After a sighting of Sonny Bill Williams in the departure lounge – we thought he might be on our flight – we flew to Apia, Samoa. Arrived in darkness, only the dark calm waters of the Pacific beneath us, and after some manoeuvring through cloud, the distant silhouette of Upolu. Then with a wide swing through one hundred and eighty degrees, we touched down into twenty-something heat. Welcome to Samoa, Mr Bond. Except this wasn’t the start of a 007 film, or anything like it. Our three suitcases weighed down with wine and cheese and Kellogg’s All-Bran were a bit of a giveaway that we weren’t clandestine secret service agents. And the six by four cardboard bike box was another, balanced precariously across a wonky airport trolley and sweeping up other passengers like a snow-plough.
“Are you here for long?” said the first customs officer. At least that’s what I thought he said. It may have been, what’s’ that fat holiday maker doing on one end of your cardboard box? Or is that a famous All-Black with a penchant for shoulder charges on the other? But it was probably just ‘Welcome to Samoa, Mr Southall.’ And ‘You know it’s bloody hot here, don’t you? Too hot for cycling. And the dogs are aggressive.”
Peter, our taxi driver guided us to his car. He crammed the bike, box, and another case into a very small boot, and us into the back seat. Then calmed us down with some Rod Stewart music, followed by The Chainsmokers. Eclatic mix. By then we’d lost the fat holiday-maker and SBW too, although there was no evidence he’d ever been on the plane.
It was a slow journey to Apia – maximum speed of forty kilometres per hour – although on this stretch of road distance is measured by the number of churches, at least forty, possibly two hundred. Save a prayer, except no Duran Duran on the car stereo. So a long scenic ride (actually not so scenic seeing it was night), the shadows of trees slipping past, then the occasional band of youths prowling around a torch, and lots of well illuminated churches. No road signs. But the ocean was on our left – we had to be heading the right way – Peter wasn’t intending to kidnap the bike.
And so at ten (or later – it felt like the middle of the night), we swung down another road and stopped at our appartments. Thank God, we’d arrived at last. Somewhere sometime in Samoa. (No Simple Minds on the radio either.) Peter was great – he carried all our bags up, not only to the first floor, but the second. He was helped by Lofa, the building night-watchman, who greeted us warmly as well. We began to feel like we’d landed on our feet – even pedals – since the bike had made it this far too.
Tomorrow – or the day after since this is Samoa – read about our trials and tribulations trying to access the internet. No wonder hymn books are bigger here than Facebook. And no Mr Bond, you can’t open a bank account at ANZ Samoa. Just use one of those gold coins hidden in your briefcase. Sorry, your bike box.