The Sinking Nation of Tuvalu
Rugby is one of many activities on the airstrip
When flying into Tuvalu, there is no other way out than flying back to where you came from. Fiji Airways is the only airline that flies to and from the country, which is only done twice a week. The rest of the time, the airstrip is open to the public and filled with people playing sports, doing yoga or simply meeting up with their scooters. It is the center of the island, and part of the around ten kilometers of paved road (shortest in the World) that the country has.
For some of the eleven thousand inhabitants in the country, it also feels like the end of the World. Tuvalu is the lowest laying country in the World and the first one to sink (or flood, depending of how you look at it) should the ocean rise due to climate changes. I don’t know if that was the reason why some of the locals were drinking from early morning until late night- it might also have been because the Tuvaluans were celebrating their 37th year of independence from the British while we were there. The president of Kiribati was on the same plane as me and four other tourists that had shown up for the independence day celebrations. As we landed all passengers were asked to stay seated until the president had left the plane, which was fine as we then could sit comfortably in our airplane seats and watching him being welcomed in a proper Polynesian way with lay being put around his neck while half of the country were watching from the ground.
And the Tuvaluans were indeed friendly people. Not in the same way as Vanuatuans who were the ones who asked questions and wanted to get in contact, but when taking initiative to the conversation I was often offered a beer and a cigarette as an appreciation. Apparently saying no to these offers was highly offending so I ended up spending some of the days having early beers with locals, then relaxing two hours during the 4-6pm siesta and then being offered beers from some fishermen I shared room with that had come on land for a few days after almost two months of tuna fishing. But it was a way to pass time in the Worlds fourth smallest country where it felt like time stood still. I skateboarded up and down the country, tried to use my hammock as a kite for skateboarding on the airstrip and other than there was just relaxing, reading and watching the rugby World Cup on TV. The lack of things to do is probably the reason why it is also the third least visited country in the World (with less than 300 tourists a year) although I think this is a bit undeserved as it has both beautiful beaches and friendly people, which is all you need for an enjoyable and relaxing holiday in the middle of the Pacific.
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