Getting there – Keliti International Resort

Our bags are huge with intent for a good trip, maxing out our weight allowance with enough kids kit, first aid, free diving gear and some sneaked in luxury salon sized conditioner for a year. We are surrounded by warm hugs from our folks, bleary eyed hope, and unwieldy bags as we board the train for London from Newton Abbot station early Wednesday morning. Three days later, in the wee hours of Friday night, we arrive in darkness to the warm sweet air of Tongatapu.

It took 11 hours to get to Hong Kong, where we had a quick day out. Using the super slick trains and the old Star ferries we saw the famous high line vista, and paid a visit  to the fish and bird markets. It was oppressively hot and sticky dragging ourselves around after very little sleep, and we all braced ourselves for Tonga to feel the same.


Another 11 hour flight, this time with great friendly cabin staff (lovely Air New Zealand, disappointing Cathay Pacific) and a pit stop in Auckland. Flying with kids at this age is so much easier now, as long as I don’t get up tight by the amount of screen time they are having they are very easily entertained and in fact delight in the choice and freedom of being allowed to watch all the kids films on offer. On previous long haul trips when they were younger and screens did not hold their attention for long, I would dutifully pack hand luggage loaded with art stuff, puzzles and wind up toys. I knew not to expect to get much rest or to finish any movies. This time round we could all indulge as much as we liked in easy watching movies we’d never actually have paid to see.

The outing in Auckland involved a bus trip to Manacau to use the huge shopping mall and pick up some supermarket supplies. We ate falafel wraps next to a lovely couple of laughing NZ women out on a birthday celebration tucking into deep fried battered oysters. We stocked up on some essentials for us veggies like nuts, beans, herbs and spices not available in Tonga. (You can’t bring food into New Zealand but you can take it out). We finished our big consumer day with a few hours at ‘Rainbows End’ a super bright kids playground. The big roller coaster and more thrilling rides were much more enticing but too pricey for a quick visit so we had to make do with the junior section. But, we had a laugh and even better we now have a huge carrot to dangle at meal times – the rides are height restricted and we were given a ‘measure and ride’ poster on the way out; eat up and you may just grow big enough for the scorpion when we return! 
Finally we took our 3 hour evening flight to Tonga, and it dawned on me, like a harsh desert sunrise, what we were doing and just how little we’d prepared. We’d been so focused on wrapping up life in England we’d just trusted the rest would work out. A bit like when you’re pregnant and spend the whole time reading birthing books, then suddenly find yourself with an actual baby. What to do?
 Maybe it’s something about being in a couple (still a fairly new and unusual situation for me :)) that makes me less organised, none of the normal pressure of being entirely responsible and entirely self reliant. I feel like I got sloppy in my usual packing, missed some crucial bits of first aid perhaps, didn’t pack my usual favourite random travel bits like my backgammon pieces and washing line. We didn’t get round to buying travel insurance till we were in Hong Kong airport and we’ve done next to nothing on research as to where we’re going. I’d usually read a bit of background to a place  but now I have no idea what to expect other than the usual postcard images of tropical islands. As I think I said before though, it’s good to not have expectations, and I guess I have more security traveling as a family unit than usual and can enjoy being completely open to landing somewhere new, feet first.

On arrival at the tiny Tongatapu airport we find the cash point not working. As we queue for our entry visas (under questioning declaring we are carrying spices and lentils) a large chatty Tongan woman kindly gives us enough cash for a taxi to our hotel. She’s never heard of ‘Keliti International Resort’. We sleep along the way, occasionally lifting nodding heads to see silhouettes of waving coconuts in strong winds, stunning bright stars, and the sound of crashing waves. On arrival an old man with a torch heaves himself off the bench to show us to our bungalow. It’s small, clean and basic and great for us with 2 rooms, a bathroom, and a tiny verandah. It feels like we’ve washed up in an odd deserted place, like a hurricane swept through once and not much has been repaired since. Other than an old NZ couple, tanned smiling turtles, we’re the only ones here for a few days awaiting the arrival of Karyn and her boys.


It’s our time for a little holiday. Time to find our feet as a new unit of 4 abroad, to re-group after the ‘trauma’ of packing, leaving home, and saying goodbye to family and dear friends. It’s time for the kids to perhaps think a little on what we are doing and how long we’ll be away from their dad and their best friends.

I know there will be times when they will miss dad lots, and times of homesickness but kids are so in the present. They are happy now, hungry now, bored or occupied now. Before we left so many people would ask if they were looking forward to going, excited about the year ahead and they would nod dutifully as expected. The truth is they were about as excited about going to the swimming pool or the school disco the next day. They don’t have the long vision or concept of time as we do, they are very happy, or not, in the present. That may prove to be a very good and useful thing. For now, here we are with lots of free time in ‘Keliti International Resort’ isolated on a wild stretch of coastline, with nothing international about it, and luckily no hint of a resort.


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