Samoa, Upolu Island 13-18 July

Sans Peur
Grete & Fred Vithen
Wed 24 Jul 2019 23:06

13 49 67S 171 45 61W

Samoa, Upolu Island, Apia (capital)   13 -18 July 2019

Saturday, 13th July

We were obviously happy to arrive and we were not as exhausted compared to the other sailings which was nice but you still need 1 or 2 days to recover due to the sleeping patterns that you have whilst sailing. 

As mentioned in the previous blog, we arrived in the late afternoon and waited for the authorities which seemed to be a little confusing in the beginning. Whilst we were waiting dad put the water maker on to ensure that we filled up the last of the tank as it was almost at 650 litres. We had a nice big lunch before planning the day. 

Dad started to back flush the water maker before we got ready to take the dinghy into the marina itself. However, he forgot to turn the back flush off so we pumped out all the water we had in the tank - 650 litres of water gone! Not good at all… Apparently a lot of sailors do this but it takes a long time to fill it up again. We couldn’t do anything about it now as we were going into the marina with the dinghy to find our what we needed to now. 

We were told by a German guy who also had their boat moored in the marina that we could enter the marina and take whatever spot we wanted. So back into the dinghy and went into the marina to moor in the end of the pontoon. We received help from some other sailors which was nice and we were safe and sound in the marina. Yes!

Now we just had to wait, the first guy who came was from Health and he basically just said ‘you all look healthy, do you feel healthy?’ and that was it. He also said that now you can do what you want so dad went to see customs and they informed us that there were 2 guys on duty who would come to the boat. We just had to wait for them on the boat so we did but fixed some stuff with the boat, took a shower and went to the beach on the boat. We were told that the water was free here so that was a bit of a relief after what happened earlier… 

A lady called Sharon who was the harbour master came to talk to us and informed us about the facilities, gave us the toilet/shower key and internet access and then told us what we need to do when we check out. 

When we had our afternoon beer on the boat, the next person from the authorities came to visit. He was from customs who asked us to fill in some paperwork and told us that we needed to see immigration on Monday morning to do the final paperwork. Great, now we were free to go around however we wanted. 

We obviously celebrated with a nice G&T followed with some wine with the food. Alex and I went to see what was happening on the terraces overlooking the marina. They had a good deal where you could buy 6 beers for 25 tala (8 euros) so we ended up having a few buckets and just enjoyed the atmosphere around us. We saw that mom and dad enjoyed the music as well from one of the terraces and went for a little dance on the deck of the boat. We were all very happy to be here and to be able to relax. 

Sunday, 14th July 

Today we slept until we woke up, I think we all slept like logs - so nice and calm in the marina. We had an easy morning with some breakfast and fixed a little with the boat.

Everything is closed here today as it is Sunday - they are very religious here and there are churches everywhere as we have seen in many of the other places we went to before. 

Mom and dad went for a long walk into town and went into one of the many churches on the main street of Apia. There are around 5 or 6 very close to each other only on the big street by the sea front and they said all of them were full of people. Everyone were dressed in white and the women had nice big hats on. Some of the churches have beautiful architecture with nicely decorated wooden ceilings. Mom and dad stopped and went into one of the churches to listened to the beautiful songs and music.

Everything is basically closed today except for McDonalds… Mom and dad actually admitted that they had made a stop at McDonalds for a milkshake and to enjoy the AC. It is soo hot and humid here, I think the last time we had this kind of weather was when we were in South East Asia backpacking… Hot hot hot! 

Early afternoon, Hille and Torsten on S/Y Infinity arrived to the marina so we assisted them with the mooring and they invited us for a beer/cider on their boat. We couldn’t stay long as the customs and health officers came to their boat and informed us that we actually are not allowed to enter their boat until they have been cleared and the Q-flag has been taken down. So we had to jump off before we were finished with our drinks. We invited Torsten and Hille over for a sundowner and some snacks. 

Alex and I also went for a walk to see what Apia was all about, and as mentioned not a lot of people around or a lot going on but still nice to see what was around. We also made a small stop at McDonalds to enjoy the AC as it takes about 30 minutes to walk to the far end in the heat. Whilst on our walk, we noticed that a lot of the houses were decorated with palm trees, flowers and flags - we think it has a lot to do with the Pacific Games (kind of mini-regional olympics). 

When we came back we had a nice sundowner with Hille and Torsten on Sans Peur but it was not a long session this time as they were exhausted from their crossing here which we completely understand. 

Monday, 15th July 

We had breakfast before we started to walk down to immigration to finalise the check in procedure. When we arrived into the immigration office it looked like it was chaos, so many people standing in front of the counter and waiting. Alex and dad joined the crowd and managed to inform them that we needed to check in and that we were from a yacht. They opened a door on the side and we went into the offices to arrange all the paperwork. All done and we received the check out paperwork at the same time. Great! 

Next to the immigration they had something called the visitor centre. It was a bit strange in the visitor office as it was completely dark inside and they didn’t seemed to be too active to speak to the tourist waiting in there. We took some maps, spoke quickly to the two younger sailors from a French boat that we meet on Saturday when we docked at the marina.

Next to the immigration there was the Culture Park and we walked around a bit but it seemed a bit closed and not too much going on. Then the German guy from the futuristic catamaran stopped by the road and told us that they have a tour everyday starting from 10.30am which is really nice. We thanked him and this was absolutely something we needed to do. 

We walked around into their centrum and it was a lot more people out today and much more cars around. We had a look into the supermarkets on our way to get an idea of what they have here, I thought it was quite funny that they where selling altar wine in the shop. Blessed by Jesus…? 

They have really cool local busses here with funny names and are full of people so we went to the bus terminal to have a look. Next to the bus terminal they had the souvenir market with all typical Samoan items such as sarongs, colourful dresses, wood crafts etc.

On our way back there was a place that played really loud music so we popped our heads through the windows to see what was happening. It was like an old looking bar with wooden floors and a smokey/dark pool section in the back. Very odd place but the beer was cold and cheap and the people were super friendly. We like! It was a place called RSA (Returning Servicemen Association) which apparently also hosted live music on some nights. 

We made another stop before going back to the boat which was at a small pizza place that mom and dad had been to last time they were here. It was an okay pizza but nothing compare to Italian pizza. Whilst we were there Hille and Torsten from Infinity came along and joined us for a few beers. When we were finished we walked back to the marina and the downpour which made us soaking wet. 

We fixed a little more on the boat and as we wanted to rent a car for tomorrow we decided that it would be best to pick it up today. As we had the car already, we took the opportunity to drive to some of the supermarkets located a bit further away from the marina. They do not have a lot of things here but sometimes you cannot be too picky on these islands. 

Tonight became another calm night on the boat as we were still recovering from the sailing.

Tuesday, 16th July

Today was an excursion day around one part of the island. Samoa is quite big so if you only have 1 day to explore, you have to ensure that you prioritise which side to go to. It is quite interesting here as all land including beaches are owned by either the village or an individual so you usually have to pay for using for example the beach to go swimming which is something you need to get used to. 

As mentioned before, the Pacific Games were on this week so all the villages show their support by decorating sticks with coconuts, flags etc of their team/country’s colours. It is really nice and colourful whilst we are driving through one village to the next. 

It is incredible how many churches they have here, a lot of them are really nice but we still do not understand why they need 5 in every village. I keep on wondering; do all people here go to church and are they able to fill all of the churches every Sunday? They are very curious to look at and we sometimes stop to take some photos due to the architecture. 

All of the islands we have been too have been so lush and green and Samoa is no exception. We stopped at a really nice viewing point in the middle of the island and then we continued to the coast to stop at a nice beach with small Fala houses (Samoan traditional built houses) on the beach. Beautiful surroundings but we were not too keen to stop and have a swim here due to the weather. It was quite interesting though that there was a girl that approached us to ask if we were going to swim and if so, we would have to pay. 

We continued by the coast and suddenly the road stopped due to a massive landslide. I think it happened long time ago now as it started to grow on the side of the mountain as well as in-between the stones etc that slide down over the road. We assessed the road and decided that we could go a bit off road with the small car we had. 

The highlight of the day was the To Sua ocean trench which was a giant sinkhole which can be accessed by a long ladder. It is very beautiful and a really nice place to walk around in due to the garden filled with nice trees and flowers. There were also some steps down to the ocean from where there were some salt water pools with small fish inside of it - quite a few special ones as well. It was quite a special environment to swim in due to what it is and the fact that you cannot see where the water flows in from. 

We decided to actually visit one waterfall as this seems to be an island full of them and we stopped at Togitogiga Waterfall which was free to visit - we have all seen nice waterfalls elsewhere so it was not the most important thing to visit whilst we were here. It was nice to see and to have a small walk into the forest but we didn’t stay long here. 

For lunch we stopped at a nice local place by the beach which was not part of a resort - perfect for us and perfect location. Fantastic view of the beach and they had beer, food and accepted MasterCard - what more can you ask for? We had a nice lunch with a few beers and enjoyed the moment after a busy morning driving around the island.

Final stop today was the Baha’i House of Worship - this is 1 of 8 Baha’i houses in the world and they welcome multiple religions. It is a house/place where everyone can come and worship or study religion but no-one can lecture here meaning there are no priest, rabbi etc. The structure was very special and the gardens around were were well-maintained.

Once back in Apia we left the car and went back to Sans Peur to enjoy a nice dinner and a few drinks on the boat. After dinner we went to one of the restaurants which arranged a local cultural show including traditional dance and Fire Dance. It was very interesting to experience and in the end of the show there was a man who ran up with the others (still not sure if that was part of it or not) and danced something which reminded us of a Haka.

Wednesday, 17th July 

Today was a bit of a miserable day in terms of the weather so we were doing a local museum day. We went down to the bus station to see if we could catch one of the locxal busses but in the end we actually took a taxi, very inexpensive, to get to the Robert Louis Stevenson museum as quick as possible. RLS came to Samoa in the late 1880s and became a famous writer - he is/was famous for ‘Treasure Island’ and ‘The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’. We were the first people there so we had a private tour competed by a sweet local girl with perfect English.

The next museum we went to was the ‘Museum of Samoa’ which at first looked closed but after a short while a lady came to open and we took our time to go through the various rooms they had. I was really surprised to learn that they contracted Chinese workers called ‘Coolies’ to work on plantations around the islands. Therefore, a lot of Samoan people have Chinese ancestors due to workers staying and marrying local people.

We had nice lunch deal at a random Indian restaurant we passed on the way back to town - butter chicken with rice and naan. Easy and quick lunch. Our plan was to take the local bus back to town as we had taken a taxi before but we couldn’t figure our how it worked… We tried to wave them down but they wouldn’t stop at the side of the road and sometimes they didn’t stop at the bus station so we gave up and walked back to the marina. 

We had talked a lot about what the plan was for the next crossing and it was still a bit uncertain of when we would leave. It was then decided that we would leave tomorrow afternoon to start our trip with a night sail to Tonga. As it was our last night here, we went to one of the terraces overlooking the marina for dinner and Hille and Torsten joined for the occasion. 

Alex and I stayed behind for a little while and had a few more beers and the 2 French guys (Sandra and Johan) joined us. Its was nice to chat with them as they shared their stories and experiences from being on other boats. We also gave them some backpacking tips about Philippines as they are planning to go there eventually. 

Thursday, 18th July 

Alex and I went to the cultural village after which started at 10.30am. 

We had no expectations whatsoever but it was a really pleasant surprise. They had several ‘stations’ or area that they would take us through. Our first thing that we did was to weave a traditional plate of palm tree leafs. She told me that I was a natural and I am pretty sure I have not done this before.

They showed us to the woodcrafts fala where 3 men were working on different stages of a specific bowl (Kava bowl) and had a display of many other things that they produce in this fala. They were very skilled. 

Next was the food fala where the men where preparing food to cook on the fire. One of the guys were a good shows man and showed us loads of things, like how to…

  • open a coconut the quickest way, a hit with a stone between the eyes of the coconuts
  • make a fire
  • prepare the Taro leaf packages filled with coconut cream with onion, salt and pepper
  • retrieve a coconut from a tall tree with the help of a small piece of textile 

Once they had showed us everything, the prepared the fire and placed all the food onto it in different layers. They put tuna wrapped in banana leafs, taro leaf packages, banana and taro.

Second last stop was the fala where they prepared the traditional ‘paper’ which they use to imprint patterns on. They use bark from a specific tree and prepare it with the use of seashells ro stretch the fibres. Once the sheet is more then the triple size of what they started with they let it dry and then glue/mend layers together to ensure there are no holes and the right thickness is acheived. 

Last and final stop was back at the main falas where they had served the traditional prepared food onto the plates that we weaved in the beginning of the tour. Whilst we enjoyed the food, they danced and sang own the stage. We were so pleasantly surprised of this tour and were so sad that mom and dad couldn’t come with as they were fixing with the boat.

We felt a bit bad as we had been gone for so many hours and so we wanted to hurry back to the boat. To our surprise we met dad on the corner where he informed us that we needed to go to immigration to check out as the plan had slightly changed. We were now leaving first light tomorrow morning along with 2 other boats towards an island called ‘New Potatoes’, Niuatoputapu (complicated name), part of Tonga and stay there for one night before moving on to next island, Vavau. Okay great - this will allow us to slip top the journey in 2 which is good. 

Alex and I fixed a few things before we went back to the boat and wanted to go the Marine Park 5 minute walk from the marina. We read that it would be nice to go snorkelling there and it would be a shame to miss it whilst we were here. Dad came back before we had left and told is that we need to pay customs check out fees in cash so we scrapped together the last of what we had and managed to have just enough for the check out and the marine park fee. It was nice to snorkel there as we saw some nice coral and some fish that we have not seen before but we didn’t stay long as we also knew that we were had to help prepare the boat for tomorrows crossing.