Monday, November 21 (Day 83)
Apia, Samoa – Auckland, New Zealand
On my way to catch the 10am local bus to the airport a 50-something gentleman stops me in the street and asks me whether I have enjoyed my time in Samoa. Upon hearing that I have had a wonderful time here he thanks me for choosing to visit his country and asks me to pop in and see him for a cup of tea should I choose to return one day. This experience, on my way to leaving this country, tells you much about the people of Samoa. As I was when I had to leave Fiji, once again I am feeling gutted to be getting on a plane today.
My only compensation on the departing airport bus is the company of a very pretty Czech girl from Ostrava, who arrived in the country last night. I am the only punter that jumps off as we pass the airport. Passing the driver 2 tala, I wave goodbye to Pavlina and lug my dirty and battered rucksack across to Faleolo International Airport, where Tom and Dorothee are checking in for the same flight as me. All three of us agree that Samoa is a special place; a very special place.
Back 2 the future...Everything we gain we lose. When I flew to Samoa I gained an extra day in my life and now, as I leave, I lose one.
People born on December 30 will have no birthday this year in Samoa. Currently this country is the place where the world’s day ends. As of January 1st it will become the place where the world begins its day. They are moving the International Date Line in five weeks’ time.
On board this flight is one of the New Zealand All Blacks as well as members of the Samoan women’s national netball team (apparently one of the top teams in the world, ranked 13th). One of the ‘girls’ (who is a fa’afafine), is actually bigger than the resident world champion rugby international.
My Monday, November 21st 2011 lasts from when I get up at 7am until 1pm, when my flight departs this brilliant country. The moment we fly out west past the furthest craggy shores of Savaii, Monday instantly becomes Tuesday. And my unforgettable South Pacific adventure is over.
Thursday, November 3
Now, I’m not sure how to properly explain this or, indeed, to get the point across as to quite how absurd and bizarre this all feels. But I will try…
Shortly after leaving Fiji at 8pm on Friday, November 4 our aircraft crosses the International Date Line and I find that I have travelled backwards in time. As our flight to Apia only lasts 90 minutes, the time and date when we arrive in Samoa is, wait for this…11pm on Thursday, November 3. Try as I will, I just can’t get my head around this. It is Thursday again. Ok, there might only be one hour of the day left, but I’ve already done Thursday and most of Friday for that matter. So, I’m one day older and one day younger. I’m going to spend a night in a hotel room in Samoa at exactly the same time as I spent a night in a hotel room in Fiji. I find myself withdrawing cash in Samoa several hours before I last withdrew money in Fiji…today…yesterday. Three hours ago I was living twelve hours ahead of my family and friends in the UK, now I’m 11 hours behind them. It is all very, very confusing.
As if all this isn’t a head spin, I wasn’t quite prepared for the wonderful new delights of Samoa.It’s now midnight and it is 28 degrees. Apia International is about the size as a basketball court. In fact, I’d describe it as Kaliningrad international airport with palm trees and emotionless blokes wearing surrongs. I’ve turned up blind here. The Lonely Planet is thin on the ground about the logistics of this place. I’ve got nothing booked and I don’t have any idea how to sort the 35 kilometre journey from here to the capital. Fortunately Jade, one of the top people at the Samoan National Tourism Board, has still got her tourism desk open at midnight, kindly books me a room in town, arranges a meeting between the two of us for tomorrow and points me in the direction of the special 25 Tala (7 pathetic pounds) airport shuttle. On board there are six lone blokes. A couple of them are US military types (always worth swerving in my opinion if only to avoid their warped world views), while the only other bloke, aside from myself, who doesn’t seem to have much clue, has the persona and the creepiness of an Austrian paedophile. In fact, I’m pretty sure he is one.
It is pitch dark along the main road. Despite the odd very dim street lamp, I can still see the glorious splendour of the Milky Way from the bus window. I’m impressed that the first pot holes are a mere couple hundred metres from the airport car park exit. We pass tiny villages with huge churches which look like Lithuanian Catholic cathedrals. The local blokes are strolling around naked above their surrongs (certainly a no-no in Fiji). And dogs, oh my God, there are wild dogs everywhere roaming the streets. When we do arrive in Apia, which resembles a ghost town during a ghost town holiday, the only punter I see is a half-naked elderly homeless bloke. As I peer out at him I see him get attacked by three dogs. I turn my head and look out of the rear window of the van and it looks like the dogs are eating him.
When I’m dropped off at Tatiana’s – the Samoan Motel with a very Russian sounding name - the 130kg poker-faced security bloke tells me I’m at the wrong Tatiana’s and then kindly drives me all the way back into town, not engaging(in a polite way) in any small talk I try to make. 50 tala (15 quid) gets me a room and some kind of breakfast.
It is now 2am and the only person that has smiled thus far was Jade at the airport, although I think I detected a half smile from the transfer driver when he realised I was his last drop off and he could go home. In Fiji it was bula! and omnipresent broad smiles, whereas the Samoans do this sort of delayed turn up of the mouth, wink and then whisper where you from?
They have this floaty weird silent thing going on that I can only liken to the good people of Iceland and Estonia (when they are sober that is). Here you have these gargantuan blokes who whisper on their mobiles. I reckon they’d make good contract killers. I sit outside the motel, shortly after checking in, where you could hear a pin drop when the dogs are not barking. Sensing something I turn around and spot that one bloke of around 110 kilos is stood behind me. I didn’t hear him come, not the slightest sound.