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  • Approved for CNN

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    Posted July 13, 2012 by
    mapqueen
    Location
    Hawaii
    Assignment
    Assignment
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Travel snapshots: Volcanoes

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    Beautiful Haapai, Tonga

     
    In the South Pacific Ocean is the small island kingdom of Tonga. In that nation, the smallest province is a group of islands called Haapai. In that group of islands is a hidden paradise. While the white sand beaches of Fiji, just next door, are swamped with tourists and resorts, this tiny piece of Tonga remains unspoiled.

    On the island of Lifuka, the world passes this quiet paradise by. 3 of us stayed as guests in the tiny village of Holopeka, and the beach there was nothing short of magical. When it wasn't covered in big and beautiful seashells, then it was being used by the locals for playing in the afternoons. We walked this beach with the children of the village many times, and even played games in the water with them as the sun was setting at the end of a long work day.

    One of my favorite memories was on this beach. All week, we'd been helping the local women in the village peel, cut, straighten, and bunch hundreds of reeds for weaving their floor mats. Part of the mat-weaving process involves tying the each bunch of 20 reeds to a vine in the ocean. There, the reeds are left to float in the salt water for a couple of days. After that, they gather the now-salted bunches from the water, and let them hang out and dry in the sun for a couple more days, so that they harden into the material used for weaving. When it came time in this week-long process to go tie the bunches to the underwater vines, we were out in the crystal-clear water, moving rocks around for weights, lashing the reeds tight so that a storm or high tide wouldn't wash them off to sea. Wading around in the water at sunset, helping the local Tongan women with their daily chores, was an unforgettable experience. Even though we couldn't speak their language, we all managed to work together and enjoy each other's company in the process. And having a job to do on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world wasn't a bad deal either!

    The beach at Holopeka was definitely a beach I'll always think of as being a wonderfully hidden treasure.
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