Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Celebrating Independence Day in Samoa

How far from home are we?
Beth and I took our first vacation this past weekend.  We jetted off to Samoa over the holiday weekend.  New Zealand celebrated the Queen's Birthday and Samoa their 51st Independence Day.  We arrived in Apia very late on Wednesday night or I should say Thursday morning.  We were treated to a very hot and humid evening and a long church filled drive to our lodging for a few hours.  We definitely weren't used to the Samoan weather.  In Thames, we had just had our first window scrapper morning.  Samoan's are very religious and you might be shocked to see the quantity and size of the churches that are only surpassed by the number of dogs that roam the country. 
A waterfall near a "cult" town.
We rented a car for the 5 day vacation which allowed us to explore the island of Upolu.  With the amount of time we had we didn't venture over to Savai'i which is the largest of the Samoan Islands.  That is on our list of things to do.  Our traveling list however never seems to get smaller as I'm always looking for an excuse to go see friends in places that we have been like Japan and Germany not to mention seeing family in in the US.  There is a long list of places we haven't been to, but want to.  So who wants to sponsor our travels and I will write and take photos for your personalized "experience"?

Our first full-day was spent driving across the island and then checking into beach hut at Faofao Fales for the next 2 evenings.  Besides providing an awesome view, it included dinner and breakfast.  We were also subjected to driving rain, a leaky thatched roof, and gusts of wind that blew open the thatched panels.  Beth tried in vain to weave the panels closed as I slept most of the evening only waking up when drops of rain hit my face or when Beth stepped on my leg.  The next night wasn't as bad as it was just raining without the gusting wind. 
Ship marked the end of the boat race.

At the fales, we met an older couple from Auckland who have been coming to Samoa for the last 17 years.  They had a wealth of knowledge of the area and culture and a German girl, who is on a working holiday in Auckland, was grilling them for information.  She was busing and hitching around Upolu and getting caught in the sudden downpours that appeared out of nowhere.  
Morning view

Beth found on the tourism site that was going to be an Independence Day swim (either 1.5k or 3k) across the harbor.  So we registered our interest in the swim.  It would be our first open water swim in awhile and our first in the country.  We didn't know what to expect so we went with the shorter distance.  The swim was beautiful as you could see the bottom, including blue star fishes, and looking around we were treated to mountains peeking out of the mist.  This wasn't a race, but rather a group swim with designated stopping spots for roll call.  There were 34 individuals swimming and another half dozen in water crafts offering support for those who needed it.  After the swim we ate with the group and talked with the organizers who started this event last year as well as a swim series.  We have some friends going over in August to do one of the races in the swim series. 
At least it wasn't a horse.  Just everything else.
Driving around the island you have to pay close attention.  The speed limit isn't much, but we had to dodge or slow down for many a creature darting or meandering across.  This included dogs, chickens, kids, adults, pigs, and cows.  However, I really wanted the horses tied up to the side of the road to break free and cause us to recognize their superior size on the roadway, but no such luck.  Beth learned the passing rules from our cabbie on the first night.  This basically means you can pass when and where ever just give a little honk prior to over-taking.  We also saw how quick nature could reclaim an area.  Don't leave your car parked for too long.

We did a little walk to see the Robert Louis Stevenson grave at Mount Vaea.  We walked through a botanical garden past a little waterfall and a pool filled with locals.  Instead of bothering them, we scooted past and trudged up a very muddy and at times covered trail.  In case you are wondering?  We took the long path on the way up and the short one on the way down.  On  the descent there was even a rope to give you assistance where it was very necessary.  The scenery was amazing on the walk and made me want to talk other walks on the island.  The only issue is that you need a guide as it is crazy thick and any trails are probably reclaimed by nature after a short amount of time.

The other Independence Day activities we took in were 30ish man boat races across the harbor and locals signing in front of some street food.  I partook in the street food with a good helping of hot bbq.  It was taro, chicken, and a hot dog.  There were a lot of little signs dotting the main highway with these temptations.  I'm glad we found one open on our trip as the country is one of the various churches on Sundays and this particular Monday just happened to be a Monday-nized holiday.  
Brownie with ice cream and chocolate pie with fresh cream.
I'm sure I'm missing tales, but my mind is tired as we were delayed out of Apia last night for close to 3 hours and didn't get into bed until 4am and I was at work by 8 this morning.  It was a quick trip, but it was a lot of fun.  We found a quaint little Italian restaurant that did wood fire pizza and an amazing desert plate.  We enjoyed it so much that when nothing else was open on Sunday, we sought out another round of Indulgence.  The good news doesn't stop, our residency application has been accepted contingent that we send in our passports and pay a one-time, one-more, fee.  That is being done tomorrow.  Now time to enter resident only contests.  Let's hope my luck has followed me.  I'm sure 93x listeners are happy someone else is winning.

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