Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Talofa Lava from Apia

After eight days of glorious weather and perfect sailing conditions we started to make our finalapproach to Apia, the capital of Samoa. The trip was probably one of the best we have ever had, we had 15 knots of wind just off the quarter, blue skies, clear nights with an amazing moon and gentle waves rolling us along. On our final day we passed the halfway round the world mark from the point we left Punta Ala in Italy just over a year ago - that was cause for a little celebration. We had thought we were going to have to stand off the entrance as our arrival time was going to be night, but the wind picked up just enough for us to arrive on the afternoon of 13 September. There was some thunder squalls around us on our last night, but in the distance so we had been keeping an eye on them but they didn’t come close, that was until we were making our way in! The entrance is pretty straightforward but no buoyage just leading lights on the hill that you had to line up, the reef on either side of the entrance was fierce with breaking waves. Out of nowhere the squall hit us, reduced our visibility to less than a boat length and slammed us with 45 knots of wind. There was no way we could continue as we were not sure how good our chart was and could not see the leading lights. So Andrew turned R2 around and put the engine on full revs taking us out along the track we came in, the sea picked up really quickly and we could only make about a knot against the huge waves. We had to rely totally on our GPS, which at one point told us we were going towards the reef when we were steering away from it because the wind and sea was pushing us. It was really scary and I sat inside monitoring our position screaming it to Andrew every few seconds, while he stood out in the elements being battered by torrential rain and breaking seas - he always gets the short straw. The squall eased a little and we called friends in the harbour on the radio who said it was calm in there and we turned around again and motored in at full speed to calm waters to be greeted by lots of boats we knew. We found a great spot to anchor and got out the beers!

We spent out first night catching up with friends, unfortunately Sandy on Zefrin was not well so they were there which was good for us as they had planned to leave a few days earlier, Noa arrived later in the afternoon with Kika making a night entry around midnight. Next day we cleared in which was easy enough but we had to visit four different offices, but it meant we explored the town a little and met some lovely Samoans in the process.

Samoa is the last place on earth to see the sunset, being just east of the international date line. There are nine islands in the group, all of which are volcanic. Upolu is the most populated, where we arrived in the capital Apia. Samoa is famous for beautiful beaches, spectacular waterwalls, freshwater cave pools and tropical plantations. Robert Louis Stevenson spent the last years of his life here and was known by the locals as Tusitala - teller of tails. In the last century it has been governed by the Germans and New Zealand before becoming independent in 1962. So English is widely spoken as a second language although the culture is very much Samoan. The ‘faa Samoa’, the Samoan way of life resists the pressures of the rest of the world. The ‘Aiga’ the extended family stay close and loyal within the village and the ‘Matai’, the chiefs are well respected , the ‘Alii’ the high chief makes the laws for each village. Houses known as fale in Samoa are usually round or oval, with a high thatched roof supported by wooden posts, most do not have walls and you seen straight through. In Apia some houses have walls but are still very open. The local sports are rugby and cricket.

We hired a jeep for a day and went on a tour, we were side tracked by a hike to a lake in a crater which was amazing and we swam in Lanatoo lake which no-one has ever found the bottom of. Goldfish swam with us and it was so serene and beautiful after the hour hike through dense rainforest. We continued on our tour passing through many villages of groups of fale, we witnessed a women’s committee meeting, waved back at about a thousand people who saw us on our way. We went to the south to see the incredible white beaches and to the north through incredible rainforest, passing gorgeous gorges and waterfalls at every turn. As we headed back to Apia we spotted a Kiribati or cricket match so stopped and met the locals watching. It was cricket with singing and chanting in skirts! The batters waiting sing, the fielders chant and all this wearing the local attire of lava lava, a sarong. Nearly all men in Samoa where lava lava and the women wear the same with very conservative fitted tops that match.

That evening we decided to go in search of a curry house we saw as we left Apia that morning, we found it but they were only doing take-away, but that wasn’t a problem as the lady waiting for her food invited us to come and eat our food at her house with her family. Luna was the bubbliest kindest lady and made us so welcome. She lived in a huge and beautiful house within her family commune of about 20 acres, the house was full of children and relatives who all spoke perfect English. This was the other side of Samoan life. We ended up staying until gone midnight, putting the worlds to rights and learning all about Samoa. Luna’s great grandfather was William Masters who settled in Palmerston and took many wives and spread families around
the Cook Islands.

The next day was Sunday, an important family day in Samoa, so most of us cruisers stayed on our boats and relaxed, we met with Annie who writes for yachting monthly, so watch out for us in her blue water letter! Annie and Tevor invited us for drinks, which went into dinner and a great evening, they have been cruising for years so have many stories to tell.

Yesterday I went off shopping and for lunch with Ellen (Kika), Emily and Sophie (Zeffrin), while Andrew and Nick went off to do some boat errands and ended up in a bar playing pool with the locals including the mayor and a village chief. The fun carried on back to R2 where I cooked dinner last night and much wine was consumed. This is such an amazing place and we feel very at home. Lots more to see and do so another long blog to follow I feel.


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