Mounting Mount Talau

It’s supposedly the highest point of Vava’u, although a look at the map gave me some doubts about that truth. It’s a table shaped ridge that has been pushed just a tad further into the heavens than the rest of the limestone slabs by the uplifting forces that have created this island maze. The Pacific tectonic plate is pushed down into the earth’s mantle by its Australian counterpart in a large-scale tug of war, creating not only the Tongan archipelago by lifting this side of the grinding encounter, but also the Tongan Trench, which sports the second deepest spot on the planet’s ocean floor. You could, it you so desired, dive down to over ten kilometers of depth for a truly bone crushing experience. This groove in the earths crust also carved out a freeway for the astonishing annual migration of the Humpback whales, who come up in April May from the krill rich feeding grounds in Antarctica to mate and rise their young in the warm waters of Tonga. In November they will be heading back, after a six-month fast. They apparently barely eat while in the tropics. All this is part of the lore of modern science’s rational and always business like look at things. A little more colorful is the following explanation of why Mount Talau is flat, told by Tupou Kupu Sailoame:

A very, very long time ago, some tevolo (mischievous spirits) from Samoa were looking out over the oceans from their tall mountains. Their mountains were so high that they could see everything around them, except that is, whenever they looked south towards Tonga, Mt Talau stood in the way of their view. “We will go and steal the top of that mountain,” the Samoan tevolo planned, “then we will add its height to our mountain, so we can see all of the world without any obstructions.”

One night, because tevolo are only able to be out during the night, the Samoan tevolo came to Vava’u and taking out their hele pele (bushknife) started to cut away the top of the mountain. The people of Vava’u seeing what the Samoan tevolo were trying to do, started crowing like roosters as loudly as they could. They hoped to fool the Samoan tevolo into thinking that the sun was rising. However the tevolo did not fall for the trick and finished cutting off the top of Mt Talau, and prepared to carry it back to Samoa.

“We need help from our own tevolo!” cried the people of Vava’u. They sent a request to ‘Eau where a tevolo named Tafakula lived. Tafakula was very famous for her cunning ways and she quickly went to the eastern side of the island where the sun rises. She then bent over, lifted up her skirt and exposed her buttocks. The Samoan tevolo seeing the bright light reflecting off Tafakula’s exposed buttocks thought it was the sun rising in the east. They instantly dropped the top of Mt Talau and fled back to Samoa. The theft had been prevented. The top of Mt Talau has been flat ever since and what was once the top can be seen just southwest of Mt Talau today – it is now known as the island of Lotuma.

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