Tonga – a Monument & Some Petroglyphs

Sunday, 12 January 2014


I spent the first week and a half of 2014 in Tonga, departing just as the islands were hit by Cyclone Ian. I’m still waiting to hear the inside story on what happened on Ha’apai, my last stop in Tonga and the island group hardest hit. Meanwhile let’s look at some ancient Tongan historical reminders.

Maka beer label 271◄ Maka beer label with the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui Trilithon. Tonga has no less than four different beers: Outrigger and Popoa are both locally brewed, Kingdom and Maka are both imported. Soon there’ll be a couple more, in the Reload, a popular Nuku’alofa bar, I bumped into Graham, a travelling Scots brewery expert, spending five months in Tonga overhauling one of the island’s breweries.

Ha'amonga'a Maui Trilithon 542

Ha'apai turtle petroglph 271▲ Here’s the real thing, the Ha’amonga ‘a Maui trilithon is Tonga’s Stonehenge. It translates as ‘Mau’s burden’ and stands close to the coast on the main island of Tongatapu. Each of the three large coral rocks weighs 40 tonnes and, like Stonehenge, it’s an interesting mystery how they were raised into place. It was said to be have been built for the 11th Tu’i Tonga and about 100 metres away is the ‘Esi Makafakinanga, a chiefly backrest where he was said to have reclined to watch the monument’s erection.

◄ Just a short stroll from the Sandy Bay Resort on Foa Island in the Ha’apai group, where I stayed while I was in Ha’apai, a slab of stone on the beach is carved with petroglyphs, pictogram rock engravings. This one shows a turtle.

Ha'apai bird petroglyph
▲ And this one a bird. They’re almost at the north-east end of the island and are covered over at high tide.