Drive-Around Saturday

Saved by the bell

Saturday and we drove south. In town, we spotted Ted and Teresa marching single-file like explorers on the wrong side of the road.  God preserve Samoa, they’d arrived.

‘Hi,’ shouted Kate out of the car window. ‘You don’t want to use the footpath?’

‘It’s too hot!’ said Teresa. ‘The hotel’s amazing though.’

They were staying at the Sheraton Aggi Grey. So luxurious, the room rate was in US dollars. Way above our star rating.  If we even had one.

We left them to it, their first day in Apia. We’d see them soon enough. Tomorrow, after Samoan mass.

Our first stop was top of the hill on cross-island road where the Papapapai-Uta waterfall fell. Same volume as last time, despite the rain. Same black dog too, nosing around us, then scampering into the shade of the car every time we tried to take a photo. No rules against photos up here however. No stress either.

Silver fale.

We drove down the other side. Then west along Coast Road, and south on a side-road to Sa’anapu. Into the Satao and Sa’anapu Conservation Area, where mangrove lagoons border the sea. A group of women handwashed clothes on rocks. They grimaced and held up bars of pink soap. Then into Sa’anapu village proper – deserted, not a single dog to bark at us. A shining silver topped fale called to our cameras, as did a bell hanging from a green gazebo-like structure.

Still no-one around. Maybe if we rang the bell, they would come.

We didn’t though. The bell probably signalled a village meeting, an emergency ritual of some kind, not something we were qualified to initiate.

Sa’anapu Beach.

Instead we drove further west, past a compound of furious fawn dogs, and onto a beautiful white-sand beach that stretched to eternity. The sea gleamed fifty different shades of blue. A line of palm trees swayed lightly in the breeze.

This might be paradise.

Actually it was Sa’anapu Beach where the second Australian Survivor tribe lived and voted each other off. This was their place.

A lone blackboard leaned against a tree. Admission rates. Five Tala per car, plus five Tala per person.

Shades of blue.

A man ran up, not a Samoan, but a Canadian who told us he’d bought the land and was developing it into a resort. We were welcome to relax and swim, although it was low tide, the water wouldn’t be deep. And as we wandered further into his garden of Eden, we found a little bridge over a brook, teeming with salamander-like creatures and black crabs. Fallen coconuts everywhere, some plastic bottles, and broken glass too. Clearly he and his crew had some clearing up to do.

But a wonderful beach. The peacefulness of the place was amazing. Somewhere to tune in with nature, to feel the sea breeze across our skin, to listen to the rustle of palms, and to gaze up into a clear blue sky. Few other people about – none of the prissiness, or pampering of a resort. Not yet anyway.

Back to the main road and further west to the Giant Clam Sanctuary at Savaia. We parked the car, donned our snorkelling gear, and swam out. Baby clams clustered in wire containers on the reef floor, while the juvenile clams resembled those eggs from the movie Alien. Further out the biggest clams wore unworldly theatrical colours. Rich rich turquoise and dark mysterious veridian, dotted with little black spots. Inside the shells, softer flesh that grew brown and red and fawn. Like looking at Burberry through a watery lens. Truly sublime – hypnotic – I could snorkel around these clams forever.

Back on land, we changed, then drove on the cross-road to the north coast. A run of magnicent white (and blue and yellow and brown) churches all the way back to Apia. Kate took pictures of them all and will publish a volume, The Churches of Western Samoa, when we return. Better start preparing a gap on your bookshelf. It’s going to be a tome.

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