Right now I have samoan music playing via Youtube and I'm going to start packing my bag just as soon as I'm done with this post. I love the days leading up to a trip away, even a trip as short as this one.
When I have a moment to daydream I'm thinking about what I'll pack, where I might stay, should we hire a car or stick to the cheap and cheerful (but less flexible) wooden buses, will my friends fall in love with Samoa as I have? Most importantly I am daydreaming about the food - poke, oka, luau, palusami, fresh coconut water, baked pawpaw, pineapple pies...? I'm putting on weight just thinking about it.
Back in June/July I spent 10 days over there and only got around to blogging about day one. Fail. Here's the highlights of the rest of the trip - I'll be visiting a couple of these places again next week as well as places I went to way back in 2009 and hopefully some new ones too.
I'll have to keep it brief with lots of pictures because I have crippling RSI in my wrist at the moment that not even an ice pack and copious amounts of nurofen can rid of the pain, so typing = not a lot of fun. It's even keeping me from my knitting :-(
The night spent in my overwater fale was rather interesting in a it's-very-windy-so-the-chalet-is-rocking-quite-a-lot-and-the-waves-lapping-at-the-poles-feel-rather-large, kind of way. I set my alarm early to watch the sunrise before sleeping in a little more and then indulging in french toast for breakfast (included). The morning I whiled away on the deck, slipping into the water every now and then to cool off and check out the fish. The snorkeling isn't great here at Lusia's Lagoon Chalets but the view of the ferries going past is nice, the swimming is lovely and they have kayaks for guest's use. That's the best part of holidaying by yourself with no cell phone, no computer and not even a watch - the chance to utterly relax.
By midday it was time for me to hit the road and by hit the road I mean amble 5 minutes up the road to the local market. I bought a lavalava (you should really wear them when swimming near a village), a coconut and pineapple pies. Then it was onto a bus for the hour-ish ride up to Manase.
I based myself in Manase for 5 nights or so in a fale at Vacations. There were 2 reasons for this. Firstly, in 2009 we stayed there for only one night and I remember thinking to myself, this is the beach I want to come back to for a week. Secondly, the only dive outfit on the island is 5 minutes down the road and I wanted to dive my first shipwreck.
In the end I did 3 dives. The shipwreck was fantastic. It's a wooden ship that sunk on the reef back in the late 19th century. It's sitting in only 20m of water at its deepest. Part of it is sitting in only 5m so you can actually see it while snorkeling.
The other dive was in the coral gardens. Here we watched a massive turtle feeding for a good 5 or 10 minutes. It was so graceful and beautiful. That image will be in my head forever.
The next night we returned to the wreck to dive it at night. Under the water at night is a whole other world. I spotted some creatures - moray eels, lobsters, lion fish etc. Mostly I was making sure I didn't turn around to find my buddy's light was no longer right next to me.
So all in all the diving was great. They aren't the best dive sites having been damaged by a hurricane not too long ago but there's plenty of fish and corals to look at. For me just the feeling of being so far under the water (the warm water - 28 degrees! It's like a bath) and having that feeling of weightlessness as you achieve neutral boyancy - being able to rise or descend just by inhaling or exhaling - that is the part of diving I love.
What else did I get up to in Manase? After watching the sunrise every morning I read a book before breakfast. By my third day I was onto my second book - lucky they had a bookshelf you could borrow from so Marian Keyes kept me company on the beach. I whiled away hours sitting on the beach or in the water, sipping a cool vailima or wine, knitting or chatting to the locals.
I took the bus to Safune to cool off in the pool where a famous Samoan legend is set - Sina and the eel. There's two pools actually - one each for men and women. I started to walk back which gave kids finishing school a chance to chat with the lone palagi and then hitched a ride the rest of the way with some Australian tourists I'd met the day before.
On Sunday I went to church. All of the women were dressed in white and wore hats. The singing was amazing. I tried to understand the sermon but mostly picked up the words for of the father, of the mother, quite a few times. I had to scramble for change when the tithing plate got passed around. Communion was red cordial and round wine biscuits. After the service the pastor thanked me for coming and I got to try out some of my more polite vocab on him.
Sunday lunch was a highlight - a buffet of breadfruit, taro, corned beef, chop suey, mutton flaps, fresh fish, chicken and much more. I squeezed in seconds and then had to have a siesta in the shade.
My final day there I headed off before it got too hot and walked the 10km to the lava fields via feeding turtles (amazing, even when they mistook my toe for a tasty hunk of papaya), the church where the first bible was translated into Samoan, and past heaps of locals, mostly kids, that wanted to stop and chat.
After visiting the churches destroyed in the eruption around 1905 I had to wait about an hour for the bus. Some kids came to join me so we ate oranges together and they sang me some songs. I got so distracted I missed the last bus to Lano. I started walking and then hitched a ride with a lovely mormon man. Finally I got to Lano - Jolean's fales. My gosh, this place is beautiful, the people so friendly, the meals fantastic and the price, dirt cheap. 50 tala per night with 3 meals a day included.
I spent the evening drinking vodka with a Beatles-loving German backpacker named Sven. We polished off a full bottle of Samoan-made coconut vodka, no mixers, just straight. My head hurt the next morning but it still didn't stop me from watching the sunrise.
The next morning a local came over to tell me there was a tsunami alert out - apparently there was an earthquake somewhere near New Zealand. "What time is it expected to hit?" I asked. "Ten", he replied. I checked the time. It was eleven. No tsunami for us then, thank goodness, but everyone in Apia apparently had to evacuate up the hill. When I was there in 2009 there was a warning out too that I didn't hear about until afterwards - the wave ended up being only 20 centimetres but only 6 months later the big one hit.
As much as I wanted to stay longer at Jolean's, I had only 2 nights left and really wanted to see Manono Island this time around.
Alright, my hand needs rest. I'll fill in the final 3 days of Manono and Apia tomorrow. I hope you enjoyed the pictures. I'm leaning towards Niue for a holiday next year but if I find cheap enough flights I wouldn't mind spending a week lying on the beach at Joelean's with a good book or 3.