Bora Bora, Suwarrow, Samoa

Beer of the moment: Vailima, £1 for a 750ml bottle

Wednesday 1st - Thursday 2nd September

For one night we moved down to an anchorage at the South end of Bora Bora just opposite the famous Bora Bora Hotel. It was a great place to experience the beauty of Bora Bora's lagoon, which is what Bora Bora is really all about. We anchored in just 5 meters of clear turquoise blue water on white sand; the visibility was amazing. We were straight in for a swim and spotted a sting ray swimming by before it disappeared into the depths. They are such graceful creatures. 

That night we headed over to the Bora Bora Hotel for a sundowner with Trade Secret and Windrose. It's probably the best hotel on Bora Bora (Pierce Brosnan stayed there the previous week) and has stunning bungalows over the water plus individual land bungalows with their own private pools; rooms are around $950 a night! As you would expect the cocktails at their beach bar were fantastic and it was great to enjoy the luxury of the hotel for fraction of the price the guests had paid :) After a cocktail we had a glass of wine and queried the bartender on whether it was cheaper to buy wine by the glass or by the bottle - bet they don't get that question asked very often in such a posh hotel !. He seemed to like us and poured the largest measure of house wine we have ever seen :) The hotel was having a barbeque buffet that evening on the pristine beach - cost c. $90 a head - Trade Secret decided to stay and treat themselves. 

We decided to head over to Bloody Mary's for a meal (a cheaper option). It's primarily a fish restaurant and the chef gives an explanation of the fish on display and takes your order before you sit down - there are no menu's. We were recommended to share an albacore tuna fish kebab for starters and then had wahoo in teriyaki sauce (a house special) plus swordfish, served with salad, potatoes, rice and vegetables. It was really fantastic - the fish was amazing and cooked to perfection. The restaurant is unusual because it has a sand floor and the tables and chairs are made out of highly varnished logs. 

Trade Secret met us at the dingy dock and ferried us back to our boat, They were both very full having tried to eat their monies worth at the buffet. Stephen said he had eaten loads of oysters and a big plate of large prawns plus a couple of half lobsters and that was just for starters. That was followed by double helpings of spit roast pig, chicken, pork etc... plus several deserts.  By the time we met them they were both groaning from the amount they had eaten :)

The next day the wind picked up and the sea turned choppy so we headed back to the Bora Bora Yacht Club to find a calmer anchorage. En route it poured down so we got a bit wet. Bev prepared some passage meals, we had an early night and got the boat ready to set sail the following day. 

We had really enjoyed our time in the Society Islands. The volcanic islands surrounded by coral reefs are stunning and they are all fairly close to each other which is perfect for sailing. We especially loved Moorea and Huahine as they are less developed than Bora Bora and probably have a more interesting and pristine interior. Bora Bora is more focused around its beautiful lagoon and its fame has led to more tourist development; albeit its all attractive low level over the water bungalows which have been mainly built on the surrounding motus :). Unfortunately we had a few overcast and wet days when we were there so we didn't always see it at its best, but when the sun shone the lagoon and snorkelling were amazing. Bora Bora has always had a special aura and we could understand why the posh hotels have made it a honeymoon haven. We loved it but it won't feature in our top 4 destinations list. So far this would be San Blas, the Galapogas islands, Fatu Hiva in the Marquesis and our next spot Suwarrow (not in rank order).

Friday 3rd - Wednesday 8th September

We had originally planned to sail to Tonga via Raratonga in the Cook Islands and Nuie - the shortest route. They are fairly far South with not great anchorages and we had heard that many of the boats that had taken that route had had bad weather. Nuie had also been hit by a bad hurricane earlier in the year which had unfortunately had devastated a lot of the island. As a result we decided to head North to Samoa via Suwarrow in the Northern Cook Islands. Total journey 1230 miles, the first part of the journey was 800 miles.

We left Bora Bora at 10.00 am in the company of Trade Secret. It was a grey day and as we sailed away from the island, the reflection of the sun on the lagoon gave the clouds an unusual green tinge. 

We hadn't had a long sail for a quite a while and weren't looking forward to 6 days at sea, but the first few days of the journey were fine - we had nice wind, an OK swell and made good progress. With the exception of Day 3 when we had to motor a little as the wind dropped things were looking good. However by day 4 things turned a bit ugly. We had a lot of wind, gusting at times to 35 knots (Trade Secret saw 40), lots of squalls and rain - especially at night and the sea became choppy with the swell growing to 3-4 meters or so. There is nothing worse than sitting outside on night watch getting wet with squall after squall hitting you. The banging down below from the waves was so bad that Bev took to sleeping outside in her wet weather gear in the rain :(. To make things worse we had to try to slow the boat down so that we could arrive at Suwarrow in daylight. On the last night we had a scrap of jib up the size of a handkerchief and were still making 6 knots ! When the rain falls visibility drops to just a few feet. On our last night we had just came out of rain shower when Allan spotted a yacht hove too in front of us (i.e they set their sails so that they face into the wind/waves and don't move). We had to quickly change course to avoid them.  

Thursday 9th September

By first light we were delighted to get our first sight of Suwarrow. Whilst the boat had handled the conditions extremely well we were both tired and had had a bit of a pasting.

It took us a little time to spot the entrance through the pass but we seemed to have timed things about right and entered just before low water. Inside it was a bit tricky to spot our way through the coral heads as the sun was still quite low and we actually ended up having to do a few sudden turns to get through. It wasn't until we left that we realised that we hadn't taken the recommended route ! No wonder we had seen 3 meter depths when we were only supposed to see a minimum of 7!

By 10.00 am we were at anchor off a small motu called Anchorage Island in about 15 meters of water. It was incredibly pretty - a small flat white sand island crammed full of palm trees. The shallow water off the beach was sky blue. In the distance we could see several other motu's - all deserted as this is a National Park and only has 3 resident wardens.

Anchorage Island

Several other boats arrived that day and all were equally relieved to be in !  

Suwarrow is a fairly large atoll about 11 miles across, with several small islands scattered around the Northern most part of the reef. The lagoon has a number of scattered coral heads and the clarity of the water and multitude of colourful fish make for excellent diving except for the profusion of aggressive sharks ! Tom Neale, a New Zealander lived here as a hermit for periods totalling 16 years, from 1952 until his death from cancer in 1978. The yacht's people that visited the island during this time were always charmed by him and he wrote a book called 'An Island to Oneself' describing his experiences.

That afternoon we went ashore to explore and to meet Papa Joane, the warden. He is infamous amongst cruisers.  He is aged 72 and has spent many years as  caretaker. He is incredibly fit, being able to free dive to depths of 60 meters ! He was awarded a British Empire Medal by the Queen for his services to the poor. He ran a pearl farm and gave all his profits away. He is one of the most selfless and kind people we have ever had the pleasure to meet. A remarkable and incredibly generous man even though he has no real possessions himself.  Karen from Trade Secret, Emma from Eaglewing and Bev had a lovely chat with him whilst the guys chatted to Toto, his grandson who was building a fire for the guys on  Big Reef.  

Stephen and Karen had caught a big Wahoo on the way in and before we knew it Papa Joane and Baker, a fellow caretaker aged 60 ( also an amazing person with a BIG smile) had built a fire for us to barbeque the fish on. They used a coconut as lighter fuel ! The fish was cooked on a hot plate and tasted fantastic. 

Baker Toto and Papa Joane

There is a wooden house just off the beach which is used as a yacht club. It is open sided and has a number of wooden benches around the outside where you can sit and relax plus a large wooden table in the centre. At one end is a sink, cooker, toilet and shower. Its a very simple but great facility as people can get off their boats and spend time there. 

That evening Papa Joane got out his guitar and he and Baker sang local songs for us. It was simply awesome. 

Before we headed back to the boat, Papa Joane gave Karen, Emma and Bev a gift of a necklace each carved out of oyster shell. We were taken back by his kindness.

Friday 10th September

Baker had invited us all over for breakfast pancakes the evening before so after a great nights sleep we all headed ashore. We found him busy grating solid coconut milk from the inside of coconuts (basically the coconuts are old and the milk inside them has gone solid) into a large bowl. He must have grated at least a dozen. He then mixed this with flour and formed the mixture into patties which were deep fried in oil. The result was highly fattening but tasted amazing - especially when they were hot. Having munched our way through many, Papa Joane asked us all to stay to lunch. They cooked us some fantastic fish and rice served with coconut cream which they made from grating raw coconut into a large bowl and then squeezing the juice through coconut bark. It was so kind of them and amazing to watch them make and cook everything from scratch using what they found around them. They wanted nothing in return; they were just pleased to be our hosts and to share their food with us. 

Saturday 11th September

As a number of boats had arrived (probably about 15) Papa Joane decided to organise a barbeque on Saturday evening. Papa Joane, Baker and Toto spent most of the day preparing for it and it was great to watch and to help where we could. Papa Joane had caught a huge tuna that morning and cooked most of it in a wood fired oven. The rest he made into poisson cru (raw fish marinated in coconut milk) - we don't normally go for this type of thing but had a try and it was delicious. Toto caught a number of coconut crabs which he cooked over a wood fire. The coconut crabs have a huge pincer claw which they use to crack open a coconut (their staple food) so you have to be very careful how you catch them ! They are pretty large, blue/purple in colour and taste extremely rich. Baker was busy making a load of his famous coconut pancakes.

Island feast 

Papa Joane also cooked us some breadfruit. He made a wood fire (again lit by a coconut) and put a number of breadfruit onto it too cook, covering them with leaves. After their skin had charred and they were cooked he took them off the fire and picked the charred skin off them using his machete. He then got a stick and holding them in a leaf, gently beat the breadfruit around the top working downwards until the breadfruit was as flat as a pancake - this softens the flesh and allowed him to remove the hard core. It took ages to do and was quite skilful. Next the breadfruit was chopped up and mixed with coconut cream - again freshly made. 

All we had to do was turn up with a side dish and take something to drink. 

All the boats went ashore that evening taking with them various dishes and we had the most amazing feast ever. The highlight was definitely the tuna which was unbelievable as was the coconut crab, all washed down with lashing of fresh coconut cream. We took over some wine and honeyed rum to drink which we still had left over from Gran Canaria. Baker absolutely loved it so we gave the honeyed rum to him and he talked about it for days. It was a magical evening as we met many boats we already knew and many who we hadn't. Baker played traditional music from the Cook Islands and had everyone up dancing - he was quite a mover :) Papa Joane ended the evening by playing songs on his guitar and singing.    

Sunday 12th September

Next day several people headed over to Seven Sisters Islands in their boats for a beach barbeque. Seven Sisters is an hours sail away at the other end of the lagoon. There were several coral reefs to avoid en route but with the sun high in the sky they were all quite visible.

Seven Sister 

The sandy island motu has loads of shallow water around it so the water looked turquoise and stretched for miles. It was also really warm like a bath; a real tropical paradise setting. 

Seven Islands is renowned for its birdlife - mainly booby's and frigate birds. The occasional one end's up in the pot as a change from fish for Papa Joane and Baker. Toto had a stray booby and frigate bird that he was raising as pets at the yacht club - they were still very young and fluffy but with care they would let you stroke them.

It took us a while to anchor as we kept getting too close to the fringing coral reefs and ran aground at one stage on the sandy bottom. We had the anchor up and down so many times you would think we hadn't anchored before :) Stephen even had to dive down to free our anchor chain at one stage when it got stuck around some coral.

Ashore Papa Joane and Baker were busy building a wood fire under the trees (it was cooler and didn't disturb the birds) and Toto was busy catching coconut crabs. They lay some stones on top of the burning wood and put 4 yellow fin tuna on top to cook.

Papa Joane made basket's for all the food out of palm fronds. It was amazing to see how quickly he worked.

Seven sisters BBQ 

It tasted amazing and was all washed down with drinking coconut milk. We even had sweet coconut for desert. We never knew there were so many different types and ages of coconut before we came here.

We had a fantastic afternoon and as Papa Joane and Baker prepared to depart they offered to show us the 'blue hole' on their way back. We all followed them in our dinghies to the middle of the reef and were shown a small hole say 2 meters wide that ran half a mile or so under the reef out into the sea. As it was high tide we could snorkel over the hole and could see fantastic coral and fish in the depths. You couldn't dive on it at low water though as things apparently get sucked down !  

Seda and Jenate (a lovely Turkish couple) from Little Aries told us about a great snorkelling spot so we stopped there on the way back to the boat. The coral was fantastic and we spotted a turtle nesting on a ledge beneath us. It stayed there for some time before it swam away - a beautiful sight to see. The fish were great but we did see a large shark about 2 meters long, that we kept a close eye on.

Stephen fancied snorkelling on a spot near the back of our boat so we stopped there as well. He got in the water to check it out but soon shot back in - a large shark had come straight for him !

Papa Joane had given us one of the fish that hadn't been eaten to eat that evening so Bev cut it into pieces and we shared it with the rest of the anchorage. It seemed to taste even better cold as you could really taste the smoky wood flavour. Stephen and Karen, Luke and Emma ate there's aboard Bagpuss that evening with some couscous and coleslaw that Bev rustled up. Delicious.

All the boats stayed overnight at Seven Islands as it was too late to get back - the sun was too low to see the coral reefs. We were anchored with just the reef to protect us from the Ocean.

Monday 13th September

We headed back to Anchorage Island and spent the afternoon ashore, cooking and eating AGAIN :) 

Papa Joane showed the guys how to make fishing lures out of oyster shells. They were incredibly intricate; a real work of art. When the fish bite he basically whips them into the boat. The lure acts more like a hook. 

That evening we ate barracuda, rainbow runner and parrot fish - not quite as nice as the tuna as the barracuda is a bit bony but still very nice. 

Papa Joane is an expert fisherman - he can disappear for 30 mins or so and return with the evening meal for twenty people.

Tuesday 14th September

Papa Joane offered to take Trade Secret, Eaglewing, Street Legal and ourselves snorkelling for oysters and clams. So we all climbed aboard Eaglewing and Luke and Emma sailed over to a reef in the middle of the lagoon guided by Papa Joane. They dropped anchor just off the edge of the reef - a tricky manoeuvre. The colour of the coral and the multitude of fish were amazing. We went early in the day as Papa Joane told us that this was when the sharks slept and indeed we didn't see any. We were all pretty hopeless at spotting the oysters and clams and Papa Joane ended up doing most of the work. It was amazing to watch him. He would dive down to the bottom, prize off a clam with his machete and then swim around and repeat the process a couple more times before he came back up for air. He then proceeded to gut everything - with the help of Stephen, Karen, Luke and Guy - Stephen's dingy looked a bit like a 'blood bath' by the end of it all ! 

That evening he served them all raw, marinated in coconut milk. Allan and I decided to skip that evening's delicacies as we aren't keen on shellfish. Everyone else went along though and really enjoyed it. 

The good thing about Papa Joane and Baker is that whilst they live off the land they are very careful about what they do and what they eat to ensure that they preserve the local wildlife. They only get supplies when they land once a year so have to catch all their own fresh food. They were rather partial to corned beef though - a real delicacy in these parts so we gave them several tins.  

Wednesday 15th - Sunday 19th September

We loved our time in Suwarrow - it is definitely one of the main highlights of our trip. Not only is it a stunningly beautiful place but we felt humbled by the kindness and hospitality that Papa Joane, Baker and Toto had shown us. They are incredibly special people and we learnt so much from them.  We had had such a magical time here - unlike anything else on our trip so far. 

But the weather looked good and it was time to press on. Suwarrow is not a place to be in bad weather. We went ashore to thank Papa Joane and Baker for everything they had done for us. Words of thanks and our small gifts did not seem adequate. Papa Joane gave Allan a fishing lure that he had just made as a farewell gift. It has taken him ages to carve and make and will be a special reminder of our time here.

fishing lure

With heavy hearts we lifted the anchor and set sail. We had a 430 mile sail to Samoa. Luckily our journey there was so much better than our trip to Suwarrow. We had just one rain shower and the wind and waves were kind. 

It was Allan's Birthday en route so Bev made him a homemade ham and pineapple pizza and a cheesecake (packet) as a treat. The pizza was fantastic, the cheesecake less good as it had a very artificial taste - what a shame it had taken Bev so long to whisk by hand. Still the fish enjoyed it :) Bev had saved her last Beck's beer as a treat for Allan on his birthday and this made his day as all the beer had been drunk many days ago:)

By 5.00 pm on Sunday evening we had entered Apia Harbour and dropped our anchor. We were glad to be in.

The bay is in the centre of town and whilst we were anchored near the commercial harbour it was still pretty and most importantly flat calm. There were about 19 other boats there - most of whom we didn't recognise. They had come from places like Hawaii.

We were a bit close to Twelfth Night so decided to re-anchor. As Bev tried to pull the chain up, the windlass went mad and got stuck on the up mode. The chain kept coming in and the anchor bridle got wrapped around the windlass as well as a ton of chain. Eventually it cut out. What a mess. Luckily we were still anchored and Allan managed to free everything before we hit anyone. We let the chain back out manually and decided to stay where we were until Allan had fixed the problem.

So, far from relaxing after a long trip we found ourselves taking all our food stores out (a messy job) to allow Allan access to the windlass so that he could fit a new relay. People do say that sailing is all about doing boat maintenance in exotic locations :)

We changed our clocks by an hour to match local time. At GMT- 11 hours Tonga is one of the last places to see in the New Year each year. We had a great nights sleep that night :)

Monday 20th September

Samoa lies 1600 miles northeast of Auckland, New Zealand. The main two islands are formed from ranges of extinct volcanoes which rise to 6094 feet on Savaii and 3608 feet on Upolu. Archaeological evidence suggests that Western Samoa was inhabited as early as 3000 B.C.  Samoans are the second largest Polynesian group after the Maoris of New Zealand and speak a Polynesian dialect as well as English.

Samoa voted for independence from New Zealand in 1962. Unlike neighbouring American Samoa, Samoans have tended to retain their traditional ways despite western influence. Most Samoans live within a traditional social system built around the extended family group, headed by a chief. Most people live in one of 400 coastal villages whose population ranges from 100 to 2000 people. In 1990 total population was 186,000. They are very religious people and dress conservatively. The men wear a below the knee length wrap type skirt called a Lavalava.

Normally you have to take your boat to the commercial harbour and tie against a tug to check in to Apia, the capital of Upolu. Luckily for us the key side was full so Allan was able to check in on foot. Immigration were in the centre of town so that afternoon we took a walk around the bay to find them. The first thing that we noticed was the heat - it was incredible. This is their hot time of year and boy was it hot and humid, worse than anywhere we had been. 

We were pleased to see several bars, restaurants, internet shops and supermarkets on our travels. We even spotted a Cinema with English language films and some New Zealand magazines. We knew that we were going to like it here. The best thing of all was that we found that everything was incredible cheap - something we hadn't expected. 

 17000km from London

17000km from London

We stopped at a local bar - Sails - on the way back to the boat to try the local beer - Vialima. It was on the first floor and had a nice cool breeze wafting through. From here we could see our boat and got a fantastic view of the bay.

That evening we were going to eat out to celebrate Allan's Birthday but spotted chicken breasts, sour cream, wraps and salsa in the local store - things we hadn't seen since the Canaries so we had fajita's on board instead and they were fantastic.

Tuesday 21st - Saturday 25th September

We very soon learnt that the best way to get around during the day was by taxi. The heat was suffocating and although it was only a mile or so's walk into the centre of town a cab cost just 3 tala ( approx 60 pence).

On Tuesday evening we decided to have a nice meal out to celebrate Allan's Birthday. We chose the best hotel - Aggie Grey's. Aggie created the now legendary hotel out of a hamburger hut in which she served hamburgers to American military personnel during World War II. The hotel now has 140 rooms and has become one of the best known South Pacific hostelries. The Royal Family, Gary Cooper, William Holden and Marlyn Brando have all stayed there.

We stopped in at the bar first for a celebratory cocktail. Allan had the Aggie Grey's special called 'Trade Secret'. It turned out to be huge - it must have been at least 750ml and was served in a glass that has now become legendary and has been renamed the dog bowl !. It kept him amused for at least an hour - and even then he didn't finish it. We ate in Aggie's most expensive restaurant and for two courses plus a nice bottle of wine it cost us just £30. Allan had some very fancy bruchetta topped with things like parma ham, cheese, mushrooms etc.... followed by chargrilled pork in a cream sauce served with battered apples, Bev had French Onion Soup followed by a huge fillet steak cooked to perfection served with a reduced red wine and pepper sauce. The meal and service couldn't be faulted; the portions were also very large so we left feeling very full :). 

Most days we headed into town to visit the internet shop, sightsee or buy provisions. It's a fairly small town by European standards but you can get most things that you need. It's all fairly basic and well worn but clean and tidy unlike many Caribbean towns. Food shopping was fantastic - it was like shopping in a small store back in the UK - we could get things we hadn't seen for a long time. The fresh produce and fish market were also amazing. Many Samoans grow their own food and have market gardens. They sell their excess at the local market where you can buy mango's, tomato's, lettuce, cucumber, peppers, banana's, onions breadfruit etc... at very reasonable prices. You can also buy a local delicacy - sea slug innards usually presented in a used litre Coke bottle...we gave that one a miss and yes it did look as bad as it sounds. 

This was also the first time we had seen Kava being drunk. Kava is a traditional drink made from Indian Ginger root. Years ago virgins used to chew the root and then spit the sap into a bowl - this became the Kava drink (yuch). Today its manufactured and sold in powdered form to which water is added. Its supposed to be hallucinogenic and numbs the inside of your mouth and throat....lovely ! It is still an important drink in these parts and there is a lot of ceremony attached to drinking it. In the market several men sat around drinking the Kava from a small wooden bowl. They all looked a bit bleary eyed so Allan and Stephen decided to give it a miss.

We ate out several times as everything was so cheap. Typically you could pay £3-5 for a nice meal - we were back to Panama prices. There were also a number of great bars where you could soak up the local atmosphere. Bad Bill's became our favourite. We hadn't seen proper bar's since the Caribbean and with French Polynesia being pricey it made a pleasant change to be able to go out and enjoy yourself without worrying about the cost. The people we met were incredibly friendly and would all stop and chat and thank you for coming to Samoa. 

One thing we did notice was "rolling eye syndrome". Samoan's are very friendly and polite and seemed to be too embarrassed to say no or acknowledge that they didn't understand something. Instead they would try to help but the eye's would roll and we would know that the information they were giving us was suspect. A number of times they took our orders for food and certain items wouldn't arrive, when we asked it would eventually transpire that they didn't have any but didn't tell us when we ordered. Asking people or even taxi drivers for directions was also a risky and sometimes entertaining exercise. We soon came to learn to watch out for the "rolling eyes".

Just before dark on Saturday evening Trade Secret arrived. We had promised them a cold beer on arrival and no sooner had they dropped anchor than they came over to our boat to taste the local brew. Stephen was very impressed to see that the local beer came in 750ml bottles and cost just a pound.

Saturday 25th - Tuesday 28th September

We had several good nights out with Trade Secret and a few other boats that we had met on our travels. Particular favourites were 1. A pizza restaurant that served the largest pizza's we had ever seen. They must have been 50cm across and you could have different topping on each half. They cost $6 each and fed two hungry people with food to spare. They were great. 2. A Thai restaurant that had lunchtime specials for £3 including rice. The food was exceptionally fresh, spicy and tasty. 3. A 'greasy spoon' restaurant called the Seafood Gourmet that did great food at cheap prices - things like deep fried battered tuna fish and chips, lasagne and chips, cooked breakfasts etc... The portions were huge and the food delicious - especially the chips. The pizza and greasy spoon restaurant were always packed with locals so you knew that they were the places to go. 

We did eat at the Rainforest Cafe and Sails, both tourist restaurants and were not impressed. 

We also had several burgers in Aggie's - what they are renowned for. For £3.50 you got a huge cheeseburger made out of proper meat, plus salad and fries. The bar staff got to know us and would order burgers for us from room service when the restaurant was closed :)

We managed to see a couple of films at the cinema whilst we were in Apia - the Bourne Supremacy and Dodgeball. We always went in the afternoon to cool down in the air conditioning and made the most of their comfy chairs. They checked your bags on the way in to make sure you weren't planning to video record the film.

Wednesday 29th - Thursday 30th September

We hired a car, a Toyota RAV 4, for 2 days with Trade Secret to see more of the island. On Wednesday we took a trip around Upolu. First stop was the Palau Fresh Water Pools. There are two pools just next to the sea carved out of rock and filled with fresh water. For 50p you could take a refreshing dip. You could swim from one pool to the other via a cave and an underwater hole. After Stephen and Allan had spotted an eel 2 meters long in the cave only Stephen was brave enough to attempt this one :) Given the heat in Samoa, the swim was so refreshing but it was cold getting in.

Cave

Next we drove around the North East, East and South East coasts. The scenery was amazing. The island is very green with steep cliffs down to the sea and pretty bays. Everywhere we went we passed small villages. Most of the houses were built in the traditional style ; concrete floors, wooden pillars to hold the roof up, open sided with woven raffia like curtains to pull down in case of rain. There are no burglar alarms here to protect peoples possessions. Each village usually has a church and a place to meet - like a large Fale. Pigs run around happily all over - what a great life they have here. Most people in the villages live off the land and fish and still have a very traditional way of life.

Everywhere we went the children would wave at you. By the end of the day our arms ached from it - we felt like the Queen on a royal tour.

Samoa

One of the best places we saw was the village of Uturoa. It is reached by a 10 mile off road track. Even with a 4 wheel drive it was tough terrain and took us some time to get there. The village is built along the coast in a sheltered bay surrounded by steep cliffs. Waterfalls could be seen in the distance. The village had an entrance gate across the track to keep the pigs and other animals in but the villagers happily opened it for us and welcomed us to their village. Before long most of the villagers had come out to meet us bringing their wooden carvings to sell. We were really impressed by the quality and both of us ended up buying something. We bought a wooden kava bowl - a beautiful but rather large object, After we left and the day wore on we wondered quite what we would do with it ! We will need to buy a big house to house it in :) Still it will be a nice reminder of our visit here. It really was a beautiful place and the people were very warm and friendly.

Village Fale 

A village Fale

On our way back to Apia we passed some beautiful white sand beaches where there are a few eco tourist fale's to rent. You basically stay in an open sided fale on the beach with just a mat and sheet for company. You then eat with a local family in their house. 

Beach rentals

Beach Fales for rent on the southern coast

Unfortunately because this was their dry season most of the waterfalls had dried up on the island. Still we decided to stop en route to check out one of the waterfall's just in case.  A few meters from the road side the land fell away into a huge gorge and at one end a beautiful waterfall gushed down the valley into a pool below. It was a breathtaking sight. It was a shame that you could not get there on foot as it would have been an amazing place to swim. We were thrilled that we had stopped and had been able to see it though. All land is privately owned here by a village and they charge a small fee for visiting - our 50p entrance fee had been well worth it. 

Next day we got up early and caught the 8.00 am ferry across to Savaii. Savaii is less populated than Upolu and supposed to be even more beautiful. The ferry took an hour and we were soon en route. We only had time to go along the South East and South coast. 

First stop was a trip to a waterfall and the largest monument in Polynesia. We stopped to pay some locals a small entrance fee and to ask directions.

Ancient Mound 

It took us some time to find the waterfall. You have to walk across a coconut plantation and then climb down a steep rickety wooden ladder to get too it. Unfortunately for us lack of rain meant that the waterfall had dried up. Despite this it was still incredibly beautiful and had a freshwater pool at the base which we swam in. The water was amazingly clear and cool. 

Bev on Ladder  

Bev negotiates the ladder down to the waterfall pool

Stephen managed to clamour up some rocks to approx 3 meters and jumped into the cool pool below. We all ended up having a go but it took Bev a little time to drum up the courage to make the leap. The 3 meter drop looks much worse when you look down and you had to jump out a little way to avoid some rocks below.

Next we tried to find the monument. The guidebook said that it was difficult to find as it was not well signposted and often overgrown. We drove for what seemed like ages down a very uneven track through rainforest like terrain and eventually came to a river which was impossible to cross. We got out of the car and there just round the corner it was - a huge pyramid like structure built out of rock. It was enormous and must have taken a long time to build. You could climb to the top and from there got an amazing view down to the sea. We were very lucky to find it. What we love about tourist attractions out here is that you often stumble upon them and there are no other tourists around.

Next it was on to see the Targa Blowholes. They are the largest in the world. We stopped at the entrance to pay a nominal entrance fee and one of the local villagers asked us if we wanted to buy some coconuts to throw in to them. We said yes and before we knew it one of them climbed onto the bumper at the back of the car and asked us to drive on. We offered him a seat inside but he was happy to hold on. A mile or so along the road we spotted them. Huge plumes of water shot about 30 meters into the air. You could get very close to them and look down into the holes which were approx a meter wide. Our guide threw the coconuts into the hole at exactly the right moment and then the blowhole would spit them straight back out on a jet of water, throwing them high into the air. Locally they call this "shooting coconuts". You could watch the waves hitting the cliffs and with time could work out when a big one would hit. So often tourist sites are a disappointment but this one certainly exceeded our expectations. It was great fun.

Targa Blowholes 

The targa blowholes

After getting a little wet we had a picnic lunch on the beach before heading back for the ferry. It has been a great day out. We had seen the top sights on the island but would have longed to stay longer. 

It was a good job that we arrived early for the ferry because it left 15 minutes early. Just before the gates closed a van came on board and several men pulled a dead cow (cut into 3 pieces) off it and laid it in the corner of the boat before covering it with plastic sheeting. A strange sight when we are only used to seeing meat in plastic shrink wrapped packs at the supermarket. 

 

 

© Copyright Allan & Bev Dornan 2016