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Island Beats

2008 August 7
by rob

Monday July 21, 2008

After breakfast, I left Valentine’s Motel and walked to the Central Bus Station in Apia. It was about a fifteen minute walk. The bus station was little more than a parking lot beside the harbour with some covered benches for people to wait. You had to walk around and look for the bus with the name of the place you wanted to go. I was heading to Lalumanu and found my bus pretty quickly. I had to wait about half an hour for it to leave, though.

The Lonely Planet says that taking the local buses in Samoa is an experience. That’s quite true. The buses are all decorated differently. They usually were painted with bright, clashing, gaudy colours on the outside. This bus had a big New Zealand flag hanging inside the front. Another had ‘70s-style fuzzy carpet with bobbing figures of scantily clad ladies. Yet another had a big poster of Jesus with prayers written in Spanish. Most of the buses were filled with wooden seats and panelling. Some of them made frightening creaking noises. Most of them played loud music while they crisscrossed the Samoan countryside. Unlike in Southeast Asia, I enjoyed the Samoan music. Sometimes they played some mellow stuff. Usually they playing pulsing and reggae rhythms and island beats! Reggae is okay! I used to greatly dislike it, but now I know it has its time and its place. Samoa is the place.

The people on the buses were just as interesting as the buses themselves. The interiors of the buses were quite small. The wooden benches were not spacious. However, the Samoans, on average, were quite spacious people. The spacing of the seats on the bus would have made sense in Asia, but, generally, the Samoans were large people! The buses were often crowded, too. People would have to sit on each other’s laps (though no one ever sat on mine). Children (especially babies!) would get passed around. People would crowd together and stand in the aisle. There would always be a guy or two standing in the doorway. It seemed much more crowded on the buses in Samoa then on any buses I rode on in Asia… and it didn’t help that the Samoans were larger than the Asians! heh.

Around 10 AM (no schedules are ever very precise in Samoa), the bus was mostly full and pulled out of the parking lot, er, bus station. There’s a second bus station in Apia about three blocks away beside the Central Market. The bus pulled through there to pick up some more passengers. Apparently the driver didn’t think the bus was full enough since he drove back to the main bus station to look for even more fares. After finding a few more people who wanted to go to Lalumanu (or anywhere between Apia and Lalumanu), he finally drove past the harbour and out of Apia.

There was a couple from Sydney seated behind me on the bus. They had come in on a Princess Cruise Ship that was docked in Apia for the day. They were on a 75-day cruise around the Pacific: Sydney, New Zealand, Fiji, Samoa, Hawaii, San Francisco, Vancouver, Alaska, Russia, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Darwin, and back to Sydney (there’s prolly a few dozen more stops in there, but you get the general idea). The cruise ship was like seven stories tall and was taller than any other building in Apia (which makes the ship taller than any building in the whole country)! As we drove through the streets of Apia, I saw the familiar shabby streets filled with lots of tourists — most of them white senior citizens.

As we departed the shabby city, my spirits were lifted. I wasn’t fond of Apia, but the coastal road headed east from Apia was much nicer. We drove past beaches, mountains, villages, and countless palm trees. Life was good again! I felt re-energized.

The ride to Lalumanu took about an hour and a half. The bus was not fast. Thankfully, it was very cheap. I only paid 5 tala (CA$2) for the ride. A taxi would have cost 100 tala (CA$40).

When I got to Lalumanu I checked myself into my fale on the beach. A fale is a small open-sided beach hut, usually raised on stilts with a thatch roof. They’re a popular form of accommodation for tourists and locals alike on Samoa (and other Polynesian islands). They’re usually cheap, too — especially the simple ones with open sides and no ensuite toilets. Most fales will have side coverings that can be removed. At Lalumanu, my fale had simple tarp coverings. A fale that I had later, in Manase, had much nicer thatch coverings. My fales were furnished very simply — a floor mat and blanket with mosquito net for sleeping, and nothing else. But, I didn’t really need anything else. My needs were simple.

This is a photograph of my fale on Lalumanu beach. It’s not very tall — I could not stand up in it (though my fale in Manase was tall enough for me to stand up in). A plastic Coke bottle case served as the front step. Staying in this fale cost me 65 tala/night (CA$27), including breakfast and dinner.

The beach on Lalumanu was overcrowded with fales — they were built in three rows on the beach. No privacy here. I really wasn’t here for the privacy, though. Rumour had it that the snorkeling on Lalumanu was fantastic, and I was eager to go.

I paid 30 tala (CA$12.50) to rent a a snorkel, mask, fins, and life jacket. I got the life jacket since I wanted to swim with no effort — and I’m not a very confident swimmer anyways. I donned my gear and stepped into the water. I only had to swim about ten meters from the shore before I was surrounded by schools of colourful fish and feathery corals. The current was very slow and swimming among all the beauty was no trouble at all. It was amazing that such abundant life in the sea was located so close to the land. I felt like I was experiencing a miracle just being there. It was a miracle that happened every day there. One of the schools of the fish quickly accepted me as one of their own. They followed me around for at least ten minutes. Even after I tried to leave them and explore another part of the reef, they continued to trail, then surround, me. Some of their more intrepid members swam up close to me to check me out. I guess they must have liked me since they followed me for so long.

That night I enjoyed dinner at the resort restaurant. I sat with a group of New Zealanders (Kiwis!) for dinner and drinks. The Taufu Beach Fales Resort did not let us go hungry… they gave us more than enough food — the grilled tuna was especially nice. It wasn’t Samoan food though — mostly Westernized stuff. After dinner, I sat there drinking for a few hours with the Kiwis. We played a lot of cards, too. In particular, we played a card game that they called “Shithead”. It’s funny, but I’ve played this game with people from at least a dozen nations from all over the world now. The real funny thing is… I first played it in Canada, but the game was called “Necronomicom.” I don’t know why the other nations have changed the cool Canadian name into something much more boring. Let’s face it… “Necronomicon” (it means “Book of the Dead”) is a much cooler word than “Shithead!”

We would have played longer and drank more beer but the power cut out around 10 PM. After a few minutes the bar closed and it was party over. I roamed back across the soft powdery sand under the full moon towards my beach fale. There were no waves pounding against the sand, but they were all crashing on the barrier reef farther out. I then saw an amazing phenomenon — something that I could only call a “moonbow.” I have no idea if that’s the real name, but that’s the closest thing I can think of. The full moon was shining in the sky behind me behind a thin veil of clouds. In front of me there was a ghostly white arch filling the sky. There were no colours, just white that faded out as I stood mesmerizing at it. The clouds soon moved and the arch disappeared. Wow.

Tuesday July 22, 2008

Today I did very little. I spent time in the morning enjoying the beach — laying on the sand working on my tan, reading, listening to my iPod, and occasionally taking a swim when I got too warm. The weather was sunnier today so I walked around more taking photographs. There was an island sticking out of the ocean not far from the coast, and with the blue skies, I found it to be very picturesque. That night there was more drinking and playing cards with other tourists in the resort bar, again to be ended by a power blackout.

Wednesday July 23, 2008

I woke up very early today at 6 AM. I needed to take the local bus out of Lalumanu to get back to Apia (and from there, onwards towards Manase on the island of Savai’i) and the bus was scheduled to drive past “sometime between 6:30 and 7 AM.” Technically, the bus runs on Samoan time, so things like timetables are never very precise. There’s no designated bus stop. I only had to stand at the side of the road and flag the bus down by waving my hand, palm down. I prefer this system of flagging the bus down. It’s also quite common in Southeast Asia. When I was in Hong Kong I got very annoyed when I could NOT flag a bus down and was forced to find a bus stop. I’m sure Will Chau can relate my frustrations from that day on Lantau Island to you. The drawback is, though, that the bus has to stop much more often as the locals get on and off it.

Thankfully, when the bus did come (approximately 6:40 AM), I was able to get a seat since I got on the bus was quite close to the beginning of its run. Within about twenty minutes the bus was filled to nearly overflowing with people. Most of them were uniformed children on the way to school. It took nearly two hours to cover the distance to Apia.

When I got there I had breakfast at the Central Market — which was not very good. I got the fried bun with lamb inside it. I had seen other people eating them and the ones they had looked quite good. Mine was not. It had very little meat inside and lots of grease instead. Some of the grease splashed onto the top of my swanky Crumpler messenger bag. My Tide pen could not erase the stain. Alas.

From the Central Market in Apia, I caught another local bus for an hour and a half to the ferry terminal near the west end of the main island of ‘Upolu. The ferry took an hour and twenty minutes to cross the strait to the island of Savai’i.

Geography lesson time! The nation of Samoa consists of two main islands: ‘Upolu and Savai’i. The capital city, Apia, and most of the people, live on the eastern island ‘Upolu. The western island is Savai’i. It is bigger, but less developed and less populated. The two islands are separated by the 22 km wide Apolima Strait. Savai’i is the biggest Polynesian island after Hawaii and the islands of New Zealand.

When my ferry docked on Savai’i, I caught my third and final local bus of the day to get to Manase, on the north coast of the island. Here, I was staying at Regina’s Beach Fales. My fale here was much nicer (and cheaper — only 55 (CA$23) tala/night — including three meals). This fale was bigger, taller, didn’t have ugly tarp sides, and was decorated on the inside with a quilt on the roof and decorative cloth on the sides. This fale was not directly on the beach, but about five metres from the sand.

I spent the bulk of the afternoon lying on the mat in my fale reading my book, listening to my iPod, or just napping. I was definitely shifting my trip into low gear on Samoa.

Before dinner that night a busload of about fifteen American kids on a Catholic church mission checked into the fales at Regina’s. They had just seen the Pope during World Youth Day in Sydney and were now touring the pious islands of Samoa. They were generally nice kids and weren’t as annoying as I would expect most groups of 16-year olds to be. They did, however, turn the sleepy uncrowded little fale community into a busier little place.

Dinner at Regina’s was announced by ringing a bell and felt like a family meal at home. Me, and the five other travelers (not including the American mission kids) sat around a table with plates of food around us. We had polite conversation as we passed the different dishes to each other. That’s the one thing I really enjoyed about staying at the different beach resorts in Samoa (and later, Tonga) that included dinner for their guests — the meals were friendly, polite, communal affairs with home-cooked local food that felt like family meals. We ate things like soup, taro, fried chicken, deep fried sausage (yum?), and palusami (the coconut cream, onion, and taro leaf concoction that I mentioned in my previous post).

Thursday July 24, 2008

My breakfast was delayed by about an hour since the American mission kids held a morning mass service at the time that breakfast would normally be served. Durned kids. It’s nice to go to church and all, but, I was hungry and I had decided to go for a big walk today. The delay was stressing me out. This stress was unnecessary, of course. Stress is never necessary in a laid back place like Samoa.

My destination that day was the crater of the dormant volcano Mt. Matavanu. It was a 12 km walk away. I could have rented a bicycle and saved myself the first 4 km of the walk, but that didn’t seem worth it. I could have rented a car and driven the first 10 km, but definitely wasn’t worth it. I had no problems with a 12 km walk (God knows I need the exercise!). It only took me about 3 hours to get to the summit of the 670 metre high volcano. On the way I was met by the “World Famous Craterman.” He claims he is world famous, but I suspect that his fame lies solely with the community of travelers who also climb Mt. Matavanu and his only press lies within the pages of Lonely Planet guidebooks or blogs like this one. The last two km of the road to the summit was decadently bordered with signs made by the Craterman himself with messages from other travelers proclaiming their love of Samoa, the volcano, or the Craterman himself. The Craterman did not lead me to the summit and I did not talk with him much, so I did not get to experience his great charisma, as travelers from 108 other countries had in the past 7 years that he had dwelled on the slopes of the mountain.

I took a wrong turn on the way to the summit and my hike was probably half an hour longer than it should have been. I did make it eventually, though. The summit wasn’t really what I expected. I had expected a neat rocky volcanic cone punctuated with a deep craggy crater and steam vents. It wasn’t anything like that! The summit was at the top of a hill, yes, but it was shrouded by a deep forest cover. You couldn’t really see it coming. The crater was a huge deep hole at the top filled with trees and more vegetation. No big rocks. No steam. Instead, I was greeted with peaceful tranquility. Birds chirped and butterflies fluttered by. No other people were there… not even the Craterman (he was still at his fale below waiting for more travelers). I tried to take pictures to document the place, but the crater was too big and too deep for my camera to do it any justice. Though, in hindsight, I should have attempted to take a panoramic photo there.

The view on the way down was pretty good, though.

On the way back down I ran into a few people. The first was the Dutch girl Rita, whom I would run into a few more times over the next couple weeks. She had bicyled the 4 km road from Manase to the village of Paia and walked the last 8 km up the mountain. I also encountered the Craterman leading a group of American tourists (not the mission kids) up the slope. The Americans had rented a car and had driven the whole way except for the last 2 km. I plugged in my iPod and began my journey back down towards Manase. After about an hour (maybe 4 km) of walking, the Americans had caught up with me in the car and gave me a lift the rest of the way to Regina’s Beach Fales in Manase. They couldn’t believe that I had walked the whole way. I didn’t really have much else to do, anyways.

When I returned to Regina’s, I met a few new guests. Unlike the guests who had been there before (old people from New Zealand or Holland), these people were closer to my age and travel lifestyle — they were backpackers. They were a couple from Denmark (Rikke and a guy who’s name I can’t remember) and a guy from Argentina (Leandro). The Danish couple had been everywhere. They were currently on the kind of island hopping trip across the Pacific that I dreamed of taking myself. In one trip, they were visiting Tonga, Samoa, Fiji, Tahiti, and Easter Island, before heading on to Chile and visiting the rest of South America. Talking to them was very inspiring since I had recently been feeling a lot of travel fatigue and had been losing much of my motivation and ambition for further traveling.

Our new group quickly got along. We spent the rest of the day on the beach. As dinner approached and the sun began to set, we visited the shop across the street to pick up some beers. The Samoan priest (who now lived in Australia) who was traveling with the American mission kids joined us for some beers, too. He was a really nice guy. I totally forgive him for delaying my breakfast by an hour that morning :)

That night, in order to entertain the American mission kids the owners of Regina’s Beach Fales held a little Samoan fia fia. A fia fia is a traditional Samoan dance and feast. We had a lot of Samoan food to choose from (including roast pig) and a little four piece Samoan band. It sounded to me like they played the same four songs over and over, but the songs they played were really fun little island ditties. I liked the ukelele and the “plastic drum barrel and string” player.

I expected Samoan fire dancers to come in and do some crazy Polynesian dancers for us. That’s not what we got, though. Apparently the American mission kids had taken some lessons earlier that day and did the dancing for us. It was good clean fun and hilarious.

It was a good excuse to wear my Balinese sarong and do some dancing myself. It had been a while since I got to wear my sarong. They are traditional dress in Samoa, though they are called lavalavas there. Almost every man wears them. Little kids carry plastic shopping bags full of lavalavas in Apia and try to hawk them to tourists. There was a shop in Apia close to my motel called “Mr. Lavalava.” They’re not only comfortable to wear, but very practical, too. They’re easily resizable (useful if you are a 5XL Samoan dude). You could lie on them on the beach. You could even use them as a towel, if you’re desperate. The lavalava is everywhere. The lavalava is Samoa.

Friday July 25, 2008

Again, breakfast was delayed by at least an hour today because the American mission kids had a morning Church service. I talked with one of the adults in charge of the kids. They were apparently driving to the blowholes on the south coast of Savai’i that day (a place that would probably take three hours to get to by bus, or two hours on taxi, but at great expense). I asked them if they had any extra space to give me a ride there. Unfortunately, their bus was already over-full so I was out of luck. Instead, I went for another walk that day. Yesterday I walked through the villages to the west of Manase to get to the volcano. Today, I would walk through the villages to the east of Manase to get to the lava fields that were created by the volcano one hundred years ago.

It took me about an hour and fifteen minutes to walk the 7 km to the village of Saleaula. The lava fields were cool. You could literally see where, a hundred years ago, the earth itself melted and flowed from the hills to the sea. Since then, the village of Saleaula (among others) had moved, people had built new houses, and trees and gardens bloomed in the new earth.

The main attraction in Saleaula were the remains of some churches that had been destroyed by the lava flows. When I arrived at the house near the churches, I was greeted by a small circle of Samoan women who were having lunch and cocoa. They were responsible for collecting the admission fee (5 tala or CA$2) for visiting the churches and guiding tourists to them. The women invited me to sit down and have some Samoan cocoa (with big chunks of chocolate!) and pineapple pie with them. These women were jokers. First they said that they were going to charge me 5 tala for the food and drink. Then they asked me if I was married (a common enough question). When I said ‘no’, they asked me if I needed a Samoan girlfriend. Then they said that they were really going to charge me 2 tala for the food and drink. I wasn’t quite sure what to believe. After I said I was done eating and was ready to see the churches I asked how much money I owed. I joked that, “since the price kept changing, I didn’t know how much they really wanted”
(a joke that had a big grain of truth to it!). They told me I could pay whatever I wanted. I tried paying them 10 tala total, but they would only accept the official admission fee of 5 tala. Later, the women who guided me to the church told me that when Samoans invite you into their home and offer you food and drink, you should always accept and never offer anything in return. It was all a joke. Those tricky Samoans!

Saturday July 26, 2008

Manase was good. I had enjoyed it more than Lalumanu and Apia (especially Apia!). However, it was time to move on. I had one more destination in Samoa: the island of Manono, located in the Apolima straight between the two main islands of ‘Upolu and Savai’i. After a ride on the local bus, then back on the ferry to Upolu, and another ride on the local bus, I found myself on the wharf opposite the island of Manono. I asked around at the wharf to find out which boat would take me to the Sunset View Fales on Manono. By random chance, the person I asked was the owner of Sunset View, Leota. He made a phone call and directed me to a boat that would take me the 5 km or so across the water to the island.

What an amazing boat ride. Jaw dropping. Astounding. The weather was beautiful and the shallow water was a brilliant sapphire blue. I sat near the front of the boat and let the wind and sea spray invigorate me. There were two kids sitting on the two boat prows. The sheer beauty of what I saw that day will linger in my memories forever. This was Polynesia. I was there.

I landed on the jetty in front of Sunset View and was served my lunch before I even got to see my fale. Within twenty minutes, me, and the three other guests (an older lady from Austria, Barbara, and a younger couple from Italy and Australia) were back on the boat snorkeling in the lagoon. The snorkeling here was not as spectacular as it was at Lalamanu. There were fewer corals and fish. I did learn an important lesson though — I could still snorkel just fine without needed a life jacket to help me. As long as I lay flat, face down, on the surface, I could float there with no effort.

When we returned to land, a few more travelers checked in. One of them was Rita, whom I had met on the slopes of Mt. Matavanu a couple of days before. There were also a couple of other Austrians. Of course, as always, the German speakers immediately formed a clique and kept mostly to themselves. Rita and I talked for a while, but she smoked way too much and I tried to keep away from her.

Dinner that night was announcing by the blowing of a conch shell. There were about nine of us eating around the same table, and again, it felt like a family meal at home. As soon as we finished eating, we moved to the jetty to watch the sun set. This sunset was definitely one of the most beautiful I had seen on the trip. The sun set behind the island of Savai’i on the horizon with the island of Apolima in view. The planet Venus twinkled somewhat above the island of Savai’i, hovering over the place the sun just sunk into. The palm trees swayed in the light breeze. A cat jumped between the rocks on the shore hunting for lizards and fish. A local man and his child took an outrigger canoe and paddled around lazily. Does this paint a romantic picture? How about a romantic photograph instead?

As the night sky grew darker and was populated by more and more twinkling stars, most of us continued to sit on, or around, the jetty, with the warm waters of the South Pacific lapping up around us. Pure magic.

That night, the owner, Leota, regailed us with some stories about the creation of Sunset View Fales on the tiny island of Manono. He used to be an accountant for Pepsi on Samoa but got tired with that and tried to find a new way to support his family. He was the second person to open a guesthouse on the island. He took at least two years to build the place (probably mostly because he built it on Island Time). He took much advice from passing tourists. After he had felled the trees on the waters edge to clear space for the fales, one tourist told him to plant some trees since tourists love trees (probably the reason that the coconut trees are so stumpy beside there). When another passing tourist told him that people would like verandahs in front of their fales, Leota built them in front of all them (since my verandah didn’t have any chairs, though, I never bothered to sit there). Leota professed that he wanted to keep the place very small and under the radar, though. He didn’t have a website and he didn’t do any advertising. He liked to sit with the guests and be chatty, but if there were too many, he said he would be shy. His resort can be found in Lonely Planet, though, so I have to wonder how quiet his place will be in the long run. Leota was, though, a very sociable and friendly person and it was nice to talk to him.

Sunday July 27, 2008

I didn’t sleep so well. My allergies were bothering me. Unfortunately my preventive asthma medication, Flovent, was just running out. I thought I would have enough to last me throughout my trip, but I was one month shy of making it the whole way. I hope it wouldn’t be a problem. In Manono, though, it was turning out to be a problem. Some object in my fale (or the whole darned thing) was so dirty or dusty that my allergies (and as a result, my asthma) were going nutso. Breathing was hard when I was in there. There were two beds, though, so I planned to try to sleep on the other one that night to see if things would be be better.

I had to wake up quite early, so it wasn’t a big tragedy that I couldn’t sleep well. Leota (the owner of Sunset View), his buddy Apa, and his Leota’s son Jay were up at 6 AM to prepare our umu for our Sunday lunch feast. The other Polynesian Islanders prepared their umus underground. The Samoans made a big pile above ground, though. Leota said that it was because the Samoans were lazy and didn’t want to bother to dig any holes.

What’s an umu? Its an oven! We watched Leota and his crew build a fire of driftwood and coconut shells. Instead of cooking the food directly, the fire was used to heat a large pile of lava rocks. Meanwhile, Leota and his crew (but mostly Apa and Jay) were preparing the food itself. Jay was using a metal point and bowl to extract the white flesh from coconuts to make coconut cream. Apa was softening leaves by briefly placing them on the open flames. Once the coconut cream was prepared, Apa mixed in a little bit of onion and salt. We were then offered a small sample to taste. Woah! A little bit of onion goes a long way, believe me! The cream was wrapped in taro and breadfruit leaves. The rest of the coconut bits were thrown to the clucking chickens. The lot of it, including breadfruit, fish, and some beef legs for a neighbour were thrown on the pile of lava rocks and covered with leaves to cook for a few hours.

While our lunch was steaming in the big pile, we went to the local Samoan Congregational church for mass. It was my third mass in Samoa, but my first non-Catholic one. I’m very used to masses in Catholic. No matter what language it’s in, I know what’s going on. It’s always the same pattern. However, this mass wasn’t in Catholic. I was astonished at how much the Protestants had butchered my religion’s ancient rituals! Only one prayer! Lots of happy singing! No standing! No kneeling! If your knees weren’t hurting from kneeling so much, how would you know that God was even noticing what you were doing?

The singing was lovely, though. The songs were all in two part harmonies: men vs. women. The songs were happy and uplifting. Religion is very (VERY) important to the Samoans, so I’m not going to make fun any more *cough*heathens*cough*.

Nothing much else going on for the rest of the day. Sunday anywhere on Samoa was quiet time. Seeing an umu and going to church was supposed to be enough action for anyone! I spent most of the rest of the afternoon lying on the bed of my fale reading or watching anime on my laptop. As the afternoon darkened towards twilight I started to feel worse. My allergies definitely did not approve of my current living conditions. Switching to the other bed in my fale wasn’t working very well either. I decided that I would ask Leota to move to a different fale in the morning. After dinner, however, things got even worse. My asthma and allergies REALLY didn’t like that fale. I could barely breathe. I felt very dizzy. I felt very very strange. They were feelings that I remember from my childhood from when my asthma bothered me much more than it generally does now. It was the worst my asthma had bothered me in at least twenty years. There was no way I could sleep in that fale for the rest of the night. No. Way.

I left my fale and returned to the common area where Leota and his son Ivan were settling down to sleep. It was 10:30 PM. I told Leota that I had to change fales right away. He was very accommodating and had Ivan prepare one of the newer fales higher up on the hill for me. While Ivan was preparing my new fale for me, he asked me if I needed a Samoan boyfriend. Boyfriend. I’m not kidding. I don’t know if he was trying to hit on me or something, but I wasn’t really feeling well enough to try and overanalyse the situation. I told Ivan something along the lines like, “I don’t look for boyfriends, I prefer girlfriends.” After I rebutted him (not a pun), Ivan finished preparing my fale and left me alone to attempt to sleep.

Even though the crazy dizziness went away, my lungs were still upset and sleep was hard to get that night. I spent most of the night tossing and turning from crazy and bizarre dreams. I knew that I should feel better in the morning, so I just dealt with it.

Monday July 28, 2008

I felt like crap in the morning. I had the option to go snorkeling, but I would have none of that. It was a rest day. I came down for meals, and nothing else. My allergies weren’t so bad, but I still wanted to rest.

That night, things got worse.

Many of the (annoying) Austrians whom were staying at Sunset View complained bitterly that they weren’t being served any fish for their meals. If so many fish were swimming around the reef and the waters around the island, how come the guests weren’t getting a cut of the action? They talked about it endlessly. My attitude was, of course, “sit down and shut up,” but I would never tell anyone that. Apa joked that most of the fishermen were too lazy to go and catch the fish (a believable story, of course, given the lax attitude of many of the Samoans). So, that night, the five Austrians and Germans (they always travel in packs and then stick together), went to the other resort on Manono for dinner… presumably to visit the people who had moved from Sunset View to there the day before.

So, that night, the only people left for dinner were me and an elderly couple from Sydney. Since there was only three of us, the staff set up a dining table on the jetty itself so we could share our suppers closer to the water under the setting sun. That sure was nice of them. The staff wasn’t really as dumb as the Germans thought they were and served us fish for dinner. Personally, I thought it was rude for the other guests to complain so much to get fish, then finally eat somewhere else when it was finally served. So be it. I wasn’t being one of the rude ones. My karma was not slighted.

I don’t think my meal sat very well with me though. After dinner, I tried to go to bed, but sleep would not come. My stomach REALLY HURT. It hurt for hours. I seriously considered going to the hospital (a very big step for me considering I’m a very much a person who dislikes going to the doctor for “minor” ailments). There was no hospital on a small island like Manono, though, so I would have to go to Apia if I really wanted to seek emergency medical attention. After forcing myself to vomit, though, my stomach stopped hurting for about five minutes, so I decided it was just my stomach that was upset, not something very serious like my appendix, so I just continued to lie there and writhe in pain for hours. By about 4 AM, things had settled down enough that some Pepto Bismol cut the pain enough for me to catch some sleep.

Of course, while I was lying there, my only “entertainment” was to hear the roosters crowing. I know I’ve mentioned this in prior blog posts, but I truly despise roosters. Why do they crow at 3 AM? Why do they crow at 3:30 AM? Why do they crow at 4 AM? Why do they crow at 4:30 AM? Why do they crow almost constantly after that? There always seems to be one rat-bastard instigator rooster crowing somewhere in the distance that starts things off. The local roosters are too dumb to decide to go back to sleep, so they crow back. So have loud, full, and “graceful” crows. Others sound like they’re violently strangling each other. Why do they do it? WHY? OH GOD.

Tuesday July 29, 2008

Today was my last full day on Samoa. I still wasn’t feeling great and spent most of the day in my fale resting. My stomach still felt wonky and my lungs still weren’t at 100%. I ate very little that day. I read lots of my book (“The Redemption of Althalus” by David and Leigh Eddings), watched lots of anime (“Stellvia”) and Dead Like Me. I worked on my blog for a bit, too. There was no internet access, so I couldn’t make any postings.

Editor’s Note: As I write this, it’s more than a week later. All of those symptoms that were ailing me before are gone now. I’m feeling fine, please don’t worry about me.

I did make an attempt at some ambition, though. I didn’t have the energy to attempt snorkeling, so I took a circuit walk around the island. It only took about two and a half hours to walk around the whole thing.

I went to bed shortly after dinner. I really needed the sleep.

I was quite dissatisfied with my stay at Sunset View, though I’m sure it was mostly my personal circumstances that ruined it for me. The owner was friendly. The staff was usually on things. The setting was second-to-none. However, their maintenance of the fales must have been lax since my first one was so extremely dusty it almost made me stop breathing. It was also the only place on the whole trip that I can confidently say I’ve gotten food poisoning… which may be surprising how much street and extremely cheapo food I’ve had so far on this trip. I’ve had a few encounters before where I might have said food might have gotten me sick, but it might have been passed off since I drank a lot of beer at the same time. No time during my stay in Manono did I ever drink a lot of beer, so it was definitely the food that messed me up. The worst thing is, Sunset View is one of the most expensive places I’ve stayed on my whole trip at 100 tala/night (CA$41/night). That costly price did include boat transfers and 3 meals/day, though.

Wednesday July 30, 2008

Even though I really needed the sleep, it was not to be. I needed to wake up at 3:30 AM so that I could take a boat back to ‘Upolu and get to the airport in time to catch my flight to Tonga. One reason that I picked Manono as my final destination on Samoa was it’s close proximity to the airport. Even though it was on an island, Leota promised me that getting to the airport for my 6:40 AM flight would not be a problem. He was right. As I took my taxi in towards the airport, my Air New Zealand plane roared directly overhead and touched down. I was afraid I would be late, but I was exactly on time (maybe I’m a wizard!).

It was another business class flight. Unfortunately, the small airport in Samoa did not have the very fancy business class lounge that Melbourne and Auckland had. I would have to hob knob with the plebes in the common (and only!) waiting room.

My flight today would be very short: one hour from Samoa to Tonga. Even though the flight was so short, it was essentially a short hop across the International Date Line. I would be taking off at from Samoa 6:40 AM and be landing in Tonga around 8 AM… but… it would be one full day later. Tonga’s time zone was 24 hours ahead of Samoa. Same time of day… but different day. I had two instances of July 18, but my July 30 would be severely truncated. Oh well. Easy come, easy go.

While I sat on the plane, the pilot made an announcement on the intercom. He congratulated all of the people who would be attending the coronation of the Tongan King.

Hold on… coronation? I didn’t hear about any coronation!!

To be continued…

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