Friday, September 30, 2011

We’ve been here in Samoa a week now, rented a car and have seen the island.  I feel like we’ve done Samoa (at least Upolu, the main island).  Everyone feels the need to compare American Samoa to Western Samoa and I guess I fall into that category too.  Where I differ from other cruisers, is that I feel like American Samoa is the underdog and is misunderstood and maybe gets a bad rap…therefore, I really, really, really want to like her more.  With that said…whoa…it’s hard not to like [Western] Samoa.  First things first…those who say Samoa doesn’t have trash, haven’t been around.  Granted, American Samoa is a lot worse (reminds me of Puerto Rico), but Samoa isn’t the most pristine place I’ve ever been to.  We were driving around the outer parts of the island and I saw whole piles of plastic with beer bottles piled up and down the road.  The people are about the same.  I don’t find Samoans to be any friendlier than American Samoans (they’re all friendly).  Here in Apia (the main town), they appear to be a little jaded by tourists.  This is a big destination for New Zealanders and Australians (kind of like Hawaii for Americans), so they definitely have their eyes open for tourists and just barely put up with us.  But once you get to the other side of the island and away from Apia, they are very friendly, yet reserved (just like American Samoa).  One of the really neat things (and unusual for us Americans) is that the police don’t carry any weapons.  None.  Not a baton.  Not pepper spray.  And certainly not a gun.  They carry a notepad with a pen.  If you get in trouble, they ask you what village you live in and they tell your chief.  They let him take care of the discipline.  Cool, huh?  And apparently, that’s enough to keep a fair amount of order around here.  The food isn’t any more expensive if you eat local and not try to get the imported stuff or eat at fancy restaurants.  We ate at the yacht club last night and got an enormous amount of food (3 dinners to include, shrimp, sashimi, and poke) along with a glass of wine and 2 beers for less than $40.  We found a movie theater and they play first run movies while you can relax in the air condition – very nice given this place is the hottest we’ve been to yet in the S. Pacific.

Family picture at the Robert Lewis Stevenson Museum
I’m rambling a bit just to get my point across that while we don’t mean to poo poo American Samoa (loved it there, spent 6 weeks)…we are REALLY diggin’ Samoa.  We rented a car and have been able to see most of the island now.  We visited a museum, some cave pools, waterfalls, beautiful beaches and today we attempted a resort crash and were only half successful (they let us swim at their beach, but not their pool).  But it was absolutely beautiful.  We ran into other cruisers with the same idea, and I have to say, we stick out.  Not in the way you would expect, with backpacks and long hair.  This place is full of New Zealanders and they, too carry backpacks and have long hair.  You can tell a cruiser because he/she’s the white guy…with a tan!  But seriously, we've seen how they live in their fale's (think "pavillions" at home) and we've seen the traditional way of life here - at least as much as you can from a tourists point of view.
The Robert Lewis Stevenson Museum.  His house, now a museum.
He's buried at the top of a big mountain behind the house.  Beautiful

Jake, hanging out with day when he has to read Treasure Island, he'll
say "hey!  I know that guy!"

Walking up to the tomb felt like we were walking through the jungle.
It was quite the hike.

One thing I wrote about already which deserves a second visit is the Samoans enthusiasm for Rugby.  The schools are peppered with homemade signs, “Go Manu!”….some children we saw where skipping school altogether getting ready for the big game against S. Africa tonight.  The place across the street from the Marina has a big tent set up with a big screen and tons of pregame activities planned, to include fire dancing (they start at 4:00…the game doesn’t start until 9:30).

After all the fun and games are over, we eventually have to leave.  For any cruiser that might be behind us, there’s one bit of information I hadn’t read before coming here….duty free alcohol.  Here’s the process.  You go to La Well (on the street that T’s in front of the flea market) and get a price list.  Decide what you want.  Write a letter to customs (can be hand written if you have to) that says basically that you are requesting permission to purchase duty free liquor in the amount of  “blah blah blah (write down exactly what and how much you are buying from the price list).”  Drop it off at customs (right behind the marina) and pick it up the next day/afternoon with the approval stamp.  Take that to La Well  and purchase said liquor.  They will deliver it to the Customs building for you.  When you check out, customs releases your goods and you’re on your way.  We found the prices to be not quite as good as Tahiti, but still fairly cheap compared to most other S. Pacific islands (think Trader Joe’s in the states, minus two buck chuck).

Tonight we’re off to see the pregame activities across the street.  We’ll be sporting our Manu t-shirts hoping to get a good seat for the firedancing.  We have another 4 or 5 days here so we’ll be provisioning and making our way north, opposite of everyone else.  It will be a sad goodbye, but hopefully just a “see you next year” kind of thing as most people come back up to Tonga and/or Figi for another season.  Looking forward to our new adventures off the beaten path!

More pics...

The beach where they filmed the 1951 Gary Cooper film "Return to Paradise"
The guy said "Welcome to Paradise!.... that will be $10 tala!"

Jake, trying to stay awake for the fire dancing.

These were the amateurs.  The professionals dropped the baton, caught themselves on fire,
almost burned down a second story of the hotel and dropped the baton in the pool.  The amateurs
were looking pretty good!

Cave Pools

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