Samoa – something very different

We had no idea what to expect in Samoa, but we have thoroughly enjoyed being here and have stayed for nearly two weeks. Samoa has been full of surprises. There is nothing flash or sophisticated about Samoa. The people are proud of their culture and the way of life often referred to as “the Samoa Way” or Fa’a Samoa. There are plenty of helpful legends and ancestors but the culture is very much built around the family, community and church. Geography and culturally, this small nation is considered the heart of Polynesia. I am not sure we would really describe Samoa as a tropical paradise, rich in natural beauty and unique attractions as per the quide books (compared to French Polynesia) but it is certainly unique (to us) and we have really enjoyed the new experience. The people really make it – they are so welcoming, and smiley.

Our first surprise was the Apia Harbour. This is really quite built up and dominated by the Catholic Cathedral and huge government buildings. The officials have to be fetched and carried to the boat, wear skirts (known as lava lavas,) sometimes have man beads (our term) and flip flops! They were all delightful and we all happily flogged through the paperwork and repeated the information many times before heading to immigration and yet more paper. Our knowledge of rugby was found to be a little lacking – did you know there is a Rugby World Cup in Japan? We do now. These are big people and we can understand why they love and excel at rugby.

The town is busy but the buses really steal the show. Sadly we never had time to try one out, but they look very crowded and apparently the timetable is changeable! Julian was thrilled to find an excellent Indian restaurant – the first we have had for a very long time. We tried fish and chips at the fish market but sadly our fish turned out to be chicken – something got muddled somewhere, but we were intrigued to find that the benches for selling the fish in the morning convert to tables at lunchtime. We were warned in the guide books that Sunday is very much seen as a day of church and rest so we joined the locals and went to the Cathedral service in English. The singing was first rate – it is the first time I have heard the Lord’s Prayer in harmony, the sermon robust to say the least and the setting beautiful. There are churches of all denominations everywhere and they are still building more.

The wonderful buses

The fish market
Note the school boys in their lava lavas complete with matching flip flops
Apia bay dominated by the Cathedral and huge government buildings
The Cathedral service
The Bahai Temple

We had a great time at the culture event where we learnt useful things such as making fire from rubbing two bits of wood together. This is really quite hard work. We made plates from banana leaves. I am not sure our plates were up to much but we have frequently seen locals using banana leaf baskets for carrying fruit and coconut. We learnt how to tackle a coconut. We had a great lunch from a traditional earth oven – a Uma. It is the first time we have had bread fruit and taro that has tasted good. This cooking technique is still widely practiced particularly for Sunday lunch after church. We learnt about tattoos – these are extensive. And finally we had a great display of singing and dancing – Strictly has some serious competition.

Making fire. A slow, hard process but it did work
One fine plate
Banana leaf basket
Learning about tattoos
The dancing is dramatic

There are two main islands in Samoa – Upolu and Savai’i. Cruising the Islands is not particularly easy so we decided to leave the boat in Upolu and have a four day cycling trip on Savai’i. This was a wonderful experience and really allowed us to see community living, the agriculture, sleep in the beach huts or fales, see some somewhat dubious attractions and have some great exercise. Given the heat we were not completely mad and had a support van and excellent guide/driver Uilau.

Many of the gardens are mostly growing our house plants!

We loved seeing the mixed perennial fruit and vegetables growing in the fragile volcanic soils.

Comfortable in the little beach fales although they were basic. Julian reading The Times on his iPad!

Local lobster to celebrate the resort owner’s wife’s birthday. Lucky for us.

We were pleased to have a bed in the last fale as this is so much easier to keep the sand at bay

The setting is fantastic albeit sandy

A distinctly dodgy “attraction” albeit a shark and turtle did appear as per the legend!
Local boys with home made crossbow for spear fishing
A traditional fale with graves in the front
A village with fales and painted coconuts for decoration

Throwing coconuts into the blow holes

Finally we went to a Fire Knife show. This was a great evening with Samoan food on banana leaf plates followed by dancing.

Dramatic fire dancing
With S/Y Krabat and S/Y Ambition
Dressed up Samoan style

7 thoughts on “Samoa – something very different”

  1. Yes we loved it too! In SAVAI,I we stayed with the family of a BT engineer, very ethnic and interesting, but I do not think the sheets on our bed in our fale had ever enjoyed a modern soap powder. The steaming lava fields and volcanic crater with giant bats really made sure you knew just how young some of these islands are.


    1. The fales are still very basic and I am not so sure there is very much soap powder in action on the island! But what a fun place.


  2. Look like a magical place. Samoan dancing must have been a treat. Julian, I approve of your wardrobe upgrade. The vibrant colours are definitely you.


  3. I am thoroughly enjoying my lunch break at work today- reading your blog and catching up on your adventures. Everything sounds fantastic! (except for the fact that we are not full-time cruisers yet!) You both look radiant and happy. Please keep writing so I can live vicariously through you during the New York winter. We have been having a great time sailing Gerty this summer. Planning to go back to Narragansett Bay next week- can’t wait!


  4. Your latest post on Tonga hasn’t got “Comment” at the end (maybe something to do with my computer?) so I’m replying here instead. Still marvelling at your amazing journeys, and great descriptions of so many faraway places. I too have been travelling – was in Ballynahinch, Seaforde and Magheratimpany yesterday! On the subject of rugby, Ireland, captained by Ulster’s Rory Best, beat Scotland this morning, and England beat Tonga, so now you both have bragging rights!


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