Anatomy Of A Fale

Wonderful fale. So simple, so effective.

“Observe the simplicity, Watson.” Kate prodded a timber post in our fale with her recently acquired sun-umbrella. “Ingeniously made from local materials – wood, palm leaves, coconut fibre – yet waterproof, sturdy, and cool too in the afternoon heat.”

“Sure,” I said. “But my name’s not Watson, and neither are you Holmes.”

“No shit, Sherlock.” She hooted.

But honestly, this deduction stuff had gone beyond a joke.

View out to the sea.

I could see what she meant though. Our fale (or faleo’o’ or small house) was well constructed. A hexagonal platform raised on posts above the ground, with the posts then rising above our heads to support a vaulted iron roof. The walls however contained the real technology: blinds made of hand-woven palm slats that could be raised during the day, and lowered at night.

Mattresses and mosquito net inside.

“I think I’m going to like it here.” Kate lay on her mattress like the Recumbent Venus, staring through open slats at the sea. “As long as it doesn’t rain and I don’t have to go to the toilet too many times in the night.”

“Right,” I said. Admittedly, the fale had no bathroom; we had to hotfoot across baked sand to the facilities block behind us for that. Nor a door on the fale we could lock, no chairs to sit down on, other than the mattresses that were our beds. It was one step up from camping, but not a high price to pay for staying in such a beautiful place.

Slat blinds- the technology.

I squatted on my own mattress and stared at the same view, grateful for the slight breeze that wafted through. Far cooler than our appartment in Apia. Quieter too. No traffic, no dollar shop stereos, no squealing babies. Only the sound of surf rolling across the lagoon and the occasional rustle as Kate turned a page of her book.

“Where are we going to put the key to the car?” She interrupted her reading to hold up a familiar yellow fob.

“Under the mattress?” The first place a thief would look.

“Yours or mine?”

“Mine.” I took the key and shoved it under the nearest corner where we both could reach it.

We were keeping our valuables in the car. Cash, phones, a Kindle. Plus Kate’s stash of earrings.

Not that we felt unsafe. Access to the fales was down a long bumpy track off the main road, after paying twenty Tala to the local chief. Meaning the only people down here were other guests and the staff.

No, our biggest problem was the sand. Every time we stepped down, the stuff clung to our feet. Even worse after a swim, when it bound like an extra pair of jandals. No amount of towelling would dislodge every particle. Our beds were going to get grittier every time we went out.

“The sand’s going to be a bugger,” I said, breaking the quiet.

“I’m more worried about getting back in,” said Kate. She pointed at the half metre to the ground.

Once again our priorities were different.

“Maybe you should just sit on the edge and pull yourself up with your hands.” I tried to demonstrate.

“Easy for you.” She eyed me with suspicion.

“I’m sure once you’ve tried it a few times.”

“No shit, Sherlock.” We were back to Holmes. And Watson.

Welcome towel – nice touch.

As it turned out, it didn’t rain. No dogs barked in the night, nor did any prized earrings go missing. We each went to the toilet once, and made it back – to the right fale. They all look the same in the dark.

We enjoyed our fale experience so much, we’ve booked to go back.

In this kind of climate, one step up from camping isn’t so bad.

Even for an avowed camping phobic like Kate.

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