Sunday, 29 June 2014

A week in Samoa, June 2014

We arrived fairly late in the evening, the heat and humidity hitting us the minute we stepped out of the plane. It was a jolly, chaotic arrival; our taxi wasn't there so various negotiations followed and we ended up being driven the 35kms to our hotel in Apia by some local guy who was keen to fulfil our every wish. Our room was pleasant enough and had precious air con and a pet gecko living in the wardrobe. We stepped across the road to a lively bar and tried Samoan oka (raw fish in coconut milk), and I had my first and only cocktail, though I was keen to try the 'Beam me up Scottie'. We were definitely in holiday mode right from the start.

In the morning we went snorkelling in the Palolo Marine Reserve which is 5 mins walk from our hotel. Fantastic snorkelling amongst tiny bright tropical fish which swim in and around the living coral growing all around this deep marine trench. The beaches are white broken coral, with a backdrop of coconut palms. Mike loved the shells which pick themselves up and wander off, stopping the minute you take notice of them (hermit crabs). No photos.

In the afternoon we drove over to the other (south) side of the island. Outside Apia, there seems to be nothing but small villages, and there are very few roads. Men walk along the roadside with machetes, pigs wander across, children smile and wave at the car.

Driving from Apia in the north to the South Coast Road we travelled over the jungle covered mountains, all very green and lush, and arrived at Coconuts, one of a handful of resorts in Samoa. It was a collection of traditional beach fales on stilts and some on the beach, but of course unlike the village fales, these had toilets and showers. Tourists wandered around wearing sarongs and drinking fancy cocktails, just like on TV

We had a good nose around and wandered up the beach as far as we could till we reached an impassable lagoon. We saw a beautiful flash of red, a cardinal red honey eater, our first tropical bird

The buses are all painted bright colours and have slogans written on them mostly in English. The bus station in Apia is next to the flea market and near a good coffee shop
Vailima. Home of Robert Louis Stevenson for the last 4 years of his life. The Samoans loved him for respecting their culture and helping their people. Our lovely tour guide spoke of him with much love and respect, and when she finished with an RLS poem in Samoan song, many of us were wiping our eyes.

Bleached out photo of a rather beautiful swimming place, the Piula Cave Pool. We were travelling from Apia to Lalomanu on the far south eastern end of Upolu, and stopped here for a swim in its clear pure water. It was next to the beach but was fresh water, so colder and more refreshing than the sea, with these rather beautiful fales. Here you can see how they're made. The villagers live in these open walled, oval shaped huts. They have woven matting tied around the edges which can be rolled down in wet weather. they are really nothing more than sleeping ledges and can be rented for next to nothing.

The villagers are terrific gardeners, the climate obviously helps a lot as everything must grow like mad here, but they are proud of their gardens. We recognised many of the plants from garden centres back home.

Lalomanu Beach. Just perfect. Unfortunately our accommodation was not as near the beach as we expected, but way up on the cliff above, a drive away, and only the open fales were free, ie. those without walls, toilet etc. Still it was a good place to stay, everyone ate together as breakfast and dinner were included in the price, so it was a sociable place with very friendly staff.

Early morning swim, before breakfast. Fabulous clear water. You can just see a line of surf on the horizon made by waves breaking on the coral reef. On our second and last night here we took part in a Kava ceremony. Kava is made from ground up root, mixed with water, looks like dirty gritty dish water and tastes foul. Used by locals, it is supposed to relax you. Our tongues felt a bit numb but we'd had a couple of drinks anyway and didn't really feel any different from it. The ceremony was fun though.

To Sua Ocean Trench, the most fabulous swimming spot. Sea water comes in under ground somehow, it's pretty deep and has tiny tropical fish swimming around. Blossom falls into the pool from the surrounding vegetation and lilac flowers were float ing on the surface of the water. Climbing down the ladder is easier than it looks. We loved it here.

Looking east along the south coast.

Resting in our little fale between the cliff edge and the pool. The gardens here are beautiful

By some bizarre coincidence we met a girl we knew down in the pool. She was a German we'd met on our second night on the Banks Peninsular Walkway. So we finally met the boyfriend she's been so worried about contacting that night. She took our photo in the pool
We spent the next day travelling back up to Apia to buy our ferry tickets, then across to the western end of Upolu to catch the ferry to Savai'i, the largest island. We spent out first night in the Jetover Hotel, sadly no longer run by the Fa'afafines, then drove right across the island to Asau, where we stayed at Vai i Moanes for two nights. 
Samoa is a very religious country, with many churches of various denominations and different architectural styles. On Sundays the villagers dress in white and you are supposed to reduce your speed to 15 kms an hour when passing a church
Travelling along the north coast road we drove across huge lava fields. The last eruptions were in 1911-14 and evidence is everywhere. It was a bit like walking on black cinder toffee

Hard to see but here a church has been enveloped in lava. No-one was killed during the eruption

Beautiful waves and folds of lava underfoot

A fale sits on top of  a lava mound. Lush vegetation soon covers all but the biggest lava flows, but walls are built of broken up lava, and many of the gardens were just cracked lava with plants growing inbetween
Our last stop, Vai'i Moana, a beautiful little local resort. We're out of season so hardly any tourists and extremely attentive, helpful staff, run by a sweet man called No'oh (not easy to say).
We finally get our perfect beach fale, with little verandah, mosquito net, and our own toilet and shower, all for WST160 a night (about £40)

Our front garden and verandah

Taking it easy. Last thing you wanted to do was sit in the sun

We had dinner outside by candlelight every evening and then went for a stroll along the jetty.
Falealupo Rainforest Reserve, on the far north western tip of Savai'i. Mike carefully making his way along the Canopy Walkway suspended high above the jungle floor. Little lizards ran ahead of us along the handrails. We then climbed even higher up an enormous ancient banyan tree

Jungle road on the NW tip of the island

There was live coral close to shore here so we could paddle amongst the bright tropical fish
Paddling in the water with a white coral sand beach contrasting with black volcanic rock
There are very few tourist sights in Samoa, the blow holes we wanted to see and compare to those we'd seen in Spain on the Camino. Here I am on a burning hot day waiting for the coconut man to do his stuff . . .

. . . and here it is in action. He throws coconut husk into the hole just when a wave is rolling in. If he catches it right, the water bursts up at a terrific rate shooting the coconut way up into the air. He deserved his round of applause, even though he did try to rip us off by another WST40
Passing one of the larger villages we came across a game of Kirikiti in action, so had to take a photo. It's cricket Samoan style

A rather lovely fresh water pool it took ages to find. It was our last day and we drove along the south coast road to get back to Saleloga for the ferry back across to Upolu to fly home. Our evening flight out was cancelled and we ended up back in Apia getting to bed at 5am in a ghastly hotel, finally flying out the next morning at 11.45. A bad end to a beautiful holiday.

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic looking place and quite colourful too. Very picturesque. Love the blow holes and looks like fun. Hope all good with you :-)