A few weeks ago I declared that I never wanted to travel alone again. Well, I’ve subsequently changed my tune on that. When I reflect back over the past 10 weeks I realise that I’ve rarely been totally alone. Most places I’ve visited I’ve found decent company – even if it is only a passing conversation with a stranger – and I have also been fortunate enough to make several new friendships with individuals I very much hope I will stay in contact with in the future. Travelling alone sort of forces you to come out of your shell and be open and friendly to all and sundry. I guess in the past when I backpacked solo but had a woman back home I just didn’t allow myself to be so outgoing, certainly limiting my social interaction with women I met on the road. But, now free as a bird so as to speak, I find that I am only truly alone when I really want to be. Now that Will and Lauren have departed and I am on my own again I sort of feel inclined to keep myself to myself for a couple of days (although this could quickly change). Self-imposed loneliness, you could call it. I’m still in contact with five friends I met in Argentina and a similar number from New Zealand. Already if I left Samoa today I would be able to name another half dozen people I consider to be friends that I have met in the Pacific. All this from being solo. I’m pretty sure that if I’d travelled with a partner or a wing man these past months, the number of new friends would only total a handful.
As my bus isn’t due to leave today until 4pm I’ve got no excuse not to invest in some very expensive internet time and sort a few things out back in Europe. I’ve managed to book one leg at least of my Christmas flights and uploaded a week or more’s worth of blogs plus a few photos for good measure. The Wi-Fi might be the second most expensive I’ve ever come across (Norway, as usual wins the crown for the world’s most insane prices) but the speed rivals the best of what you might expect anywhere in Europe and, as for the location…if Carlsberg did South Pacific Wi-Fi locations they’d probably do Jane’s Fales’ beach bar on Manase beach. I’ve never had a spot like this anywhere in the world, adjacent to a turquoise lagoon, to check my emails and the latest news.
I check the BBC, The Guardian, the FT, and Max Keiser websites for the first time in weeks and I discover that the next leg in the global economic meltdown seems to be playing out (by the time I upload this blog in a few days’ time it will probably all have blown over for the time being). There’s talk of the euro being broken up apparently; Italy could default; the students are back out on the streets of London. As I am reading all this, multi-tasking with blog uploads and emails within my allotted hour, an email pops up from one of my British Baltic-based mates, who is in London on business. He says he nipped down to see first-hand what was happening with the student march and it sounds like, from what he was saying, the police were behaving a bit over the top. Well, some of them were out of order the previous time the students were out on the streets in big numbers (remember the lad with cerebral palsy who got pulled from his wheelchair and dragged along the street by a copper in London) so I’m not surprised to hear they are being heavy handed again. The UK is a bloody mess. It is coming apart at the seams. The authorities are going to crack down on democratic descent because I reckon they’ve got the fear of God in them that they are going to lose control of the whole house of cards soon. I must admit it is all rather titillating hearing about all this from the middle of the Pacific Ocean. When I set off on this trip I remember contemplating what it might be like to be somewhere like Samoa if one of the currencies tanked. I don’t suppose this will actually happen, because most of this is the slow dance of ‘beggar thy neighbour’ being played by Europe and the US, but, when I look at images of grimy, God-forsaken London on the Guardian website and then I look out at this paradise before my eyes, I can’t say I feel too inclined to return to all that nonsense. As my friend points out to me on his email (although I suspect he’s quite drunk): the system is broke. It is time for us to create our own new personal paradigms.
I celebrate not being in Europe with another dip in the lagoon during another wild storm. At one point I can’t see my outstretched legs for the rain.
I’ve been hanging around all Wednesday so that I can catch the one bus per day that heads up to Falealupo, on the far western peninsula of Samoa’s islands. Stood in the road for an hour it appears that the 4pm bus is a ‘no show’. When I go back and tell Frida, the lady who insisted on four separate occasions today that it definitely leaves at four, she just sort of shrugs and just continues with what she’s doing. It takes her a good 30 minutes before she attempts to address the issue. Oh, bus go early today. Never mind.
Never mind, luv. I’ve been waiting around all day for that bus. One of the lads working for her tells me the bus always goes at 2.30pm.
As a kind of protest against her inept performance (or dastardly plan to make me stay here for a third evening) I decide not to stay again at her place for the night. I’m going to stay down the road at Jane’s – the place with the Wi-Fi bar on the lagoon. But FFS, if this mob aren’t even more inept. It’s 30 minutes before they make up a fale and then, best of all, at dinner my veggie special is rice and five slices of cucumber. When I point out to them that I’m a growing lad and that a vegetarian needs something in place of the meat rather than an empty space on the plate, the Samoan girl serving me just shrugs and giggles. Can I just have an egg or something? No, chef Busy.
5 minutes later, my stomach rumbling from looking at the large meals the carnivores are devouring: You sure you can’t just do me an egg? She just smiles and stands there like a spare part. Huuuhuuu haaahaaa. Sorry, chicken not working. For comedy value a chicken scuttles past just as she’s telling me this.
I’m a journalist you know, doing a review of all the hotels in Samoa. (That should sort it)
10 minutes later an omelette arrives. Back of the net.
Sorry? Back of what?
Nothing, never mind. Thanks for the omelette.
As I walk away to the beach feeling happy with myself for my omelette victory a huge hornet pops up and, for seemingly no reason whatsoever, stings me on my hand, leaving half of its tail in my index finger. It looks like the thorn from a rose bush. That sting felt akin to receiving a quite significant electrical shock. Even the Samoan hornets are loopy.