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Friday, January 9, 2015

The end of an exquisite daydream


A blue sea sparkling under a blue sky, palm trees bending in a warm breeze. A picture of perfect paradise, virtually everybody's dream to escape. And yet, people here face the same pressures as elsewhere. Whether you're in a big city or in a tropical island paradise, the pressures of being alive are always there, always weighing you down. And for expatriate Europeans, it's loneliness and the narrowness of their isolated existence. Once you're educated, once your mind is expanded, subsistence on a remote little island is simply unacceptable.

And yet, Villa Mamana on the remote tropical island of Telekivava'u in the Kingdom of Tonga has been a most exquisite daydream for all involved: the original creator Joe Altenhein, the odd island-sitter (which included my friend Horst Berger who first told me about it), and the subsequent owner for the last dozen-or-so years, Matt Muirhead, who's just sent me this email:


Aloha Peter,

Well old chap we have come to the end of the line with Villa Mamana. We tried for years to make a go on a very limited budget. We made some progress when there, but suffered when not there.

This past year our houses and property were ransacked. Locals stole everything they could fit in boats. We don't know who it was but have our suspicions. The loss is too much to overcome. The jungle and culture wins.

We are trying to dispose of what is left and will turn the page. Tonga is impossible to do business in. The culture sad to say is not trustworthy and without a trusted local no one can operate.

Someday we will visit Australia and hope to see you on the porch. Or if your travels take you to Hawaii or Santa Cruz let us know.

Thank you for your faithful friendship and support.

Aloha nui loa a ka Ko and Malo e lele.

Matt Muirhead



The domain name villamamanatonga.com will soon expire but I will continue to look after its pages and blog here and here in memory of a wonderful dream which has run its course. As Joe Altenhein once wrote, "We all had the best time of our lives on the island, and will always miss it".

Villa Mamana after Cyclone Ian in January 2014

Feel free to visit the website, Joe and Matt, whenever you want to shed a quiet tear.