Just when I walked towards the busstation, a light trickle started to come down from the sky. While we were driving towards the far northeast of the island of Tongatapu, I could see rain continue to fall on the windshield of the bus, and hoped that by the time we would reach Niutoua, it would have subsided. When the contrary was true, I tried to find an umbrella in the village, but they did not have the foldable one, so I just sat under the roof of Sista Beauty Saloon, knowing that sooner or later the rain would stop. While waiting, thunder rolled in, and the sky looked more grey than before. A kid was playing in the rain, having a lot of fun. I was calculating how long I could stay here before it was getting too late: I also wanted to visit the blowholes on the other side of the island. When the rain eased a little bit, I walked to my destination of the morning: the ancient trilithon just outside the village. Already on the way, the rain got worse, and I took shelter under a tin roof which did let water through. One of the souvenir sellers, who was in a nearby building waiting for customer, kindly offered her umbrella for my visit, but I still hoped things would get better.
When I thought they had, I walked to the thick coralline slabs of the square gate, and around and under it, and then to the backrest a little further below. To reach it, I had to wade through a muddy pond, and I was cursing the weather: the rain had only gotten worse. I walked back to the beauty saloon, to clean up my camera and lens, and when I did, the rain miraculously stopped, and it finally started to clear. So, after I was ready, I was off to the trilithon again, and this time, enjoyed my visit much more. The few tourists who had been there before and stayed less than a couple of minutes, were surely missing a great site. This is Tonga's Stonehenge; after a lot of speculation about the purpose of the trilithon (was it a symbol of two sons of the king, or the gateway to his palace?), it is all but sure that the gate was erected around 1200 CE by the 11th king of Tonga, Tuitatui, to tell the seasons. The sun has been found to rise and set in perfect alignment with the lines formed between the gate and the sea.
Now that the rain had stopped, it was easier to get close to the monument; its coral past was clearly visible, the rough and sharp holes and surface were still there, after all these centuries above the ground. According to legend, the slabs were taken to Tongatapu from the island of Wallis, but one would wonder why the Tongans would have taken all that trouble if Tongatapu itself is surrounded by plenty of coral. In any case, the trilithon, or Ha'amonga a Maui, or burden of the Maui, is an impressive feat, if alone in the practical question: how was it ever erected at the end of the 12th century? I walked back to the backrest, or 'Esi Makafaakinanga, another slab of thick coral limestone, against which the powerful king would rest, probably also for kava ceremonies, and be sure he could not be stabbed from behind. Those were the times! The capital of Tonga was still close to here, at Heketa, and would only later be moved to Mu'a and then to the present location of Nuku'alofa. I was very happy I had waited, walked back to Niutoua, and watched a play of pool until a bus came by to take me back to town.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Ha'amonga 'a Maui Trilithon (Tonga). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Ha'amonga 'a Maui Trilithon. Read more about this site.