Friday, August 10, 2012

Fa'a Samoa

Time was sliding by as we continued to learn the town of Apia and chip away at our ever growing lists. We were getting sucked into the easy dock life when our BadBoy wifi antenna decided to stop working. It was definitely time to get off the boat and to explore Upolu Island a little bit outside of Apia. First, we visited the flea market and haggled over a few souvenirs. Next, we took the self guided walking tour around the peninsula on the west end of Apia Harbor. Our big exploration of Upolo was taking the local buses to the SE side of the island. Most people that come here decide to rent car for a day (125T minimum) or take a day long guided taxi ride around the entire island (200 T was the least expensive price that we were repeatedly offered away from the taxi shack at the harbor). However, that is not how we tend to like to explore, so we decided to try out the bus system. The buses here are not set up for touring, there is no schedule and times change daily but we made it work by picking just one goal to explore on the other side. The bus was an adventure in itself- set up to bring people from the other side into Apia to shop, the earliest bus we could catch was at 1030 (not quite an early morning), leaving us a mere half hour to enjoy our goal before that bus headed to Apia once again for the last trip of the day. We decided to take our chances that we could find another way to get home that evening, and really, would it be so bad if we had to find place to stay on the other side for a night?

The brightly painted old school bus, packed with locals, assured us that Jesus was the man, and sported varnished ceiling, wooden seats, and the forward area was hung with feather boas and lights flashing with the beat of the fun loud mostly American music. After a quick detour to the hardware store to pick up several bags of cement for one of the passengers, at 1030 we were finally underway. The bus took us about 15-miles literally along the water’s edge of the E coast of Upolo Island, slowing frequently at speed bumps that marked village limits and stopping at several smaller towns along the way. We were reminded of Nicaragua as we watched a mother feeding her infant Samoan Coca-cola straight from the glass bottle. Eventually we turned away from the ocean onto Le Mafa Pass Road that took us up, up, and up into waterfall filled steep tropical forests before dropping us back down, again literally to the waters edge, where we were driven along the southern coast of the windward side of the island. Not surprisingly, the bus raced by our “stop,” but a local nicely pulled the stop wire and the driver reversed the several hundred yards back to the turn off for our destination: To Sua Ocean Trench.

To Sua is made up of two deep trenches. One is accessible for swimming and connects underground to the other trench as well as the ocean. A sturdy wooden ladder leads from the surface down into a brackish-water-filled pool. Strong currents flow in and out through a small tube connecting to the ocean and cold water filters above ground creating the unique environment. Since we were there at low tide, Chris adventured with his snorkel out to the ocean and back again through the tight water filled cave. The above ground area surrounding the trenches have been turned into an idyllic tourism destination with lovely gardens surround the trenches and superb views from small huts overlooking the ocean. A nearly indistinguishable footpath to the W drops into a tiny secluded beach and one to the E leads to huge blowhole at high tide as well as views of Nuutele and Nuulua Islands off the SE edge of Upolo Island.


It was an easy decision not to attempt to catch the bus a half hour later back to Apia. Instead, we enjoyed an idyllic lunch (that we had gratefully packed, because there were no restaurants or stores), swimming and exploring To Sua. After this, we headed west along the highway on foot in hopes of hitching a ride to Siumu, a town in the center of the south coast that we heard had a later last bus back to Apia. Very few vehicles passed, and after about 2-miles, we turned off following signs to the small town of Matatufu where there was supposedly a taxi driver that could take us the additional 15-miles to Siumu. After meeting several of the curious townfolk, we found the taxi driver who could not speak English, but was happy to drive us to catch the 1700 bus back to the city. While awaiting the bus, our G10 Canon camera decided to stop working giving us a Lens Error and refusing to shut down. As we were dealing with this, a bus came by to the other corner and was gone before we had time to think. Chris assumed this was not the right bus as it was going a different direction than we were told it would go, but Shawn was not so sure. After questioning a few more passersby, indeed, that was the final bus and was headed to Apia, but via the long route around the W side of the island, not the short route over the mountain that we had expected. At least we were at a relatively busy crossroad with cars passing every few minutes- several different taxi’s stopped, but we decline still hoping that another bus would appear. Finally we started walking N and the first vehicle by stopped for Chris’ thumb. A nice relatively young (our age) local in a beat up Toyota LandRover pulled over. He hopped out to move some scary looking saw blades from the back seat to the trunk to make room for both of us. Turns out that he works for the lumber industry in Samoa, and was on the south side of the island to weld some equipment, headed back to Apia at just the right time for us. After some good conversation, in which we found he was raised palagi-style, he let us out at his office in Apia and we made it back to Tao perfectly as the sun set.

Our successful day came to a crashing halt when we realized that not only was our wifi antenna not working, but our main camera was dead, and to top it all off, we had left SPOT sending out a signal all the way back in To Sua… It was a miracle that Chris was able to get back to To Sua the next day and recover SPOT (who is not allowed to leave the boat again without a leash!) and returned to Tao, via the hardware store, of course. The following day we enjoyed a sail around Apia's small harbor in Fatty. Just as a cargo ship was headed out, we crossed to the local Fish Market, and returned to the marina at sunset, where we met nearly all the new cruising boats that had arrived over the past few days as we slowly tacked upwind to Tao. After another day of work, we managed to get our wifi antenna working by scraping, drying with alcohol, and generally cleaning the connectors and we were back in action only to realize from our weather analyses that our Tuesday leave date would take us right into some weather between Samoa and Tonga. Maybe this would provide us time to visit the other island, Savaii in Tao, but we seem to have plenty still to do, and so we find ourselves still here in Apia. Fa'a Samoa, loosely translated such is life in Samoa (more directly translates to "the Samoan way").

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