Saturday, May 24, 2008

Savai'i Vacation

Savai'i Vacation

We began our all-expenses paid (by us of course) Savai'i vacation with the quintessential travel option available in Samoa; we caught a bus. This bus happened to be going by our house at 6 am on Tuesday. We needed to take this bus into Apia where we would catch another bus that would take us to the wharf. True, the bus going to the wharf would also be going by our house (heading the other direction), but we were afraid it would already be full when it went by and wanted to insure seats. So we headed the opposite direction, into Apia.

Usually two ferries run back and forth between Upolu and Savai'i several times a day, but on Tuesday there is only one ferry making the trip. We were unsure exactly what times the ferry left the Upolu wharf, but thought there might be one at 8 am and were hoping to catch the bus in Apia that would take us to that one.

We didn't.

So after waiting in Apia for about an hour we caught a bus that would take us to the 10 am ferry.

The 2-hour ferry ride was thankfully uneventful. I kept my head down and read my book as much as possible and managed to stave off most seasickness. I did feel a bit gross, but I didn't puke (which is more than Cale can say about his first ferry trip back during our volunteer visits).

Once we got to Savai'i we flagged down one of the Manase buses. The bus was already full. Cale and I sat in the aisle at first, but then an older woman offered me her lap (which is typical on a Samoan bus, but I was one of the few people sitting on a lap on this bus). More people kept getting on the bus and sitting in the aisle quickly turned to standing in the aisle. To be honest, by the time we made it to Manase over an hour later, I wished that I had kept a spot in the aisle (even if it meant standing most of the trip). I could tell that the woman's legs were getting tired and I was doing everything I could to keep weight off of her, which meant cramps in my arms and thighs.

Aside from it being uncomfortable, the bus ride wasn't too bad. I noticed right away that Savai'i is significantly more rural than Upolu. There were dramatically fewer cars, the houses were spread further apart and things seemed quieter and cleaner.

Over all the trip there took about seven hours.

The trip back was pretty much the same, but in reverse. The differences included a larger ferry (
which meant the rocking motion was greatly exaggerated, but I still failed to vomit), missing the last buses at the wharf, taking a taxi into Apia instead of straight home because we didn't have enough money on us to pay for a taxi ride and dinner at a Chinese restaurant called Chinatown. Total travel time for the return trip was about 10 hours.

When we got off the bus we were standing in front of the Vacations Beach Fales, so we decided to stay there for the night. The cost was $65 tala per person per night. The cost included breakfast and dinner.

The accommodations at Vacations were excellent. The mattresses were sufficiently thick, the pillows weren't too bad (though I am very picky about pillows, what with my neck and all). They provided mosquito nets and towels and a trashcan in the fale. The shared bathroom was incredibly clean and nice and very close to our fale. In general, I loved the place. There were only two downfalls. No chairs in the fales (Cale really, really wanted a chair) and the area of beach they were situated on was covered in stinky seaweed that they had workers cleaning up all day.

We only stayed at Vacations that one night. We had arrived a little after 1pm on Tuesday. At that point I had been sitting on hard wooden benches on buses and boats for seven hours and I need to recuperate, so I napped until dinner. After dinner I headed back to bed to do some reading and then sleeping. Cale stayed up for a while talking with some of the other guests.

The next morning,we packed up our stuff and headed down the beach to Jane's Beach Fale's. The cost at Jane's was $50 tala per person per night. That also included breakfast and dinner. In many ways, Vacations has better amenities than Jane's. The food was pretty fancy at Vacations and the bathrooms at Jane's were much more rustic, camping. However, the fales at Jane's had little front porches with chairs and the beach was seaweed-free. In Cale's world, chairs beat all.

Cale and I spent that first day at Jane's alternating between laying on the beach, swimming in the water and reading on the porch. We tried out our snorkel gear and discovered two things. One, my face mask leaks (it is possible I lost too much weight in my face!) and that we don't really like to snorkel that much.

At night we hung out at the bar talking with some guests from Australia, New Zealand and Brazil. Cale got a chance to refresh his truco skills (Brazilian card game).

I discovered quite quickly that our mattress was a little sub par. In fact, it was two mattress that were both so thin and worn that I felt like I was sleeping directly on the wooden slats of the bed. I ended up sleeping in weird diagonal angle with my head at the foot of the bed so that more parts of my body would be on less skinny parts of the mattress.

Thursday was the same as Wednesday: laying on the beach, swimming and reading. The fales started to fill up more on Thursday; I think that all the fales were full by that night.

Friday we packed up after breakfast and took the hour walk down the road to
Le Lagoto Resort. We had no intentions of staying there, but we knew they were so ridiculously upscale, that we had to see them. They set their prices by USD. For a couple in one of the villas it is $295USD a night for a couple. So almost 15 times the cost of staying at Jane's. Granted, the villas are air conditioned and fancy and have their own bathrooms and HOT WATER! Sweet goodness, hot water.

Then we walked next door to Savaii Lagoon Resort. The prices there were much more reasonable, since the were in tala. For the family villa (with two double beds in two rooms) it was $295 tala a night for a couple (extra people were $88 tala). It was the same price for the smaller villa. The villas came with microwaves, electric teapots, electric skillets and fridges, so you could cook some of your own food if you wanted to. Which is probably good since the only restaurant was the one at the USD charging place next door.

Dinner our first night at Vacations was lamb, potatoes and steamed veggies. I thought it was pretty impressive and delicious. The next morning we were up early. Everyone was given their own pot of tea or coffee and breakfast was omelettes and toast. The omelette was delicious.

Dinner the first night at Jane's was sweet and sour chicken, rice, fried fish, a small piece of breadfruit and a small slaw salad. The next day breakfast was toast, spam, tomato, papaya and a strange mandarin orange (it wasn't orange on the outside, it was green). I avoided the Spam and stuck with the toast. Dinner the second night was curried potatoes, carrots and a little bit of chicken, sausage, rice and taro.

Overall, I enjoyed the food at both places (way more than the food at Early Service Training, which I will write about later)

There were four other people staying at Vacations. A German couple who were on a long vacation, an Australian who was on a working vacation and a Frenchman also on a long vacation. A couple from New Zealand who were staying at another resort were there for dinner as well.

Jane's was hopping compared to Vacations. The Australian from Vacations had decided to switch to Jane's as well. There was a Samoan couple in the fale next to ours, two couples from a Nordic country, we think Sweden, a couple from New Zealand and Brazil, and two guys from Australia. On Thursday an entire bus load of teachers came to celebrate the end of school and a family of five that is biking around Savai'i arrived. There was also another couple from the States (California) and a other couples with either New Zealand or Australian accents (I haven't quite figured how to tell those apart yet).

Cale was filled with snot on Tuesday and running a fever on Wednesday, so he did some napping and more reading on the porch than I did. Knowing what I know now (more to come on this from the post on Early Service Training), I would have been a lot more attentive and sympathetic to his illness. However, he isn't very good at being complainy when he is sick, so I didn't know how bad he felt.

There you have it. Our trip to Savai'i.

—  Sara

PS. I might post more stories from the trip later. This just covers all the bare details. Pretty long for bare details, huh?

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