“Why do you come to Samoa?” the officer at customs on the international airport asks again. It feels like an eternity that I’ve been questioned and held back here. It’s 2 am in the morning, I’m the last passenger to pass the border and it’s maybe just 10 minutes ago that I arrived at his desk with a smile. Since then I’ve been asked a lot of things, about money, work, travelling so far, I have been left here to wait and with the feeling that he doesn’t really care about my answers. “For Christmas.” “And why Samoa?” “Because some friends have been here and said I should go.” This is actually true. I don’t have a good answer for why I chose Samoa. It’s mostly because two friendly co-workers suggested it. Well, and Disney’s Moana/Vaiana. After letting me wait again and looking at some random papers he suddenly says good night and I’m allowed to pass. ***
Samoa has been an interesting ride. 5 1/2 days on the main island of Upolu with 3 nights in beach fales in the south and 3 nights in backyard garden fales in Apia. Fales are the typical Samoan huts built on poles and with removable coconut leaf shades all around. This has been my first fale.
Can I recommend Samoa? Well, on one side it felt like I had too much time here as I was very unrested. Partly as it was the first time that I’ve been sick (stomach aches) for a day and a half and felt totally tired and exhausted. But on the other side maybe it wasn’t enough time as I just started to feel arrived and accustomed to the flow of people during the last day.
What did I do here?
Certainly I went to the most pictured spot, the To Sua Ocean Trench. Lucky for me I didn’t have to get there in a touristy way but via hitchhiking with Markéta and Radek, a Czech couple I met in the Matareva Beach Fales. And what a ride that was. We got a lot of funny but caring reactions from friendly Samoans who couldn’t believe we’re hitchhiking and needed just two lifts for the one hour drive to get there – on Christmas and in a not so popular direction as everyone headed to the villages or church services. Our second lift was actually on the way in the opposite direction as he stopped his car and asked us where we’re going. “I live my whole life here but I’ve never been there”, he said and drove us the whole remaining 30 minutes to the destination, said goodbye and headed back.
For the way back it took us a bit longer to find someone to get us in the right direction. I was already at the point to say “I don’t care how much it is, I’ll pay the taxi.” But as we soon afterwards sat down on the backseat’s plastic covered cushions, each holding a banana ice cream in our hands and listening to another funny question or comment from the two Samoan ladies who took care of us I felt there are a lot of wonderful coincidences in the world.
Sleeping in fales was another unique experience. Especially with hearing the ocean roar underneath a star sprinkled sky or with the first lights of the morning shining through. The mosquito net provided all the security I needed to sleep in and have a good rest. Only on the evening we shared stories and videos about the coconut crab I needed a bit of distraction. If you don’t know what the coconut crab is google it. They learnt to climb coconut trees, cut of coconuts that would crush on stones and then to get back to the ground to eat them. How did a crab make this evolutional jump? Isn’t that scary crazy?
The other days we shared taxi and transfer for the now four of us as Felix had joined the troupe and went around all the island in search for interesting places to explore. We passed all the little villages, had a look at the cave pools, enjoyed lunch in a beach resort and passed local Christmas decorations. Before we ended up being in a city again we got the chance to snorkel in another marine reserve and explored giant clams with a friendly tap on their “shoulder”. And by giant I mean giant. They have been huge and colourful – but I still have no GoPro so please feel free to use your imagination or Google/Siri/Alexa.
Oh, and yes, I had Christmas here. Concerning Christmas the island tried really hard to help me get into the feels, but temperature and humidity sweat that thought out of my head. The Caribbean-Samoan-remixed Christmas songs in the playlist – which also included an interesting mashup with Eminem – and the creative replacement Christmas tree did their best so that I at least didn’t forget to wish my family and friends happy holidays.
On Boxing Day we arrived in Apia. Literally nothing except the cinema, a bar and McDonalds was open. The plan for the evening was therefore set. I feel the need to say that until that day I’ve never had a Christmas Day dinner in a McDonalds before which has also been partly sold out on burgers. Watching Star Wars afterwards in a Samoan cinema added to the unique evening. I sat in between a very excited boy who introduced himself witch a handshake and the question if I watched Star Wars before and a Samoan woman who offered me cookies.
That’s actually one thing which happened more than once that we got offered a drink or food. Like the buns with coconut cream from Samoans who gave us a lift or the pineapple coconut drink we got while watching a traditional Samoan tattoo artist performing his art. Which is mildly spoken quite painful for the one getting the tattoo. Even my taxi driver to the airport wanted to stop and buy me a coconut which I had to neglect as we were already late and I was afraid of missing the check in.
The cinema experience with the special audience made up for the quality of the movie itself and I even got back to watch another movie as it was an air-conditioned cheap activity. The remaining time I explored parts of Apia and tried to calm down my stomach again for my flight to Hawaii. Something made it a bit upset.
What you recognise soon when coming to Samoa: There’s music all around, in cars, bars, buses and hotels. And somehow there must be a secret Samoan playlist that every Samoan gets for free on any device as literally the same songs and remixes – often translated into Samoan – turned up everywhere I went. Especially the Samoan version of Despacito didn’t stop playing. After the regular version of Despacito on Beachcomber in Fiji this was at least a bit of a relief.
The last evening I found a chilled bar with good beer and live music. The beer helped my stomach and the bar was called Home. What a perfect fit for the last evening as the concept of home is still on my mind and what I’m partly looking for during my travels.
Thank you, Samoa, for all the friendly smiles and hellos!
And to all of my friends out there I wish you a smooth and joyful shift into the new and happy year!
This blog was partly proofread by a volunteering Samoan. Yet he got distracted halfway through by cuddles.