Tuesday, 11 April 2017

First day in paradise: Samoa 2016

We landed just before sunrise at Faleolo airport and were welcomed by the resident band playing local music and singing and as soon as the luggage arrived we joined the queue for the bureau de change.  The Samoan tala isn't a closed currency but it is very difficult to obtain especially in the UK so most visitors take Australian dollars and get it changed at the airport.  As expected, the queue was rather long and by the time we emerged, dawn had broken ...



We were given gorgeous fresh flower leis from our drivers Joe and Chris and once the vans were packed up we set off across the island to our first accommodation; Coconuts Beach Club

One of the first tourist hotels on the islands, Coconuts has a bit of a history including almost complete destruction when a tsunami hit the islands in September 2009.
Our drive took us from the airport on the west of the island, right across the middle to the south coast, and less than an hour later we were checking in and sipping coconut cocktails (yes, at that time of the morning!)
Hannah and I were sharing a 2 bedroom beach fale which, as the name suggests, was beach front with the South Pacific just a few steps away.  Despite the rain (which featured very heavily during our trip unfortunately) I took myself off for a quick paddle with my coconut, as you do...


We has time to freshen up before having breakfast and then having a full tour of the property; the original accommodation known as the tree house (a small block of rooms was built back in 1992, the beach fales which were completed in 1994 and finally the over-water fales which were the first ones in Samoa back in 1997 with more added in 1999.
The tsunami pretty much wiped out the whole property but by February 2010 they were ready to accept guests again and were fully operational in no time...



We then met up with Chris and Joe and they took us the short journey inland to the Lupe Sina Treesort...



I've never seen anything like it before!  Designed and built by owner Jack (an American who has lived on Samoa over 30 years) it is certainly unique!  The main accommodation is the Samson suite, built within the branches of an ancient Banyan tree (over 300 tears old they think) climbing the narrow stairs up 12 metres into a tree was like being transported to a mythical land and the view was just stunning - I can only imagine what it must be like on a clear sunny day looking out over the rainforest to the ocean beyond.  Some members of the group criticised it for being very old fashioned but I think bright modern fixtures would look totally out of place in the heart of a tree.  I certainly wouldn't call it luxurious but it's definitely a once in a lifetime experience...


Unfortunately we couldn't view the other tree house (Star Gazer) as there were guests staying but the view from their deck area was just so beautiful...


The Star Gazer is around 10 metres up in an Ava tree and the bedroom has a glass ceiling so that you can watch the stars from your bed - and with very little light pollution I can only imagine it to be spectacular.
We were invited to the main house for refreshments and were treated to fresh coconuts and home made chocolate cake, I love this place already!

We were scheduled to do a gorge walk in the afternoon but after extremely heavy rains it turned into a river walk - some of us carried on and had a great time and the rest of us (me included) headed back to Coconuts and relaxed for a while.

Dinner was in the lovely Mika's Restaurant, listening to the tales of the river walk and then the Fia Fia began...

Fiafia is a celebration of everything Samoan:  filled with colour, music, song dancing and of course fire!

video

I was invited to take part in the 'ava ceremony and stood up, raised the coconut shell cup and said my first Samoan words "la manuia" which has a multitude of meanings: happy, well, good.  I then (having watched a couple of people before me) took a drink and then threw the rest of the contents over my shoulder - symbolising the throwing away of misfortune!

video

After such a long and busy day (London felt like forever ago!) it was time to head to bed.


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