Apia, Upolu - Lano, Savai’i (Samoa)
Remember, remember, the fifth of November
I’m not sure I can remember all of the fourth of November. The Samoan 4th of November, I mean.
Yesterday morning I was feeling afraid to leave the sanctuary of my motel room because I was knackered and had a fear about the madness that lay outside these four walls.
This fine morning, I am feeling afraid to leave the sanctuary of my motel room because I am knackered and have a fear about the madness that occurred outside these four walls last night.
When I arrived in Samoa little did I imagine I’d be ‘running for the hills’ or, in my case, ‘running for the islands’, within a day or so of being here. That was all a bit bonkers by any standards last night. I need to get my arse out of Apia.
Next to Apia market huge Philippino-style jeepneys rev up, reggae music blasting from their drivers’ front carriages, ready to head off from the urban to the rural. You can feel the humidity is reaching breaking point. I’ve got the sweat of justice on me anyhow from last night’s shenanigans but the insane humidity leaves me drenched. I may as well have worn my t-shirt in the shower and be parading around with it on now. Nobody would be able to tell the difference.
The multi-coloured wooden musical truck headed to the ferry terminal for the cross-channel ride to Savai’i is completely full. It’s like steam is coming off some of the passengers, it is so humid. And then, when we can stand no more, the clouds break and our collective sweat is washed away with rainwater. You can see when each person forces their way on board this strange wooden contraption that several of the passengers are doing quick calculations in their heads about how they can reposition everybody so that we are all sat in the correct places. Yes, Samoan buses appear to have some kind of social order cum hierarchy. As I get on board last, conscious of dripping wet with sweat and now rainwater, there are no spots on the wooden benches left. That’s no problem though, because I can see that part of the bus social hierarchy system is that foreigners are guaranteed a seat, even if that means that the (sad to say) obese teenage girl adjacent is expected to sit on her mum’s lap for the whole ninety minute journey to the ferry terminal just so that this palagi can park his backside somewhere. I could refuse their kind gesture but I know that is going to have the opposite affect to my actual well-meaning intentions. As you might expect, the elderly are also guaranteed a seat (near the front) and any young girls you might describe as looking single are kept right at the front well away from the young lads (sat at the very back).
Oh come all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah
Come all ye visitors to Beth, ah ha, ah ha, Beth, Beth-le hem
I suspected the Samoans might add a spoonful or two of madness to the madness.
Rudolph the red nose reindeer had a very shiny noise…and everyeeeeeebody knows. Rewind.
Yes, the happy truck is blasting out Christmas tunes set to reggae beats and a teensy weensy bit of Pacific rap. Every single song emanating from the driver’s carriage, which is adorned, by the way, with 1970’s style shag carpet and 11 driver’s mirrors (not the usual one), is some kind of reggae-inspired Christmas song. And yes, I do believe it is only Fireworks’ Night, the weird Protestant celebration about killing a load of Catholic conspirators some time way back in the day longer ago than any of us care anymore; a full 50 days before Christmas day.
We arrive at the terminal around 11.15. The ferry schedule says it is a 12 departure but the Lady Samoa II is apparently setting sail at 2pm. Reading between the lines, this is because somebody vital to the running of the ship, such as the captain, just hasn’t shown up yet on the opposite side of the straits. My two new Samoan friends – two girls aged around 15 or 16 – who get chatting to me in the departures hall, insist on sharing everything they eat and drink: biscuits, crisps, cola and water. And then they kindly ask me if they can be my ‘family on their island’. It’s a lovely offer and if I wasn’t booked in to a place in Lano tonight I might take them up on it. Aside from their company, I use the three hours on the floor of the departure hall to try and piece the events of last night back together.
Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall. Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put the story of last night back together again.
Safely across the Apolima Strait, at the terminal in Salelologa, I am ushered on to the local jeepney by a young Christiano Ronaldo type with green hair who is as thin as a rake, as strong as an ox and as quick on his feet as the All Black’s Israel Dagg. And yes, there is even more unexplained madness from the locals…
You can basically stop the bus wherever and whenever you want but the thing I don’t get is the following: the bus is speeding along at top whack. The bell rings requesting us to stop. The driver puts his foot fully down on the break and the bus screeches to a halt. The punter getting off squeezes past all and sundry, usually with bags of shopping, pays the driver, waits for change and then we drive off. Fair enough, but then some other punter will literally ring the bell to stop, one second later. I kid you not. The record on today’s journey was five metres between two stops. Why wouldn’t you just get off with the first punter and walk the five metres? Answers on a postcard.
Lauiala Beach Fales in the village of Lano, on the east coast of Savai’i is a gorgeous spot. When I arrive, Richard, the owner, is preparing an umoo in the gardens. The handful of us staying here listen to Richard explain to us the best ways to split a coconut, how to cook on a traditional Samoan fire using hot stones and coconut husks, and everything you should know about breadfruit, taro and other exotic vegetables and fruit common to this country. It is a beautiful scene as the smoke from the fire mingles with the sunlight, casting shards of broken sunlight through the plantation gardens.
Dinner is fruit and vegetables cultivated in the gardens. I crash at 7. My head is spinning.