This is going to be a very confusing day as to the time and the date. We lost Saturday, February 21 when we crossed the International Dateline sometime during the night. Not only that, Western Samoa is one hour behind American Samoa. But to add confusion to the mix, the ship will not adjust its clocks to Samoa time so when it is 6PM on land it will be 5PM on the ship and all onboard time will be calculated by ship time. And, just for fun, we heard the cruise director saying it just backward this morning when talking to all the people leaving on organized tours!
We step out on our balcony to watch and listen to the local serenade of welcome. That is nice but the air is smoky, it is 84o with no breeze and the humidity is oppressive! The smoke, we are told is coming from all the family, Sunday dinners being cooked in the traditional pit with heated stones and banana leaf covering.
Not having a planned tour, we head for breakfast at 8AM and are off the ship by 9AM and looking for an opportunity to see some of the island. We hook up with a local operator, sort of like we did yesterday in Pago Pago and wait until they find two Brits and two Canadians to join us. A price of $45pp is negotiated for the six of us. Getting started is something of a Chinese fire drill and the van has seen better days but there is something sort of like air conditioning and once they sort out who is going to drive and who is going to guide, we are off by 10AM. It is now an hour into first agreeing to take the tour and we have made it the length of the dock! We will have to remember during this tour that we are operating on SMT. More on this later!
It is Sunday and mid-morning and we pass many people walking on the side of the road, most dressed in white. That is the traditional Sunday dress and services are normally at either 8AM or 9AM and last for about two hours so services are letting out. The churches are all open air and the people are dressed to the nines. Our guide says that the people are ringing wet when they get out of church. They then head home for a huge family gathering and heavy meals that have been cooking in the pits covered with hot stones and banana leaves. They gorge on the feast and then lay around and sleep and talk all afternoon in these open air gathering houses we see in front of many of the homes. Both the Samoas have a very family centric society...the land is pasted down through the generations and the family members are buried in the front yard in sometimes very elaborate tom
We are on the island of Upolu and we drive West along the coast road past numerous churches, schools, houses and businesses. This road is built up the whole way out to a pond area where there are large sea turtles and numerous large fish who come for the bread that our driver and guide stopped to buy on the way out. This is interesting, just not great, but the coastal scenery is beautiful and we get a great view of village family life on this Sunday. Soon we load up and head back the way we came.
Our next stop is “Vailima,” the home of Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island and Kidnaped. He built the house and lived here for 4-5 years in the early 1890s. It was severely damaged in a cyclone and allowed to go to ruin but has now been restored along with the planting of a botanical garden. We pass on the $10 house tour (our guide said it isn’t too well done) and settle for walking around outside and listening to and watching the performance of a folkloric group performing for the paid ship’s tours. Always nice to tag along and get a freebie now and then.
Leaving here, we head up South and plan to go over the mountain spine of the island and down to the shore on the South side of the island. About half way to the top of the climb, the van overheats and we pull to the side of the road and unload into a refreshing breeze. The guide, Matias, who is a German working on his PHD in Anthropology, heads for a house across the road to get water. He comes back with a liter bottle full; big help that is going to be!
They get the radiator cap off without burning themselves and pour water in only to have the overheated radiator spit it back out. This goes on until the liter of water is gone and then Matias heads out for more water. This time he comes back with a gallon jug full and they continue to pour as the radiator continues to spit. We passengers are standing under the shade of a tree on the far side of the road having a pleasant conversation and waving at the cars, trucks and vans that go by loaded with people, most in their Sunday best.
Suddenly, a truck comes back down the hill and pulls over. Out climbs a smallish man with a big grin. He has a jug of cold, filtered water and cups. We are all most grateful and it turns out he is a missionary who has lived on the island for the past nine years. He is from the US. What a kind and generous act on his part! All the men get in the act on the radiator problem each with his own suggestion to help solve the problem. The head man has been called and is supposed to be on his way with a new van.
Finally, after getting another gallon of water from the house, they decide that we can proceed and we do, all of two miles or so before the van overheats again. We pull into a B’haia Temple and while we explore, our hosts call again for the replacement van that will be here is a maximum of ten minutes.
Mind you this is at least the third “just 10 minutes” since this all started! We now really learn about SMT or “Samoan Maybe Time.” Each time they call the man bringing the new van, we are told he will be here in a minute or two; that he is just down the hill. Eventually, after Dick asks Matias to call for a taxi and after 45 minutes, the driver’s personal van shows up driven by his father-in-law. We switch vans and drive another 15 minutes to a spectacular, waterfall overlook.
We then attempt to find an overview of the South Coast but fail to do so. We can see glimpses of the coast and the original plan was to go for a beach stop, but we are all hot, tired and getting hungry so vote to head back. We turn around and head back to the ship making one final stop in front of the famous Aggie Grey Hotel. The hotel is in ruins and being rebuilt by the Sheraton group...we stop here to get a nice picture of the ship.
Our three hour tour has turned into the better part of four and a half hours. We arrive back at the dock and have been told to pay whatever we think is fair, considering the problems. We have agreed among ourselves on $35pp and once at the dock we pay up, plus a $5 tip each for the driver and guide and head for the cool of the ship with a fast stop at the little dock market for a pin for Jack.
A shower is definitely in order and we order sandwiches from room service. A trip to the ships laundry, working on the blog and reading round out the afternoon.
It is another early night with dinner in the Lido for us. The oppressive humidity is so draining we are glad for a quiet day at sea tomorrow before Tonga.