Sail to Asau, Savai'i 13:37S 172:42W
Alan Franklin/Lynne Gane
Fri 28 Aug 2015 11:47
Dear Family and Friends,
Our position is estimated from very large scale charts so forgive me if its a bit off! We sailed with our friends Ann and Jonathan on Sofia to the anchorage off Asau at the western tip of Savai’i. Our pilotage information suggested a marked entrance across the reef and our GPS charts confirmed the same. But large sections of the coast line are missing from the GPS information, we think unsurveyed in recent times. (I am sure the formidable Captain Cook would have covered this if he did indeed survey this coast). On our arrival we quickly realised that the promised markers were missing, never replaced following the storm damage that wiped away the nearby airport. Worse the narrow entrance to the reef did not correspond with our position on the chart plotter, according to that we were aground. Fortunately Ann had also downloaded a Google earth photo onto which we could transpose our position which was a life saver, as it proved the only accurate way of safely entering the lagoon. We were meeting a taxi there and called them for help in asking the resort to help guide us in. They were most obliging and happily sent a boat to show us the way in and once in it was a lovely sheltered anchorage but we all sweated trying to find the only oblique and narrow channel, almost impossible to see until you were in line with it.
The island of Savai’i is larger than Upulo but less populated, poorer and much affected by past forces of nature. Notwithstanding the hurricane damage already mentioned, lava eruptions occurred in 1905 and 1911, creating new landscapes and destroying the old. We visited the Alofaaga blowholes on the southernmost tip of the island, where spectacular columns of sea water shoot tens of feet into the air, crashing walls of sound and spray in a constant restless attack of the lava flows fingering seaward. Almost on the opposite side of the island are the Saleaula ruins, one of several villages destroyed by the Mt Matavanu eruption. Here molten lava poured through the church, created lava flows destroying the village and the death of a young girl is marked by the remains of a lava bubble known as the Virgin’s grave. You pay a few tala at each of these sites, here we were plied with cold chocolate drink from an enormous kettle by our hosts. We politely drank a little but they were not letting us off so lightly we had to drink the whole mug and its refill. Alan and Ann were not so keen so Jonathan and I had to do the polite thing and drink up, I felt distinctly as though it was slopping from side to side! Only to be confronted by the swimming with turtles site. To be honest I could not have swum so soon but when I looked at the green water I wouldn’t have wanted to. It was all very homespun and I felt sorry for the turtles especially as our host said when they have a special feast, they eat a turtle. I thought they were supposed to be protected!!
Indeed I did see a turtle shell and bangles at the local market. there is no way I would encourage this trade by purchasing anything but customs would have been very difficult in NZ or Australia if you try to import these things. More on that experience later! There were some great local crafts, just wish I could bring back more of them. Something of a local craft is the weaving of the Pandanus palm mats. These palms similar to coconut palm stems have broad long (4’) leaves a little like grass in looks. These are cut, boiled and left to dry for 1-2 weeks. They are then cut to the right width, maybe a 1cm wide for the finest mats, maybe about 2.5cm wide strips for the everyday mats. Woven diagonally to the finished shape they can be enormous and represent status and value to the family. Their Maitai of chief uses them and is wrapped in them on his or her death. The work, completed by women is fine and takes many months to complete. the mats are surprisingly soft and for special ones, decorated by dyed chicken feathers.
Lava is often used as the base for Savai’i houses and fale, colourful plants form boundaries and grow amongst the rocks with surprising ease. The whole is melange of vibrant colour flashing by as you travel their roads. The whole island tour took much of the day, like Upulo, there is little habitation in the centre of the island and no roads other than the coastal ring road. There is a small airport close to the ferry terminal in the SE corner of the island, from where small aircraft make the short hop to the international airport on the western end of Upulo, otherwise it is a sleepy backwater whose main income is from tourism. Having completed a snapshot of Savai’i, Alan and I caught a taxi to the ferry, the ferry to Upulo and a local bus back to Apia. They say you should travel by local bus at least once in your destination, its a cultural experience! As we filed out of the ferry gates, a flurry of shouting at passengers and a herding onto the wooden topped and seated buses with open sides, kind of left one reeling! But to travel on hard and bumpy seats in a bus with grinding lower gears, several miles to Apia for just 4 Talas (£1) was memorable!
With my time almost done in Samoa, my flights to journey to the UK due to leave on the following evening, I packed, did the laundry and tried to breath in all the sights and sounds of the place. A last minute surprise was the arrival of Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior in Apia harbour.
Travels to Auckland for me and to Tonga for Alan, next up.
All our best,
Lynne and Alan