Boy, I have a lot to tell you. It's all jumbled up in my head so I guess I'll just blurt it all out so I can get caught up.
The rest of the passage to Samoa went fine- it was a mixed bag of light winds, perfect winds and sometimes too much wind. We did numerous sail changes that wouldn't last very long, necessitating another but it was still a pleasant trip overall. No ships to worry about either. We passed American Samoa on the last day but we chose not to stop there because in summary, it hasn't received the wonderful reviews from other cruisers that Samoa has and we don't have time to do it all.
Samoa, once called Western Samoa, is as of last year, on the other side of the date line. So we are now a day ahead of the east coast of the US. All yachts (we are referred to as yachts in the Pacific) must stay at the port marina when visiting Apia, the main harbor. It's a really nice marina, right downtown, and it is packed with boats, enjoying the island's annual Teuila Festival which is similar to Heiva in French Poly. When you approach the marina, you have to radio the port authority on the VHF and they guide you into a slip. One thing we've heard about a few times now is that the names of foreign boats mean different things in different languages. So what may mean one nice thing in one language is actually a bad word in another. I will spare the details but one boat radioed for entry into the marina and the name of the boat is named after a character in a German childhood story but to Samoans, the word is a vulgar slang. So they wouldn't answer the boat on the radio. When the boat finally just came into the marina on their own, they were stopped and a whole explanation had to occur. They even showed the authorities the book to show the name meant something else to them. Too funny!
We are thoroughly enjoying Samoa and once again, you can't get your hello out fast enough before they've greeted you. Most of the men wear lava lavas (sarongs) as a skirt, including the police. Always sandals. Everyone has really tough feet here. Basic lava lavas are just a square piece of fabric and they are being sold everywhere you look. The police band marches down the waterfront street every morning at 8:45 am to raise the flag, all dressed in their navy blue lava lavas and light blue shirts & sandals, then proceeds back to headquarters, into the building to start their day. There's a whole row of baritones which brought back memories for Jon. Since it's common to just have all your clothes made here and it's not expensive, there are fabric stores everywhere. Bob & Sue had already been to one to order up some lava lavas (both men & women wear them) and shirts, so we went again so that we could order some too! These are more fitted and they have a drawstring to hold them in place unlike the ones you can buy on the street. In the outer villages where we plan to visit later this week, dress is conservative and we plan to wear these clothes when we're out & about. We'll get a picture!
There is a famous boat in the slip next to us. It is named Gaualofa and is one of 7 traditional canoes (but it looks like a catamaran) that has just returned from a several month trip in the Pacific as far as the West coast of the US. It is crewed by young adults and as far as I can gather, it's purpose is to attempt to unite Poylnesia more, bring the countries in this part of the Pacific together to recognize & bring back parts of their cultural heritage that were lost when the missionaries came. Plus it gives an opportunity for young people to have a unique experience crewing on it. So one day a school class came down to the boat to see it and learn about it and we of course were right there and got to talk to the teachers & kids and listen to a prayer song they sang for the crew of the boat. One of the teachers reached out to me and welcomed me to Samoa and gave me a handmade bar of soap. These kids were so incredibly polite and curious it cracked us up. They kept turning to talk to us when they were supposed to be focusing on the canoe. When the teacher asked if they had any questions, they started raising their hands to ask questions but they were turned looking at Jon & one asked "where is your canoe from"?
We've attended some of the festival activities including traditional dancing & singing. We also went to a fire dancing show one night which was fantastic- where they twirl the flaming torch and dance at high speed, all decked out in their traditional dance dress. We strolled the handicraft stands and bought a souvenir to remember Samoa- a carved wooden bowl in a teardrop shape, colored on the bottom with the same dye they use to make tattoos and it is oiled wood on the inside.
We've been hanging out with Bob & Sue a lot and have done most of our touring together. On the day we toured the town of Apia, we stopped at the produce market which I've come to realize is a whole social entity of it's own. What struck me most about this one is the amount of sleeping bodies everywhere. It took me a moment to focus in on the guy that was sleeping with his head on a large squash, using it as a pillow. As you scan the colorful produce tables, there will be many more sleeping forms in your view. I'm feeling a bit weary of the foods available here but am trying to focus on all the other experiences that are so good to compensate. Fortunately, it was Bob & Sue's 31st anniversary a couple of days ago so we joined them for dinner at a restaurant called Paddles and has a very nice evening and a good meal as well.
We went to the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum one day which is a lovely spot and remarkably, it exists because of the generous support of primarily one American man from Scottsdale, Arizona who is passionate about Samoa and Robert Louis Stevenson. He happened to be here for his annual visit when we walked in to the famous Aggie Gray's hotel one night to check it out. We talked to him for a while and didn't realize he was the reason the museum came to fruition back in 1994 or so and so when we visited it the next day and put the facts together with the help of the tour guide, we realized just how special the place was. We toured the house where he lived for the last 4 years of his life and walked up the steep trail to his grave and learned about all the books including Treasure Island that we really need to read. We also found out about the Scotsman's 11km Duathlon race that was to be held 2 days later, since the running part of the race began at the museum and used the same trail up to the grave.
We did this duathlon yesterday, along with Thoralf, a friend off a German cruising boat here. We scrambled to get goggles for the swim and got up at 445a yesterday, took a cab to the museum and the race started at 7am. It was 11km (I thought it was 10 but Jon corrected me- no wonder it seemed so long!) running up the mountain, across to another hill with a tower on it and then down, down, to the waterfront where the 1km swim was. It was reasonably cool to start with but got hotter as we descended out of the hills and down to the town. Jon decided not to do the swim since he was already cramping up but I did it and really enjoyed myself. It's been something I've wanted to do for a very long time and now I can definitely see it in my future- this duathlon/triathlon thing! And with such an early start, the whole thing was done by 8:45, the time the police band marched down the street again to raise the flag! As we walked back to the marina, we saw the traditional canoe races- these are the long canoes that hold approx. 43 rowers. They are very nice to see with their brightly colored paddles, all moving in synchrony.
Since there's no rest for the weary, we also picked up the rental car yesterday with Bob & Sue, that we'll share for this week to tour around the 2 islands that make up Samoa. Yesterday we visited the Bahai Temple, one of 8 in the world, which has beautiful grounds and an interesting philosophy. A quote from the founder of the faith, Baha'u'llah is "The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens". Then we went on a hike to Lake Lanotoo which is part of a national park here. It's supposedly filled with goldfish originally placed there by the Germans when they owned Samoa but the water was so murky that we didn't see any. When we picked up the car, the gas gauge read ¼ tank so we thought we were good for the afternoon. Once we got way back on a rough 4X4 road, the car started lurching and stalling as if we'd run out of gas. We got the thing turned around and almost back out onto the paved road when it died altogether. So Jon, Sue & I got out and pushed in hysterics while Bob drove, then a local man helped us in the final stages and we jumped back into the rolling car and coasted many miles back down into town to get gas! Then, back up the hill to where this all started and we continued on to the the carpark for the hike. So note to self: Don't believe the gas gauge! This car has definitely seen it's wear and we hope we'll get used to the smell of the interior.
Well I think I've covered it all. Today, we're doing boat projects and organizing ourselves for a few days of land based travel since there really seems to be a lot to see here and the boat is hopefully safe in the marina which is a rare opportunity. We're learning a lot and are SO glad that things evolved to point our bow in this direction. I hear from friends that the whales are indeed in Tonga and it is a better year for seeing them than ever. I hope they're still around when we arrive there. There's too much to do and not enough time to get it all in. Bye for now!