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Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Across the lagoon and into the trees (apologies to Ernest Hemingway)

Escape To The Wild: Kevin McCloud meets the British family who've moved 10,000 miles away from home to live on a tiny desert island in the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific


Way back in 2006 I travelled to the tiny Kingdom of Tonga to live for what I thought would be two weeks of tropical bliss with a German couple on the even tinier island of Fofoa in Vava'u.

In exchange for allowing me to camp on 'their' island, I lugged with me some 30kg and $600 worth of presents which they had requested: electric angle-grinder, spare parts, tools, books, some foodstuff, even several packets of tampons (she had ordered "extra large!").

They stripped me of everything on the very first day; it took a few more days before they had also almost stripped me of my sanity. Under the heels of their German jackboots and within earshot of their 'domestic bliss', I was not only hungry for pleasanter company but also for more food and drink than had been sparingly dished out to me (remember Oliver Twist's “Please, sir, I want some more”?)

When after only four days I almost begged to be returned to civilisation, their raised-eyebrow response was, "Vat, you not like it vis uns?" Maybe they read this blog and finally get their answer ☺

I was reminded of this little misadventure when I discovered the above video clip and these photos of the Von Engelbrechtens family and their Tonga Beach House which seems to have become a highly successful business venture after their original Barefoot Tonga proved to be a bit of a flop.

Karyn and Boris Von Engelbrechtens and their three kids built this amazing clifftop house "next door" to the German couple on an abandoned building site (one of many strewn across the Tongan islands; Susie Moss calls them the "Islands of Broken Dreams") which at the time of my visit looked like this:

What an inspiration to anybody who ever wanted to live on a remote island in the South Pacific! Their friend Susie Moss thinks so, too, as she writes here.

Lo and behold, she even met my "friends" whom she describes thus:
"As expected, Elkie was sharp, loud, and bossy and barked orders to her long-suffering conveniently half death [sic? half dead or half deaf, or both?] husband. When the waters got tricky and we had to negotiate crossing the reef she stood bodicea [sic] like in the boat firmly directing the way, which sometimes Werner chose firmly to ignore. I have grown to be very fond of them both and their amusing Germanic ways." - read the full article here.

Very fond? Amusing Germanic ways? Ah well, Susie, you didn't have to live with them 24/7 - or rather 24/4 because I ran away after 4 days.


P.S. Check the Beach House's facebook page here.

P.P.S. Seems like Boris and Karyn are trying to sell off part of their land - click here.