Friday, November 18 (Day 80)
It is all rather predictable. There is only one cloud in the entire sky and that is the dark grey cloud known as the fear. Tomorrow I begin my journey west, and my concerns and anxieties about returning to Europe consume me from the very first moment I awaken.
Jessica, Linda, Ingri and I hire a taxi and set off for the To Sua Ocean trench. This wonderful place is home to a huge sunken waterhole where you can swim in pools of salty sea water that are fed by the open sea. The only way visitors can access the waterhole is if they descend a 25-metre vertical ladder to the hidden grotto below. To say this is dangerous is an understatement. It certainly wouldn’t be allowed in most western countries. If you were to fall descending this ladder, there’s a good chance that would be the end of you. Woos of the day is me. I feel very under the weather today, my knee is playing up and I have a shocking migraine. I peer down from above the ladder into the crystal clear waterhole below and, with my fear of heights combined with the way I feel today, I just don’t trust myself to climb down without potentially having an accident. While the girls enjoy the watery delights of the sea trench, I take photos for them and indulge the stunning coastal vistas from the immaculate gardens set on sea cliffs above this stretch of the South Pacific Ocean. Close by, at a series of blowholes, there is still evidence of 2009 tsunami damage, with some sections of coastline littered with fallen trees and the large boulders that washed up here.
Once back at Taufua, I spend the rest of my day lying around like a lemon. I just don’t feel good today.
As I watch my final South Pacific Ocean sunset I feel like shedding a tear or two, knowing that this chapter of my life is closing. Beer in hand, Cemeteries of London by Coldplay, playing on Taufua’s beach bar speakers, I don’t want the sun to dip below the western horizon, and the night to chase away the day. I have felt so happy and cut off from many of the anxieties of everyday life since I first came to the Pacific in October. I wish I could go home and see my family and then return straight back here for another couple of months.
Next door, I join Linda, Ingri, Jessica and a lad from the Czech Republic (who, aged 30, speaks less Russian than me) to watch my final Samoan Fiafia. To be honest, this one puts me in mind of Russ Abbott. There is even one tune that has a touch of Agadoo about it. Tonight’s fire show on the beach is class, and the slap dancing bizarre as ever and well worth seeing. The rest of the evening’s entertainment smacks of 1980s east coast of England holiday camps. I guess I might expect Samoa to serve up this unusual combo.
Tuesday, November 8 (Day 70)
Manase, Savai’i (Samoa)
It is raining cats and dogs. Or, in the case of Samoa, it is raining very angry, packs of hounds and bitches. The rainy season has arrived in Samoa with full affect today. Most of the day has been spent inside my hut, inside a mosquito net, peering out at the scorching hot torrential rain leaving tiny clouds of steam when it hits the earth, not so much contemplating life as contemplating when I should have my next morning or afternoon kip.
During a break in the weather I make it as far as the petrol station to buy water and happen to bump into my two American buddies, Will and Lauren, whom I met at stunning Tano, just as they are alighting from the local loony bus. Thank the Lord for their company because otherwise I think I’d hide away all day to avoid the sex tourist birds (although they have lost some of their voom voom voom after two of their number departed this morning). The lagoon here is gorgeous with huge waves breaking off the reef, which I guess is about 800 metres off shore. Yeah, it is gorgeous, but I am finding that anxiety is creeping back into my life after an absence of what seems like weeks. I need to sort myself out an apartment for my return to Europe, book flights for Christmas before the prices get silly, find some way of uploading my blogs, let my mum know I’m OK and also to start working on the next issue of my magazine. Not only is internet about as rare in Samoa as a gang of swimming turtles and as costly as a night’s accommodation for a miserly hour, but I just don’t feel like trying to rewire my brain to the tasks at hand and the need to get the going-back-home mind set. It has taken so long to reach this gloriously chilled, laid back, anxiety-free, couldn’t-give-a-monkey’s state of mind that it feels a bit ridiculous to attempt to undo all those positive mental changes that have come with this way of thinking and feeling.
Maybe I can just put it off a few more days…
OK, I will quickly email my mum to let her know I’m in Samoa.
Michael emails from Tonga. He says it is all rather bonkers. He’s having a good laugh: fantastic beaches, lots of random, weird stuff going on, but he’s a bit scared of his roommate who has just got out of jail after six months inside a Tongan prison.
There are also emails from Maverick, Ruby, Sarah, German Maverick and even the lovely Mackie.
After the stress of checking my email account and seeing 178 unopened emails (this kind of stuff does become stressful once you have reached the disconnected stage of having no mobile sim card and no internet coverage), I buy some cold beers and dive back into the lagoon with Lauren and Will. This setting looks straight out of a Conde Nast magazine shoot. It is simply wonderful here. Storm clouds are once again rolling in from the north. I’m going to stay in the turquoise water and wait for them to dump their full load on this town.
Once the downpour gathers pace the rain is so powerful that it begins to hurt my arms and head but no way am I shifting from here. You can no longer see the offshore reef for the vertical columns of water falling from the heavens; the gusts of wind causing the normally placid lagoon to suddenly resemble the North Sea. You won’t be surprised to hear that this is very much one of those feeling very alive moments.
After dinner the extended family (‘aiga) that own and run these fales put on a traditional Samoan Fiafia. I can quite honestly say it is one of the strangest theatrical performances I’ve ever witnessed. Aside from the Haka and its Samoan equivalent, there is all-male half-naked Samoan slap-dancing (yes, slap-dancing), full-on drumming, some weird prancing about and slow-motion hand gesturing by a couple of Samoan girls to traditional songs and, best of all, a fire show in the middle of a thunderstorm, the local lads performing in ankle high mud and water while they negotiate their fiery batons. The MC is on the microphone asking us to join in with some Samoan chants and clapping. He reminds me a bit of a bloke who calls out the numbers at an old school bingo hall.
This being Samoa there is a particularly strange bit near the finale, called the siva, where one lady, who I believe the daughter of the chief (the taupou), just sort of slowly strolls around in the mud and water smiling and wobbling her very large arse around (they love large women here) like she’s high on marijuana. On her head is a huge bright feathery I-don’t-know-what that you could imagine some Native American chief wearing, and her heavily tattooed legs look like they’ve been oiled up. As she completes half a circuit, one of the family’s young lads – I reckon he’s about four years old – lies face down in the mud and puddles, the rain still pouring down, while she pushes her left foot down firmly on his backside. You should see the pained expression of this little fella as he lays there, rain belting down, mud oozing into his mouth. He doesn’t look confident that she won’t crush him to death. It’s all a bit like a medieval court jesters’ show. As soon as the performance ends Will gets ready to leg it from the scene. That’s definitely the strangest show I’ve ever seen, he tells me. You’ve got to give it to the Samoans – they are certainly good at putting the weird into weirdness.
Word of the day: ridiculous.