining solar and wind power.
We were lucky enough to visit Paul and Karen's new house for dinner recently, and all I can say is that I was more than impressed. I tried to think of a better adjective than "impressed", but just couldn't quite seem to find the right word to express the extent of my admiration.
We had lots to talk about...whales, dive industry stuff, tonga, their house, future trips, new ideas...so the time passed far too quickly.
Karen prepared a yummy lasagna dinner, with a very special dessert painstakingly whipped up by Master Chef Paul, who apparently required all day to get the dish just right...truly a man of limitless talent.