This Little Piggy
22 September 2016
This short post might fall into the "too much information" category so apologies in advance but perhaps readers might want to follow the ongoing tale of woe.
As Blog followers will know I've been suffering with my back for a while now. That's unusual as normally it clears up within a few days, a week at most. This time, it just won't go away and I'm worrying a bit about running the boat in my delicate, seldom without pain condition. Consequently I've sought out the only back treatment I can find. More massage.
"Would Sir mind if it's a male giving your massage?"
A bit embarrassed, but, put on the spot and not wishing to appear sexist, like an idjit I say "of course not. That's ok with me"
Had she mentioned that in his spare time he plays Lock on the local rugby team and for fun breaks open coconuts with his bare hands I might have politely declined. The pain. It didn't fix my bad back but it sure as heck took my mind off it. Liberally slabbered with oil he sets to work. Same monsense as I've always had in previous massages. Apparently I've got a knot in my shoulders. I don't give a crap about that. It's my lower back that's the problem - "just here" I show him pointing round my back. Undeterred he attacks my "knot" kneading and pushing with his thumbs then his bony elbow all the time trying to squeeze it out through the other side of my rib cage. Finally satisfied the knot is undone he then whacks on more oil and....... whoa. ALARM BELLS........climbs onto the bed behind me. Now I'm not just in agony but terrified. Was this going to be more "remedial pain" or a re-enactment of the Piggy Scene from Deliverance with no sign of Burt Reynolds to help me out or even a banjo playing a nice tune.
Fortunately it was just more pain of the pointy-elbow-on-muscle type.
All to no great lasting effect.
In future, think I'll just stick to taking the pills.
20 September 2016 | The Robert Louis Stevenson Pad
"Fanny. Do I look a little strange?"
You'd have to be careful saying that in Glasgow however, according to the tour guide these were the last words of Robert Louis Stevenson, author and beneficiary of the Stevenson lighthouse / engineering family and a good private, Scottish education. (Mostly because there wouldn't have been much education for the peasants back then).
Brought up in Edinburgh, (well, someone has to do it), poor wee Bobby suffered from his early years with a poorly chest. Some say TB but it developed into a lifelong problem and sadly, a life that wasn't very long either, dying at just 44.
However, in these few years he certainly got around, visiting our wee village, Bridge of Allan, to "take the waters", penned a few books and while a bit of a
disappointment to his left brain dominated family of engineers, poor wee right brained Robert took to story telling and did a pretty good job of it. His writings are still as prominent as his family's Left Brain lighthouses.
Anyway, a bit like me, the Bridge of Allan waters didn't make much difference to his breathing and, so, in the absence of Ventolin, he took off and after visits to the USA and Australia returned to Samoa which he'd passed through earlier and fallen in love with and where from our efforts this morning, he apparently opened the Robert Louis Stevenson museum. £5 a tour.
RLS was to an extent, the Bill Bryson of the mid 1800's. Following the successful book tours for his many works of fiction he was commissioned to write a travel book on the Pacific. I can imagine that after a short charabang ride from Bridge of Allan to maybe Largs or Kip marina he jumped on his yacht, probably paid for by the royalties of Treasure Island, Dr Jekyll and Kidnapped, (look for the reference to the cave on Bridge of Allan's Allan Water and Tinker's Hole anchorage on Mull) and sailed off heading west.*
Of the islands and indeed the continents he visited, Samoa made the biggest impact and he settled here in 1892, building a rather nice pad up on the hill overlooking Apia, the main harbour and town and that's where you find us this morning. We're in the Coffee Bean cafe in town having a, well, a coffee....and fresh papaya and poached eggs on toast. (The American influence of having fruit with your eggs!)
About 11,000 miles away is our wee village of Bridge of Allan where it all started for us and wee Bobby.
Big difference is, I'm not staying! Nor am I a writer as you may observe.....but not comment.
17 September 2016
We left Pago Pago in American Samoa on Wednesday for a 15 hour, overnighter to Western Samoa. With a good 15 knot tailwind all night we made good time yet weirdly, arrived two days later.
Much as I'd like to claim time travelling abilities, or at least have it so I got younger rather than accelerated one day earlier to my doom (because, as you all know, ultimately, and a bit sadly, we're all (together now).....doooomed).
All this nonsense of course was just crossing the International Dateline.
If you follow Anne's logic, our farthest point east back in 2013 was was way oop north in Norway where we hit 15 east. It was from there we turned south and west, ultimately ending up here. Consequently, by that logic, we're now a few miles past half way. If you include an up and down to New Zealand next year, and include Grand Plan F, the return trip via Greenland and Iceland, then that's about 23,330 miles still to go. At an average of a fast walk.
Anyway, back to the Samoas. I reckon, where cars are concerned, American Samoa must have the highest cc's per head in the world. Which equates to highest vehicle pollution per head. Everyone, but everyone, drives a full sized pickup truck of around 5 litres. Not a saloon car to be seen. Judging by the number of rusting relics of Land Rovers, in the good old days when the Great in Britain meant something, the Land Rover was the vehicle of choice. There's still a few running around but largely, replaced 50/50 by USA trucks and their Asian lookalikes.
I've never been sure what drives the purchase decision for a pickup truck. When we lived in Boston they spent most of the winter with two feet of snow and ice in the back. Out here, they seem to be personal trash dumps. Still, keeps litter off the streets.
As an industrial fishing port Pago Pago seemed to pay its way, or at least make a decent contribution to its own economy, the first island in six months to do so.
Here in Western Samoa, the Chinese seem to have bought all the fishing quotas from the government so there's no real local fishing industry of any scale.
The island seems to survive on small businesses and small scale tourism and of course the Yen from the Chinese for their fish quotas.
Off in a rental car to see what's out there. Report following.
Well Oiled in Samoa
13 September 2016
Pago Pago harbour is said to be the safest natural harbour in the Pacific. Not surprising as it's in the crater of a hopefully extinct volcano.
Safest, that is with the exception of tsunamis. Back in 2009 much of the low lying town was pretty much washed away so today, all the original German colonial architecture is replaced by new build, some of it quite modern - well, typically, the government buildings are. Good old taxpayers again.
It's a fishing port, quite industrial with the large purse seine fishing boats feeding the remaining two of original four canning factories that line one side of the harbour. Best to keep upwind! 80% of the island population is employed through fishing or fish processing. Having seen the economic wastelands of coastal southern Spain and Portugal after they'd fished the tuna to near extinction, long may the tuna last as unlike the Iberian peninsula, tourism way out here is unlikely to fill the gap.
So, yesterday, nursing my sore back we headed off to explore the local environs. Along the way we spotted a hairdressers, so in we popped for a quick whiz around my bonce with the old clippers. Not enough hair left for scissors although it seems that's a dying art anyway.
Part way through the three minutes it was going to take I'm asked, "would Sir like a massage?"
A quick look around didn't suggest their was going to be much in the way of facilities, given I'd just had my sweaty head washed in her kitchen sink, and noting just a bed in the corner of the shop it didn't look like much of a spa. Certainly no Enya playing.
Well, given I needed some attention and Anne was sick of me moaning and making. "Old People" noises every time I moved, Sir took the plunge and said "OK". (Old People Noises - According to my pal Terry, these are where you find yourself making an involuntary grunt, ooof, or sigh when you undertake serious effort, such as getting up out a chair, bend to tie your shoe laces or climbing a particularly high step.)
"Come with me" she beckoned. "You too" our Chinese host says to Anne and we're led up three stairs, through a curtain and into her bedroom. Whoa! Heard about these places. However, all was ok. A narrow divan on stilts was obviously going to serve as the massage table while Anne was invited to relax on her bed.
Shorts and shirt off, I laid out like a sacrificial offering on a slab and was then duly oiled ready for either Gas Mark 5 or a massage. Without the air con unit it would have been the former. Fortunately it was the latter.
Not that I'm anti social and I can be quite chatty at times, but I can't stand it when hairdressers and masseuse want to chat. Even worse when it's in Pekinglish. Fortunately Anne was there to translate or at least fill in the silences.
After twenty minutes of basting I'm asked to relocate to the double bed, face down.
Next there's a clinking of glasss and I'm thinking, "great, we're getting a drink". But no. This is the Michael Phelps treatment - or indeed Anne in the desert fallen off her camel treatment. - cupping. Ancient Chinese remedy or trendy mumbo jumbo?
Alcohol (what a waste) soaked cotton wool was lit, dropped in an old jam jar which was inverted and placed on my back. Again and again until I rattled like a xylophone. A coupe of wiggles and I could play the intro to Tubular Bells lll.
Nearly two hours later, having again forgotten at the outset to ask the magic question, "and how much will that be?" we paid a load of cash and slipped out the shop leaving a snail like trail of oil and sweat to walk the two miles back to the boat.
And more pain killers.
Ancient Chinese Back Treatment
12 September 2016
Historians have traced the origins of Chinese medicine back to the Mingin dynasty of the 8th century AD. Practitioners were revered and were granted many privileges normally only given to royalty. Here my masseuse is practicing the ancient, medically pointless but highly amusing art of lighting farts.
More Pacific Observations
10 September 2016
Two items I missed from my list of Weird Things In the Pacific are:
1. Are gran and grandad still at home? Possibly because there's nowhere else to go it seems to be the practice to keep your relatives at home, AFTER they've left. Like, LEFT, as in no longer with us, as in Ex relatives. Post mortem, relatives move out into their own mosaleum, in the front garden!! Glad I don't work for Pickfords out here!
2. Ruff, Ruff. Not so long ago we commented on the appalling state of the poor mongrels that wander all over the place. Every one of them, in a state of complete collapse from heat exhaustion, more concerned with their fleas than passing tourists, (or Voyagers if you go for that bollocks) poised, to Anne's mind, ready to savagely attack and rip her to shreds.
The bitches, poor things, spend their wretched lives either pregnant, suckling or, for a rare maybe 10 or 12 minutes, in heat.
The "dogs". They're either bonking, looking for a bonk, or nibbling fleas wile thinking about bonking.
Anyway, as part of our interest in exploring and understanding the local wildlife we did notice that despite all this obvious canine bonking, there were only old dogs around....... Too tough apparently. Puppies are much more tender.
Ice Cold in Alex
10 September 2016
Well, it's not "Alex", it's American Samoa, but it is seriously hot and humid. The year round temperature is 82-85F and the sea is the same. Lush forests cling to the steep, 2000 foot mountainsides tumbling down into the harbour of Pago Pago where, no doubt, we are currently anchored to an old tree. Or maybe a bedstead as apparently half the town frontage was washed into the sea during the last tsunami.
We got here after an extended stay on Suwarrow. Sat at the nav table, doing man things, I crossed my legs and bang.....there goes my back. Again. That put an end to swimming with the mantas, the "good" sharks, walks on the reef and cleaning the hull. Instead, I loaded up on all the pills I could find and crashed out in bed for best part of three days.
Now, about the "good" sharks. Prior to this, I thought the only good shark was a dead shark. However the Rangers here assured us the guys circling the boat were good sharks. The bad sharks mostly stayed outside the atoll but some had been seen inside, attracted by the stuff, food scraps etc. that cruisers put overboard. (And I think that's maybe where the unfortunate expression "shit eating grin" comes from.)
After a few days convalescence on Suwarrow, the atoll where the lonesome Tom Neale spent many years, we did a fast 3 day passage averaging 6.8 knots in 15-20 knots and big rolly seas. There was supposed to be good fishing and again, we trawled for ages but catching nothing. It was only when I hauled in the line I realised I'd left the protective cork on the hook. Ooops. Have to eat out again. Just as well the only McDonalds in the Pacific is at the dinghy dock and Emilio's does a full American breakfast. "Large banana pancake stack with a side of bacon for me"
07 September 2016
Twenty knot Trades are blowing us along beautifully at 7-8 knots in blazing sunshine so all is swell out here. Heading for American Samoa this weekend. MacDonalds meets palm fringed beaches apparently.