I have created this blog with the hopes that you, my friend, will follow me as I sail around the world (figuratively or literally, not sure yet) with my parents on their Contest 48. Whereas I hope to keep you updated with exciting adventures of exotic ports and epic waves, keep in mind that cruising - that is, traveling by boat in a leisurely fashion - tends to be filled with days of intense boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. Please keep this in mind as you read these entries, for this platform will be just as much an attempt for me to maintain my sanity (and connection to the California-based world), as entertainment and reassurance for you. And so, follow me as I sail the world.

P.S. All material on this blog, words and photos alike, are copyrighted by me. Copyright 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018. If you decide that this material is worth re-publishing, please give me credit and lots and lots of money.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The "Real" Samoa

The grounds at Villa Vailima

Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa, is quite a place. The locals here are very friendly - perhaps too friendly. We are staying at a marina here in Apia (the first since Mexico!) and every time I walk up to the bathroom it is like running the gauntlet past the security guards and construction workers. "Talofa!", "Good Morning!", "Hey Baby!", "Hello! Where are you from?" "Hey, Where are you going?" Well, I have a roll of toilet paper in my hand so where do you think I am going? They don't mean any harm, but sometimes I would like to walk down the street without explaining every few meters that yes, I am American and no, I am not married.

Really, Samoa is quite cool - at least what I have seen so far. The marina here in Apia is far nicer than I expected it to be. There are real docks as opposed to a quay, and fresh water hoses (which means that we scrubbed the boat). There are bathrooms and showers at the head of the dock, although they are mosquito infested and the water in the showers is cold (no big loss). So yes, in spite of the bugs, I have been showering every night!

Part of the reason I have been showering with such frequency is the fact that it is hella hecka hot here. The temperature inside the cabin has hit 90 every afternoon, and drops off to the low 80's at night. It is very humid as well, which makes for hot and sticky afternoons. Fortunately there is a nice beach outside the bay where, for the bargain price of 4 tala (about $1.80 US) you can go swimming and snorkeling. The water is about 85 degrees, the reef is somewhat alive, there are lots of fish, and the water visibility is a mediocre 25 feet. Can't complain (too much) about that.

Now there is supposed to be some epic surf on the south side of the island. Of course we are on the north side of the island, so it takes some planning to get over to the other side on a day where the swell is good but not huge, the wind is calm, and the tide is high. Easier said than done. There are many surf tours offered here so on Saturday I called Manoa Surf Tours, and asked them what they though. They told me to call back on Sunday morning and they would tell me if the waves were good or not.

I called them Sunday morning - no easy feat considering we do not have a phone - and the guy said the surf was good and I should rent a car and drive over to Coconut Beach, about a 40 minute drive away, by 10 AM. Mom and I ran over to the rental car place across the street to see if they were even open (Sunday), which they were. We ran back to the boat to pull Dad away from scrubbing the decks. At this point it was about 9 AM and I wanted to make sure the guys would wait for me to arrive before they went to surf, so I dashed up to the security booth to beg the guard to let me use his phone again. When I called Manoa Surf tours back, the asshole said, "No, we won't wait for you, you had plenty of time to get over here when you called me this morning."

Excuse me? Yes, I was just sitting around waiting for my car and driver with directions right to your doorstep to arrive. I understand that he had other customers waiting to surf, but he didn't need to be a total dick about it. There are 2 morals to this story: first is that everything is a bit harder in a foreign country, and even more so when you live on a boat. The other moral of the story is that Manoa Surf tours is run by a jerk and I would not recommend patronizing his business. (HA, take that!)

Ok, enough of that. Mom, Dad and I decided not to rent a car at all that day because most things are closed on Sundays. We were going to rent a car to tour the island today, but instead we decided to take a bus up to Vailima, the plantation of the Robert Louis Stevenson clan. I was pretty excited about going there because I read "Home From the Sea", written about the last two years of his life there. For those of you who don't know, Robert Louis Stevenson (RLS) wrote the books "Treasure Island" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" to name a few. He was tubercular and moved to Samoa for his health, but died a few years later at 44.

Villa Vailima

Stevenson's house is pretty cool, a sprawling, European mansion-looking thing, but the coolest part of the visit was hiking up Mt. Vaea to his grave. It was a solid hike through muddy jungle filled with mosquitos, geckos, and brightly colored birds. I couldn't imagine making the trail, first of all, and then carrying a dead body up it. But Stevenson was very popular with the "natives" and they treated him like royalty, giving him a chief's burial.

After our tour and hike we headed back down to Apia, where we cruised around the market. The market is pretty... vibrant. It is huge. There are tons of vendors selling huge stalks of bananas, papaya, coconuts, taro, breadfruit, and lots of other weird things I had never seen before. There are old men sitting in circles drinking kava and playing some sort of checkers game. There is a food section where we bought a local Samoan drink, some sort of sweet orange liquid that tasted somewhat like fruit, for 1 tala (44 cents) each. We also bought some kava to try sometime.

Local market in Apia, Samoa

Yes, there have been many adventures and there are still many adventures to be had. I am not sure if I will get to surf while I am here as the swell is supposed to pick up to 15 feet by the end of the week, and that is a bit too small for me. Regardless, there are tons of other cool things going on here, and I will be sure to keep you posted.

In parting, I will leave you with the poem that Robert Louis Stevenson wrote to be inscribed on his grave:

UNDER the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.

This be the verse you 'grave for me:
Here he lies where he long'd to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

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