On the wild side, Satuiatua, Savai’i, Samoa


We’ve now left for Fiji; I haven’t been able to update the blog for a bit because the internet situation in Samoa is marginal. The cost is exorbitant, from $9 an hour at the first place we stayed, to $20 an hour at the last place, for service so slow that it’s almost impossible to open one’s email, much less read it. But here’s a recap of the last week:

Friday, Sept. 9

Two nights ago, Ty woke up in the middle of the night with a start, thinking that he’d felt an earthquake; after waking me up he explained that, about two or three minutes after the bump, he’d heard a bunch of trucks start up and go screaming down the highway, all this at three in the morning. We wondered if there’d been a tsunami warning and went out onto our deck to see whether the waves were still lapping along the shoreline – they were. But we waited out there for about half an hour to see whether the sea would recede – it didn’t. The rest of the night was spent in a fitful and anxious sleep. No one else had felt anything or seen anything so most likely the bump was something local in the area (or experienced in a dream). But, we did take the precaution the next day of plotting out our escape route to higher ground, should we ever have needed one!

And, we have left Janes’ Fales and are now at the Satuiatua Resort on the west coast of Savai’i after an unpleasant incident at Jane’s Beach bar on Thursday night. We had gone in after dinner to watch the first game of the Rugby World Cup, and were enjoying ourselves when a group of three men came in, one of whom was drunk and proceeded to make threatening noises and gestures in Ty’s direction. (Ty later told me that this same guy had done the same sort of thing the first night we’d arrived – he cursed us and smashed his glass on the table, an incident which I’d not noticed, having been in conversation with another guest at the time). So, rather than continue to watch the game, we left the bar and decided to leave the resort the very next morning, rather than be the subjects of this person’s drunken harassment. Too bad, but this, too, is all part of the experience.

Anyway, leaving Jane’s, we drove along the north coast of the island, stopping briefly at the Pea Pea Cave (actually a lava tube)

and for breakfast at a small resort called Va-i-loa, before arriving here at what is the only beach fale operation on Savai’i’s west coast. The vegetation here is quite different than on the north east coast; the climate is drier and less lush, there are more large shade trees and fewer palms and the coast has many more areas of lava rock.

Satuiatua Resort is a much smaller operation than Jane’s, having six beach fales (four of which are occupied with Kiwis and Aussies), one small cabin near the road, and one house on stilts over the water, and a restaurant/bar with excellent food for the cost of $75 for the two of us, including breakfast and dinner (with brewed coffee rather than nescafe – yippee!).

Our fale is a traditional Samoan style, on stilts, tin roofed with palm frond mats all around which can be raised and lowered with string as desired. Inside we have a double size sleeping area with mosquito screen. Here, rather that all receiving the same meal, we have quite a wide choice of food, including excellent Asian-inspired cuisine with rice (we missed it!) and spicy vegetables. This place is renowned for its food.

The trees that shade the beach here are enormous Australia figs. Interestingly, on them are growing so-called strangler figs, another variety of tree whose seeds are excreted in bird droppings, land on the host fig tree, and slowly suffocate it until only a hollow husk remains. It’s a bit windy today, so from these trees the small red fruit is dropping onto the tin roofs, making a sharp retort like a gunshot. The beach is wilder and less manicured that the Manase Beach, with lava rock ribbons and an exposed coral reef at low tide. Apparently, the snorkeling is excellent (we saw some beautiful fish at Manase, brilliant blues, greens, black and white striped, and largish brown, red and yellow parrotfish); we will try it soon.

Monday, Sept 12

It’s now Monday and we’ve been at Satuiatua since Friday; this place is great. And the food is wonderful; so far we’ve sampled Asian fish, spicy fish, stuffed chicken, vegetable curry and fantastic home-made chicken noodle soup. The people are lovely and seem genuinely friendly and give excellent service. We met a great Aussie couple – Gerry and Rosie -from MacKay on the east coast of Australia and have been enjoying spending some time with them, including drinks at sunset, and dinner.

Yesterday we snorkelled when the tide was high enough that we could float over the coral; the coral is stunning, lots of branching tree-like structures with fluorescent pink and blue tips, as well as brain coral. Most of the fish are quite small – we saw some funny black and white striped triangular ones dancing across the coral sea-floor. Since the current here is quite strong we had to be careful not to get pulled along by it towards the reef.

Sundays are a quiet day on the island; the locals take seriously the biblical injunction to rest on Sundays. The beaches are closed as are the corner stores; no surfing is allowed on Sunday. As we were sitting having breakfast we could watch the slow parade of villagers dressed in white headed towards the church for services. After finding the beach where we’d intended to swim closed, we drove down to the Faga blowholes along the south coast.

These are lava tubes with openings to the sea through which the water explodes in grand plumes. After driving our Hyundai matrix rental car over the one lane unpaved dirt track along the black lava rock coast for about a mile, we arrived at a single fale from out of which an old man scampered who escorted us to the holes and gave us coconuts to toss. We were instructed to wait for the big waves, and when a sufficiently large one approached, the coconuts were quickly thrown in and blasted out again a hundred feet into the air like a canon shot. Great fun but dangerous – if one of those babies had landed on our heads, it would have been lights out.

Since we needed to book our ferry passage for Wednesday, we headed into Saleolologa town, purchased our ticket, and then looked around for an internet café; unfortunately, two large busloads of what looked to be Methodist missionaries, dressed in white shirts, thin black ties, black pants, with bibles in breast pockets, had taken over every computer in both internet cafes in town … sigh. On our way back to the ranch, we stopped to see the Afu Aau waterfall; after paying an entry fee of five tala to the group of men resting in the shade, we drove the car down a one lane unpaved dirt track to the beautiful freshwater pools fed by several small streams.

Gerry and Rosie had told us that small crayfish inhabit the pool but we didn’t see any. We had intended to visit the nearby ancient mound Tia Seu as well, the largest pyramid in the South Pacific, but we told that the “rusty road” was impassable without a four wheel drive jeep.

A few random notes:

While driving, every time Ty or I went to signal a turn, instead of hitting the turn signal, we hit the windshield wipers (on the left of the steering wheel in this car) instead. We joked that everyone would know that, when the windshield wipers were beating furiously on a dry, sunny day, a Canadian tourist was trying to signal a turn, front wipers for left, rear for right …

People still ride around in the back of pickups here.

Buses are beautifully painted, often with biblical adages on the back and a small winged silver Pegasus horse on the front.

Even though they drive on the left here, some folks will also drive on the right for a while; apparently it’s a macho kind of thing, sort of like playing chicken …

Wednesday Sept 14

We’re now ensconced in the Le Vasa (means “The Ocean”) Resort south of the ferry wharf back on Upolu for our last two days in Samoa. We wanted to stay in a place near the airport and this place suited the bill. It’s much more pricey than we’d normally pay ($125  night incl breakfast and the meals and drinks are as expensive as in Vancouver) but our garden room is actually more like a small apartment, having a bedroom, kitchen/sitting room, and our own large bathroom. It’s right off the reception area in the main building and suits us well, especially since today is rainy – really rainy – and this place is much more comfortable than our beach fale would have been in these conditions! Today’s tropical rain storm is the first we’ve experienced (although the people we spoke to on the ferry back from Savai’i said that’s it’s nothing, only a sun-shower). Yikes! I’d hate to see a full-on storm if that’s the case – good thing we’re getting out of the South pacific before the rainy season … It’s amazing how much small comforts are enjoyed after missing them for a bit  – we’ve really appreciated the real bed with a comfortable mattress and SOFT pillows (and no sand in the bed) and having our own bathroom, fridge, coffee maker and sitting area. We also met a very nice New Zealand couple here, Kay and Paul, with whom we enjoyed chatting over dinner.

See more pictures here.


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