Only in Samoa

Remember the cute little Fijian airport with outdoor walkway we mentioned? We were going back to the same airport to fly off! The cute airport works on Fiji Time, a term that is just widely used but difficult to describe what it exactly means. It can mean taking delays with cool, chill out, or even earlier than scheduled time, like what happened with our flight. Our flight time to Samoa was changed to depart 40mins earlier, without notice. Luckily we were on time. The aircraft was also changed as well so Yin Ru missed this unique opportunity to fly with a 50 seats turboprop (no a jet aircraft but one with propellers). The flight time would hence be shorter than with propellers aircraft. The flight itself was short, smooth and quite scenic with views over south pacific islands and coral reefs. Inflight we sat next to a man about whom we found out later that he is a VIP in Samoa. We were impressed when he said his kids went overseas to study and he flew to three different countries in the past week. Samoans are rich in comparison to Fijians who can’t afford to fly, one would think. This man, after some research, turned out to be the son of the former prime minister of Samoa, and used to be the chairman of the National Bank of Samoa, Minister for this and that, and runs a consultant company now etc…Definitely no ordinary regular citizen.

Of all the flights we have had, this was the only one that arrived earlier than scheduled. We were prepared to wait 1.5hrs at the airport for our rental car but surprisingly, the staff from the rental company was there waiting for us already! We took our car for the next 8 days, an all-wheel driveresized_IMG_1911_ed Subaru Forester, and drove to hotel near the Wharf to get a ferry to Savai’i (one of the two main islands in Samoa) the next day. After a short drive though impressive villages, all very neatly maintained with colorful gardens in front, open living buildings and, most important, a beautiful church in the center of every village we were quite amazed about this place. Only in Samoa: Pigs, horses or chicken families crossing the main road (there is only one road on the entire island)…Speed limit of 45kmp in cities and 55 anywhere else….Phone and car number plates with a maximum of 5 digits. The main road is also the major walkway for all human (and not just the animals), parking for resized_IMG_2630_edcustomers and vendor place as well as playground for children. There were even waves from the open ocean flushing into the street during high tide an rivers flooding the road. Luckily we suspected that and booked a more solid, all-wheel drive car! That is the funny first impression we have of Samoa. We had our first fale experience (a fale is a traditional small wooden house, usually round shaped and built with local materials such as wood or palm tree leaves for the roof and classically open missing any walls). On our first evening in Samoa we had a cruel battle with a huge cockroach of 5cm. Solution to the cockroach problem: a mighty fast knockdown spray that saved YinRu’s sleep that night. Next day we got up early at 7am to, supposedly, catch the 10am ferry. At the ferry terminal we were told there wasn’t any 10am ferry (funny, the hotel and rental car company told us there would be). We got stand by tickets for 12pm. So we got up so early and now we had no idea what to do. resized_IMG_1887_edGood thing was that we had a car! So we wandered around, there was one road anyways so no worry of getting lost. We went to a “supermarket” (small store at a petrol station), bought some fruits on the street and came back to ferry terminal to wait. It was hot and humid but: Yaaay we got a 12pm ticket in the end. It was amazing how they managed to get the cars loaded in the boat. We were still queuing up and there were a few cars lining up behind us when we thought that the ferry is more than full but yeah, somehow the squeezed in more and more cars. We have never seen a ferry so fully packed that one could hardly cross and walk around, resized_IMG_1928_edsome people even being unable to leave their vehicles and staying in there for the ride. We arrived in Savai’i an hour later. One could practically not get lost: there’s only one loop road on the entire island which is about 40 times 70km “big”. We had some local lunch and drove to our fale for next two nights with a short stop in a village destroyed by a volcano eruption and the lava flooding about 100years ago. We sweated like never before, even at dinner at the beachfront we were both sweating. Samoa was just too hot and humid for us and: we have probably never experienced such severe mosquito plague. There were literally everywhere and very aggressive.

The resort served us funny breakfast with white toast and no jam available. But well, at least there were fruits. Pineapple on white toast wasn’t so bad. We paid a visit to the district hospital, a famous sight in Samoa. Ok it is not a sight. We just needed some medication to stop Roman’s diarrhea and abdominal pain since it didn’t ease of after more than 5 days and we ran out of supplies. Certainly running to the toilet 12+ a day isn’t very supportive to travel either. At the district hospital nurses are doctors, pharmacists, caregivers and resized_IMG_1971_edcleaners; all-in-one. After the hospital visit we did a loop drive at western tip of Savai’i through probably the most rural area of the country. Most people here still live on a subsistence economy: they do not follow any regular work to earn money but plant crops and have animals or hunt/fish to survive. Fishing is usually done by spear fishing and apnea diving (no oxygen supply, just a deep breath and down you go). They own very basic houses and live a truly simple life. We did a tree top canopy walk which resized_IMG_1963_edbasically walking on self-made ladders. It was funny because in Australia where we did a tree top walk too we saw signs everywhere that one should be careful, no more than 8people and other precautions on the ladders at one time. And here no one really cared and the walk, about 30 meters above ground, was secured by self-made natural plant fiber ropes. On the way back there was a probably 80 year old man who did not speak English and asked us to fetch him back to his home. We passed by some local fishermen fishing with spear, children playing next to the street without wearing clothes and endless bushland. It was a very hot day so when we got back at resort we jumped into ocean to have a bath. We were traveling on the other side of the world and it was such a coincident to have Swiss as neighbors! Time to practice some German for YinRu and exchange about travel experiences…

After two nights at Va-i-Moana we were hitting the road again – this time the South Coast Road aka Highway 55kmp speed limit. Samoa is not meant to be explored at 100km/h, the road conditions, the pigs/piglets/chickens/dogs on the road and kids justresized_IMG_2035_ed don’t allow to do that. The whole drive from one end to the other on this road would probably take 1.5 to 2 hours. Since we took our time to drive leisurely, stopped every now and then to take photos of the villages and visited the famous Alofa aga Blowhole, it took us almost 4hours. The villages we passed by were generally small and simple, sometimes you wonder if the houses would not fall apart if a storm hits the place. People were very friendly, children waving at you whenever you pass by. Though in some countries it is taboo to take photos of their houses (especially if it is not a mansion), in Samoa we found out that people are pretty ok with it.

The blowholes (lava tubes at the shore which, when waves at high tide hit the coast, resized_IMG_2060_edforce water to explode into huge fountains high in the air) where spectacular and is also one of the highlights or most visited spots in Samoa. As YinRu liked the blowhole in New Zealand a lot, she was looking forward to this one. As we turned into the gravel road that would lead us to the blowhole, an old man came to us and asked us if we were going to the blowhole. Naturally we said yes. He then hopped on to our car. Hmm alright we thought. As we have also given a local a lift before, we thought this time is the same. The funny old man’s name was Tofa, which means goodbye in Samoan. He repeated the word “Alofaaga” a few times and laughed. He also explained the word “Alofaaga” means “ever and forever” (his exact words). Tofa got out of the car and collected coconuts on the way to the blowhole. We arrived at the blowhole after a 5minute drive. WOW. How impressive it was! The water shot up high into sky, at least reaching the height of three storey-building. Tofa threw the coconuts that he had collected into the blowhole with the right timing, and boom, the coconuts resized_IMG_1980_edwere blasted high into the sky dozens of meters high! Tofa studied the waves and when the waves were big enough, he repeated the coconut-stunt a few times. When the “show” was over, he asked us for 30Tala. Ah-haa, we knew it was weird that he “volunteered” to throw us the show. Anyways we paid him 25Tala (although it was a lot for Samoan standard) because he was a really funny man and he probably had a whole family to feed. We would love to stay longer there to admire the magnificent blowhole but the scorching sun did not allow us to do so so we left the spot. We even provided pick-up and drop-off service for Tofa.

Samoans are religious and Sunday is Church Day- which means “Tote Hose” – no shops were open and some sights closed etc. We managed to reach our hotel at 2pm to get some food. Our room was a small basic room built on water, where one could watch huge fish swim whilst sitting on the balcony. The setting of the fale on the jungle’s edge at the water front with no clear walkways or any infrastructure was indeed special, resized_IMG_2425_edhowever the room was very dated and dirty. Well yeah, maybe that is the way to experience Samoan life. We would actually the room more when the weather is nice and you could sit on balcony admiring the fish, but too bad when we were there it practically rained the whole day and night. The rain was strong that we were worried our coconut leaved roof would not withstand and might collapse. Luckily it did not happen. The walk to the toilet in complete darkness over roots and mud while rain was pouring down was another unique experience.

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