Backpacking in Samoa
Even though Samoa is not a famous destination and most people haven’t heard of it, let me tell you that it has a lot to say about it. At the time I was living in New Zealand, the winter was deadly windy and cold, and all I wanted was a few days on the beach. I looked for flights everywhere close by, which is not a lot by the way, given how isolated NZ is. Anyway, I found this flight to Apia, the capital of Samoa, and the price couldn’t be ignored. I just bought it!
Obviously I didn’t have time to plan anything, which is always nice because you have the freedom to do whatever comes to mind at the moment, but it’s also scary sometimes, especially when you’re arriving in a complete underdeveloped country at 4 in the morning.
First thing I did was finding a place to crash until next morning and then figure out what to do. Luckily I made friends in the plane, which I ended up with during the whole trip, that told me to get a bus to Lalumano, the tip of the Upolu island. Because there had been a tsunami there not long ago and everything was destroyed, there was only one place to stay, where all backpackers were.
In Samoa, there are no hostels or hotels; you always stay in what they call Beach Fales, which are small huts on the beach with a ceiling but no walls. I know it sounds uncomfortable, but I swear I’ve never slept so well in my life; the sound of the waves put me to sleep in two seconds and the summer breeze felt really nice. These fales are usually owned by Samoan families that host some tourists (there’s not a lot in Samoa) as a way to make some money.
Once I got to Lalumano, they asked me for 50 talas (12€) in exchange for a fale, breakfast and coffee all day. Then they pointed to a banana tree and said I could help my self to some bananas as well, hilarious! The toilets were on the other side of the road, which meant that you have to cross the “highway” everytime you needed to pee. Peeing in the company of a tarantula wasn’t something unusual but you’re fine with it because all that matters is that you’re sleeping at an amazingly beautiful beach surrounded by nice people!
Sundays are kind of a sacred day in Samoa, everyone is supposed to go to church and no one can work, it’s forbidden (can you believe it?!)! Every mass lasts for 3 hours and the last one is when they sing all these typical chants. We ended up going to this last hour and I had a great time. Obviously I didn’t understand a word of what they were saying but it was nice to see something so characteristic of the country and it was a good opportunity to meet some Samoans. They were very friendly and took us for a walk around the island afterwards. To get to the village we had to go all the way up the mountain by car and on the way we passed by several houses and fales completely destroyed by the tsunami. We ended up in visiting this huge house on the top of the hill; it was Tai’s house. Tai was the chief of Lalumano and, as he told us, he was responsible for the lives of everyone in the village. For that reason this extravagant house with a breathtaking view over the forest and the beach was meant to shelter everyone in case another tsunami happened.
After a few days in Lalumano, I moved on to another place called Manase. This was on the other island, Savai’I, so we had to catch a bus and ferry to get there. Travelling in Samoan buses is a once in a lifetime experience; these colorful old vans took double the people they were allowed to, plus all kinds of provisions. I remember travelling on top of rice bags with a friend on top of me!
Manase had a lot more places to stay in, I ended up in the on that seemed more fun. There were only young people and there was a show of Samoan dances planned for that night, performed by the hosting family. So I stayed and never wanted to leave again. I saw the most fascinating sunsets I’ve ever seen, and at night there were endless shooting stars passing by at every second. This was also a nice place to scuba dive or snorkel.
Once again, some days later we moved on to the next stop, the Last Sunset of the World. Its name is due to the fact that it’s literally the last place on the planet to watch the sunset. In Samoa, even though it was only a 2-hour difference form New Zealand, it was almost a full day behind (22 hours), so I left New Zealand on a Saturday to arrive in Samoa the Friday before (crazy!).
Anyway, this place was completely isolated and there was no one there. I got a little scared so I decided to leave right after the sunset and went back to Manase for one more night. Imagine how great the place was to make me wanna go back! On the next day we moved on to Lano, another nice beach place where we stayed with a very nice family with funny small kids. Here we found the best fales on the island, right by the sea with sheets that were actually washed.
For the last nights before going back, we all decided to go back to the main Island, Upolu, and stay in Maninoa. To get there we caught another bus called Prison Break (I forgot to mention the buses had names) and then the ferry again. This was a place for surfers, located between two very nice hotels (probably the only ones on the island). It was a nice place as well, but not as beautiful as the other ones.
Samoa is definitely a place to visit. It’s incredibly cheap and every beach is stunning. The culture is deeply evident on the people and easily to get curious about it. Even though the country is very poor and everyone lives off of what the soil gives them, the people are beyond nice and friendly, they’re very good hosts and extremely generous. Samoa gave me two amazing weeks, full of unforgettable moments.