I cannot believe that Tuvalu is a real United Nations member country. Technically, they have the same voting power as Germany or another large nation and that blows me away. It is technically the second smallest population wise country (less Vatican City) in the world behind nearby Nauru but with Tuvalu being split up over three atolls, it feels like the smallest. Fongafale, the main island, has about 4000 extremely nice people on it but they all pretty much do nothing all day and give new meaning to the word lazy. They sleep a lot; both on hammocks all over the road, on the ground or on the airstrip because that’s where they can get the crosswinds in the oppressive heat. It’s really amazing to watch. In fact, I will go ahead and call Tuvalu the single most boring place in the world. There is really nothing to do-at least anything that could sustain you for more than an hour or so. With that assessment, I will state for the record that I will never return to Tuvalu but I am mostly glad I came; mainly because they asked if I was carrying animal semen! see photo below row v…
The Funafuti Atoll is the largest atoll in Tuvalu and is the home of the administrative buildings and the airstrip on Fongafale, which is where I stayed at the Vaiaku Lagi Hotel; which is the only hotel in the country. The hotel is essentially a glorified motel you would find in the States but without amenities such as TV, but the AC did work and the shower too so I was happy. What it did have was an excellent location right on the lovely lagoon (below).
Atolls like Tuvalu are basically necklaces of islands that form an ovular shape of sorts and the water in between is generally very calm and is called a lagoon. Conversely, the outside of the islands are open ocean with huge breaks and violent crashes so it creates a cool scene when you see them collide. The hotel has a concrete jetty that I used to jump in and out of the lagoon to beat the supreme heat of the sun. Sunsets were especially beautiful and watching the little kids play is always fun too. The only real problem is that you can’t really stand where you would enter so after a while of paddling around you get tired and bored, so you go back in. It’s fine for the sunsets or first thing in the morning.
The two sunsets I saw in Tuvalu were very pleasant, not fiery and magical like you’d see in Fiji but good and relaxing nonetheless over a cold VB (Victoria Bitter-Australian Beer). Yes, I think VB tastes like piss just like the rest of the world but the choice on Tuvalu is very limited and it still makes for a good sundowner.
Once the sun goes down, there is really nothing to do. The bar in my hotel had some locals come to drink and start yelling at the television. They have a special price and took advantage as such. Tuvaluans like to drink-a lot. They were fairly entertaining and helped pass the time. The food at the hotel was OK going down but brutal coming out so be aware of what you’re eating as everything tastes like chicken but apparently little actually is chicken. The restaurant choices are extremely limited on the island so you’re kind of stuck.
I did meet a few interesting people at the hotel. Mind you the island gets literally 100 tourists a year and only 1000 foreigners total, most of which are NGO types and church missionaries. I met some of each that were interesting.
First, I met a Bangladeshi guy who spoke with a perfect British accent, went to UMass Amherst for undergrad and then Cambridge for Grad School, lives in Bangkok, and works for the UN. He was here because apparently Tuvalu thinks the UN has forgotten about them and he is here doing some fence mending and fielding requests for more money. The way I was explained it by him is that Tuvalu got some $1.7 million from them last year and nothing happened. Apparently they brought in a bunch of high priced consultants to write new policies that nobody will adhere to anyway so the money was wasted. However, since there is really no infrastructure anyway, if you split that cash up between all the residents of the island-that would average over $14k a person which is plenty for them to live on here. Ugh the UN and how they waste money, I could go on forever about that!
I also met a very nice Mormon couple from California who were here doing missionary work for the relatively large (for the size of this island) Mormon population on Tuvalu. I was unaware of that and several things about Mormons and they educated me which I appreciated (religion is really not my thing). I can’t remember if I stated in my Tonga summary about how many Mormons there are in that country but it’s the majority…who knew? Anyway, they were very nice people and the only other Westerners I saw the whole time I was here.
During the day there are a few other things to do, some of which are pretty cool. First, you must hire a motorcycle. The island is long, skinny and shaped like a boomerang (above) and there is only one road really so it’s nice to cruise up and down it. You can see both the lagoon and ocean at the same time almost always. It takes about 25 minutes north from town to the end which is the dump (below-they have a major problem on the island with what to do with all their trash-aside from the fact they may become the first nation to disappear from Global warming) and about 15 minutes south to the end of the island where you can see the next island in the atoll. It almost looks like you can walk across to it but if something happened like you slip and injure yourself, there isn’t anybody around to help you and I have no idea if there are people on the next island. I drove up and down the island at least 10 times by the way.
The other driving related thing that’s pretty cool is that you can actually drive on the airstrip (below). So I am speeding up and down the runway like Top Gun style which I really enjoyed. The kids are playing soccer and other games and others are sleeping while I zip by, it was pretty fun. Other than those two things and swimming a little, the best things to do are use the Internet which was surprisingly quick (but no wireless), and just watch the kids play. Did I mention there’s nothing to do here?
To be fair, I have heard that you can charter a boat to the Conservation area of the lagoon where you can see turtles and manta rays but good luck setting that up. Lonely Planet says ask at the hotel about details. So I do and they look at me like I’m nuts and were basically zero help. It was funny because the ladies at the desk had never heard such a question before and stumbled to figure out who to call. They didn’t know a number so one says to call the operator. So she does and it doesn’t work and I could hear what’s going on. She then turns and says, the operator is too busy to give me the number. I smile and just get back on my bike and cruise some more. That’s the typical laid back, lazy, SLOW, lifestyle here in Tuvalu. I am pretty laid back, but this is too much for me and I am psyched to head back to Fiji for 2 more days. Did I mention I can’t believe Tuvalu is a real country?!
I am obviously behind on my posts and I am actually done with Fiji after two more days on Beachcomber Island. It was my second time on Beachcomber, the first was 7 years ago and I still love it except for the communal sleeping dorms. I am definitely getting too old for that crap as there is no shutting up 20 years old Brits on gap year trips! I am now on Vanuatu but unfortunately sick as a dog. Something has not agreed with me and I am having trouble keeping anything down so hopefully this improves ASAP as I am very dehydrated, weak and just feel like shit!