Like love, the blue stuff is all around. An oily expanse of ocean in front of Apia, cargo ships anchored at the Deep Sea Wharf, and beyond, the entrance to the Pacific proper. Drive over the ridge of hills behind town to reach the TV perfect beaches of the south coast: Salamumu. Matareva, and Aganoa, where they filmed Australian Survivor. A beautiful beach, but maybe not so perfect when you’re eaking out your time on beans, rice, and water, competing for immunity idols, and scheming with your alliance to avoid being voted off.
We had to pay twenty Tala at a roadside fale to access this beach. (Not because of its television notoriety but you have to pay to access most beaches in Samoa; there’s no foreshore agreement.). Then down a four km rough track that twisted and bounced through the bush.
“When are we going to get there?” Kate sucked at her tube of Mentos and expertly handled the car around the bends. “It’s taking ages.”
“Just around the next corner,” I said. Of course it wasn’t, nor the next, nor the one after that. Four km is a long way when you’re moving at the same speed as a three legged dog, avoiding the potholes and stones. Several four-legged dogs overtook us, and Kate finished her Mentos, right down to the silver paper.
I’d visited this same beach five years earlier, chased by all all those dogs on a hired bicycle. (The three-legged dogs now had had four legs then; and the four-legged dogs now had been gleams in doggy eyes.). It hadn’t taken me as long that time. In fact it had been a fast, scary journey
Another corner, another disappointment, another tunnel of bush. The car shook and bounced more violently, the stones grew bigger and sharper, and Kate announced her dissatisfaction. If we could have turned around and gone back, we would. But the track was too narrow. No room to manoeuvre. Only option was to go on. Vainly we craned forward for a peek of blue, a sound of waves, any bloody sign at all that we hadn’t been swizzled out of twenty Tala and were gloriously heading into the interior, never to be heard of again.
“No wonder they needed those big torches.” Kate had long been puzzled why the Survivors set off in bright daylight only to arrive at tribal council in darkness. “If you had to walk this far, you’d be all day.”
“They probably all went by bus,” I said, remembering the tariff board back at the fale. Trucks had been the most expensive. Fifty Tala.
“They’re probably still here.” She pointed into the trees, a sudden movement.
I stared after her, thrilled, and mildly surprised. A lizard, a snake, a rib-jutting, hungry, desperate Survivor left behind? Yet no wild animal confronted us. Only a patch of blue. The ocean. We’d arrived.
A roar of enormous breakers broke further out. Here, calm sea lapping a crescent of undisturbed sand. The beach was perfect, a dream. No other people, no Survivors, no TV crews, no straggle of fans. No dogs (well perhaps a couple at the other end).
Just us and a pacific ocean.
“This is awesome,” said Kate.
She began rummaging in her bag for togs, even though she rarely swims.