So little time!

by Gayle Dickson

After a jam-packed few days on Samoa’s main island of Upolu, I was ripe for some serious R&R. The ferry to Savai’i only takes an hour, and I eagerly awaited its arrival so that the next leg of my Samoan adventure could begin. A hawker sold me a lavalava as I sat in my car – he spun a great yarn about some charity, and did a great job as I already have about 10 at home!

As the ferry docked, I thought of Greece. Those inter-island ferries were none-too-pretty either, but they did the job, as did this one. I parked up in the bowels of this cavernous beast and headed topside where a cool breeze fanned across the deck. The locals hang out indoors – the television being the main attraction. Within minutes of boarding, half the locals on the aft deck had stretched out on benches and were fast asleep.?? Again, I thought of Europe – siesta time!

Rattling off the ferry at Salelologa Wharf, I made my way to my home for the next few days, Le Lagoto Resort in the village of Fagamalo. What should have been a 30-minute drive took me most of the afternoon – my discovery tour of Savai’i had begun.

First off, a stop for drinking water and fresh fruit. I stumbled upon the market on the outskirts of town, in an enormous shed with a mall-like parking lot. I found everything I needed here, and a whole lot more! Heading back through town, I made my way along the eastern coastline.

I only just spotted the sign that read “Turtle Swimming”. I’d figured it would be beach side, but it wasn’t. The inland ponds are home to a huge array of turtles which have been snagged in fishing nets or otherwise injured. SAT$10 later I was handed a copious quantity of sliced pawpaw. I was about to start sucking on a slice myself, when I noticed others using it to attract the turtles’ attention. Quickly donning my reef shoes, I grabbed my camera and headed for the ponds. Crabs scuttled away as I entered the waist-deep water and, within minutes, a mammoth, gnarled mouth surfaced near me. This old man was really friendly and continually hovered in search of another slice of pawpaw, even when the younger, more sprightly turtles clambered over him in their greed.

Out of fruit and starting to wrinkle, I dried off and headed further north. The lava fields stopped me in my tracks. Vast tracts of searingly hot rock that stretched far into the distance, broken only by the odd house perched precariously on top, or a dash of greenery where Mother Nature had regurgitated herself. When Mt Matavanu erupted in 1905, the village of Saleaulu was literally fossilised and the remains of homes, churches and graves are a reminder of nature’s sheer power.

At Le Lagoto, I headed straight for the infinity edged pool. Refreshed, I studied the cocktail menu and decided on a jug of Fagamalo Maitai – who could resist at only SAT$40. I lay back in the lounger with my cocktail in hand and watched as the sun set on the distant horizon. Over dinner on the deck, I was serenaded by the crickets as stars winked overhead and the candles flickered in the gentle breeze. The conversations of the other diners was hushed – it was as though none of us wished to disturb nature’s melodic chorus.

Le Lagoto offers guests a white sandy beach, onsite spa, restaurant and bar, and guests are accommodated in ten fales – five oceanside and five beachfront. Awaking the next morning, I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on the front porch of my beachside fale, before taking a tour of the western side of the island. In the village of Safune I learned the legend of the eel that swam all the way from Fiji to marry Sina.

At Samoa’s most western point, Cape Mulinuu, it’s worth waiting for the sunset … you’re literally the last person in the world to see it sink beneath the horizon. According to legend this is also the spot where the deceased pass to the underworld.

On the southern coast, Lover’s Leap provided spectacular views, and a short driver further on I found what are proclaimed to be the world’s best blowholes. Here at Alafaaga, at the village of Taga, explosive waves crash into the rocks, forcing themselves up through the cracks and chasms. I had to admit, it probably was the most spectacular blowhole I’d witnessed.

Mu Pagoa Waterfall was breathtaking, and is the only place I know of where a cascade of water this large rampages over rocks directly into the sea below. At Letolo Plantation is the Tia Seu Ancient Mound, an imposing manmade structure over which archaeologists have pondered its purpose to no avail.

As I drove along the narrow road, it was evident that Mother Nature was attempting to take back what is rightfully hers – in some parts the beach sand creeps toward the centreline, while in others the vines continually spread their tentacles out over the tarseal. Villagers are forever hacking with machetes, sweeping and mowing. An oddity were the frequent signs proclaiming “Ford”. I chuckled at how annoying that would be for any Holden fan. It only dawned on me at about the fourth or fifth sign, that this was indeed a warning for the wet season, not an affinity with the car manufacturer!

I made my way back to Le Lagoto weary but elated. The pace of the day had been thoroughly enjoyable and not a traffic light to be seen. A hearty dinner of prawns in a rich, creamy sauce, followed by a platter with both lobster and steak had me feeling rather languorous. Thank heaven for the late check out time of 11am!

Before departing back to Upolu the next morning, I hired a kayak from Dive Savai’i and headed off into the lagoon for an hour of solitary paddling, with only the vivid marine life for company.

Back at Aggie Grey’s Beach Resprt on Upolu, I dreaded my return flight to Auckland the following day. Less than 24 hours to go – I had to make the most of it. Aqua Samoa’s base is in the grounds of Aggies, so I trotted over. So much choice of water sports! Kat and her team entertained the Survivor crew recently, offering anything from snorkelling and diving (tours and courses up to master and even speciality adventure diving). A fishing trawler was recently scuttled as a new dive wreck and is attracting black and white tips, so Kat may start feeding trips soon!

Oh hell, my trip was over. I enjoyed so many excursions and experiences that I really need to write a book. I do have a few more tales to tell though, so keep watching this space …!

Places to stay on Savai’i:
Le Lagoto Resort, www.lelagoto.ws
Lusia’s Lagoon Chalets, t +685 51487
Falealupo Beach Fales, +685 7747420

Things to do:
Dive Savai’i, www.divesavaii.com
General Info: w: samoa.travel
Samoan Tourism Authority, Auckland – t: (09) 3796138, w: visitsamoa.ws

TIPS:
When taking a vehicle over to Savai’i, you have to have your car’s undercarriage sprayed. There’s an area for this just before you enter Mulifanua wharf. This is to prevent the transfer of the giant African snail to Savai’i. There’s no charge, and you don’t have to have this done on the return journey. You need to be at the wharf an hour before the ferry’s scheduled departure time.

Don’t forget to validate your driver’s licence. Some rental car companies will assist with this, otherwise you need to take your current licence into the Ministry of Works Transport & Infrastructure in Apia, across the road from the flea market.