Monday, July 12, 2010

Samoa is wonderful but be careful!

Samoa is a small country in South Pacific made of many islands but the vast majority of the population is concentrated on the biggest two islands; Utopu and Savaii. We stopped at the town of Apia on the island of Utopu and took a guided tour to visit de many waterfalls and to be explained the local culture and customs, which are quite different than ours. Strong family life, predominant religion and a joie de vivre you can only find in places where capitalism and over consumption have not yet left their trail of devastation. The visit was quite pleasant and we let ourselves go to wear small flowers on our ear and admire the nature. However I didn’t go as far as wearing one of these skirts, the lavalavas, men regularly wear down here. On this subject, the first day we arrived I went to the bank to change money while Danielle stayed on the boat. A man came to me to sell me those famous lavalavas. I looked in his bag and thought that he was definitively talking to the wrong person so I said no thanks. A few steps further I finally saw a policeman wearing a uniform made up of a shirt with a tie, sandals and … a skirt! I think I’ll send the Montreal Police Corps a suggestion to see what they think!

Here’s a picture of our guide Andrew (Andi for the friends) demonstrating how people around here play those popular wooden drums. We must admit that he gave us a pretty good tour, speaking good English sure helped, but it as at the end that the cream turned sour. At each places we went, waterfalls or other points of interest, we had to pay a small fee between 5 and 10 talas, which is the local currency (1 tala = $0.40), per person and this was fine. However, at the last waterfall our dear Andi knitted a fine story about the fact that at this place there was nobody to collect the money but we had to pay him instead and he would go pay later since the control was made apparently through a camera on site. I know that told like this the story is not very credible but, without going into lengthy details, let’s say that he was very good at making it so. Us, true to ourselves, we felt for it and gave him the 40 talas ($16) he asked for. Just to give you an idea he even went as far as inviting us to his house the next Sunday for a lunch with his family members and all the rest of it. Back to the boat we checked and sure enough the waterfall in question was obviously free! And since it is easier to convince a politician that world peace is an important thing than getting money back from a Samoan we simply let it go. Of course, we never went to his “lunch”, which was very likely another scam of his to get something out of us. So, if you come to Samoa have a good time and just avoid taking Andrew as a guide or a taxi driver.

Here’s another picture of the waterfall we are photographed in front of at the beginning of this post. Unfortunately, without another reference point it is hard to see how high this fall really was. The place was splendid with lush topical vegetation everywhere and this huge column of water falling. Seeing the flat rock at the top of the fall Danielle was wondering how it would be to dive from that point into the fall. Unfortunately, I’d left my swimsuit in the car and was not able to show my virility to her that day!

Here are a few pictures of Apia. Children here really like to be taken in picture and as soon as I pulled out my camera these young girls started to shout for me to point the device at them. We obviously went to the central market to buy fruits and vegetables. Prices are quite low, especially compared to French Polynesia, and the choice reasonably good. One interesting thing about the markets in the islands is that there are many people selling their products but the products are same on every stall. You can also see here a view of the large Catholic Church in the center of Apia, which is a landmark hard to miss when taking a walk in town. By the way, it is quite pleasant to walk in Apia. It is not very big but, other than the taxi drivers who you must watch, people are extremely nice and convivial.
One last note about our itinerary. If you read so far in this article you are probably one of our regular readers and in the next few weeks you will notice a tangible acceleration in our progress through the Pacific. The reason is quite simple. We had two choices for our Pacific passage. We could take our time and go to hide in New Zealand for the cyclone season, which starts around October, or speed up and leave Australia before the beginning of the cyclones. In the former case we’d have had to stay almost six months in New Zealand and get to South East Asia a year later. The latter scenario takes us through Fiji and Vanuatu and makes us to miss Tonga and New Zealand but shorten the trip by one full year. If you consult our cost page you will quickly understand why we chose this second scenario even though we are really sad of missing to visit such nice countries that are Tonga and New Zealand. One thing we realized in this trip is that the world is immense and it is impossible to see it all especially with the means we have. Nevertheless, we see many extraordinary things often beautiful but sometimes ugly and we are quite happy to have ventured into this trip and this even though we deeply miss Canada and the people we love.