To Upolu and Beyond
We had been told that Upolu would have a bit more hustle and bustle to it than Savai’i as the county’s capital city of Apia and Faleolo International Airport are both on the island. The ferry ride back to Upolu was slightly different than the one we took leaving the island a few days before. Instead of parking our cars underneath the main deck, and enjoying a kung fu movie and orange fanta in a breezy hall, we were left in our cars on the main deck, bumper to bumper while the sun broiled us through our windshield.
Lucky passengers with a hatchback could crawl through their vehicles, exiting at the trunk to use the facilities as needed. Once the ferry ride got underway, we leaned our seats back, rolled the windows down and enjoyed the coolish sea breeze as our car filled with the smell of sun baked coconut. Courtesy of our neighbor.
The drive to Lalomanu was only 60 miles but took nearly 3 hours. The top speed on the island is 35mph, but many choose to drive 25mph as we previously found out. The villages are colorful, the foliage is dense and healthy, and it is not uncommon to see children wielding machetes. There are convenience stores to stop at and buy soda and ice cream, but there are very few restaurants selling local food.
The Taufua fales at Lalomanu are simple, clean, and comfortable. They are located directly on the sand just a few steps from the water. Breakfast and dinner are eaten communally and all the guests sit together at one long table. The food that is served is western, although the consensus is that most guests would have liked more local fare. This is one of the thing’s that Samoa still seems to be figuring out, catering to tourists who want to leave their home and still feel at home versus tourists that want to leave their home and experience a new culture. It will be interesting to see how this tug of war pans out. We prefer the latter.
A 10 minute drive to the west brings you to Vavau Beach. You pay your $5tālā to a woman sitting in a small fale and take the dirt road down to the beach. There is a section of the road that makes you wonder if you are still on the right path- you are, keep going. At the end of the indeterminable trail is a sand “parking area” surrounded by palm trees. While we visited the beach on a rather grey day, turning the water a dark blue as opposed to the turquoise promised on postcards, it was still very clear that this would be one of the most beautiful beaches we would ever visit. There is a small circular lagoon, where the water is never more than waist high, that is flanked on both sides with jungled volcanic rock. It felt like a personal beach fortress. We laid in the shallow water and let the current rock us back and forth. It rained for 15 minutes and made the whole experience feel like a spa treatment. We took the photo below, but the grey sky doesn’t do it justice. Here is a link to the official photo Samoa Travel uses.
Another 5 minutes past Vavau Beach is the much Instagrammed To-Sua Ocean trench. While several precautions are taken to make the trench is as safe as possible, the climb down the ladder, and strong current in the water are not for the faint of heart. It is completely do-able with children, but special care should be taken. Most people squeal their way down the steep ladder, make the short jump off the platform into the water, and then spend their time playing with the current and holding on to the ropes that are specially placed to keep you from getting sucked out to sea. Again, it is a totally safe experience as long a you are not trying to show off and can tread water.
Saturday night is Fia Fia night at the fales. It was described to us as a ‘happy celebration’ where a nearby village would share customary dances wile wearing traditional dress. The evening started off with a large dinner and a dance preformed by a group of ladies in very colorful puletasi’s. Then a group of men in lavalava preformed a clapping dance which was followed up by a knife fire dance. The fire dance was the real crowd pleaser as we all watched boys under the age of ten toss and twirl flaming batons around our grass roofed wooden fale.
We enjoyed Savai’i and Upolu equally. They both supplied a feeling of being ‘away from it all’, as long as we carried around a stack of $5tālā.