Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Homeward Bound

So it was my last morning. I remembered back to Tuesday a week ago at my first breakfast when I felt so welcomed by the staff- so genuinely kind, and it was obvious they were looking out for me as I was on my own- such a foreign concept for Samoans that I had come without partner or family or friends.
I started the morning with an early time out snorkelling, one last time on that beautiful beach.

I said goodbye to the staff, and we were off to the airport in a full shuttle.
I saw a couple of steep hills that I hadn't seen in the dark on the arrival journey. I know there is so much more to explore on these beautiful islands, but for this time, relaxing at a resort has been perfect.

Within about half an hour we had arrived at the airport, and departures, unlike arrivals, is in a very flash modern building. I wonder if they have had foreign aid for its construction. 

Not too many departures today...

The incoming flight arrived on time. 

And now I am homeward bound. It's been a wonderful holiday. The staff at Return to Paradise resort are family, and staying there was like being a guest in a very hospitable home. They were always solicitous that you were happy. And they were quick to notice what you might need. And the beach was such a beautiful one. It was a perfect, relaxing holiday. 
After meeting such welcoming people in Samoa, it was a bit of a shock to meet the grumpy serious man at immigration stamping my passport as I left. Surely he could still do his job with a more cheerful farewell!

And that is pretty much the end of this current sequence of posts... so until next time- Ka kite ano.

Last full day in Paradise

It's my last day in the resort in Samoa today. I thought of taking the shuttle to Apia but the idea of crowds and heat couldn't beat the idea of spending my last day by the heavenly beach at Return to Paradise resort. So here are just a few photos from a wander around the resort today.

The gardeners do wonderful work: walking around the gardens is a pleasure. 

This is Paradise Kitchen where dinner happens. The cultural evening and Maeve Boys band also happened here.

This is the view from my lunch spot at the Rock Pool Bar.

The sea was quite rough today near full tide. 
There are Samoan motifs carved on buildings, this one on the accommodation block I am in.
And for the last time, here is the afternoon view from my balcony.

I went snorkelling twice today- definitely my happy place. I saw still more new fish that I hadn't spied before. Just one last swim in the beach tomorrow before I check out...
Oh and at dinner tonight the group of four men returned to serenade us with their guitars and Samoan songs.

Sunday's different

Sunday is a day of rest in Samoa, like it used to be at home when I grew up. Saner times. Even Saturday was different with no gardeners on the grounds. This morning at breakfast a lot of the 'usual' faces weren't there serving, and no doubt they were all off to church with their families.

I spied this beautiful snail near the garden on my way back from breakfast. Such a lovely shell but I think it had been damaged. 

The resort put on a free shuttle for anyone who wanted to go to church- and I knew I wanted to hear the singing so I was in. I thought we would be going to the nearest church but we passed that and I think we reached the edge of  Lefuga as there was even a bank nearby. There is a new church being built that looks very beautiful from the outside, and we had the service in an adjacent hall. As far as I could work out, there had been cyclone damage to the old church.
It was very interesting. Most of the adults up front were in white and the congregation was segregated. The men and teen men were on one side, and the women singing were in a large block adjacent to them. The younger children were seated together on the right hand side, and were so well behaved throughout. Then there was a gap to a more varied group behind that included us. I don't know why some of the locals were back with us...
We arrived late but so did others. Our donation was collected at a desk before we went in, and our names and amounts were later read out along with all the family donations. I know I am not the first to wonder who went without a necessity to give the expected amount. But there is a cohesiveness in these communities and it centres around the common good rather than individual good.
The harmonies were beautiful when they sang. We'd been warned the whole service would be in Samoan but the pastor actually spoke good English. He welcomed us, and seemed to give an English introduction to most parts of the service before carrying on in Samoan. He even gave a precis of his sermon in English. After the sermon a very well dressed woman in green and her equally well dressed husband went to the front, where two boys had brought in a table. Then the serious business of publicly reading out names and donation amounts began. When that was all over and done our van was outside ready to take us back to our resort.

Most of the rest of the day became a swimming and snorkelling day, interspersed with reading my book. Yet more different fish to spy in the coral.

At lunchtime there were some day-trippers, come for Sunday. There was also some unexpected music from three local men playing guitars and singing. 
I watched the sunset again on the beach, then discovered it was a quiet night in the restaurant. Lots of people must have gone home ready for a new work week. The two units near me even seem to be empty tonight for the first time. I guess there will be an influx on flights tomorrow. 

At dinner tonight I discovered that one of the NZ women in a group I've been talking/ swimming with a bit has worked with a friend of mine. It's only ever two degrees of separation in New Zealand as they say...

Saturday in Samoa

I woke before sunrise this morning, which was great, as it meant I could walk further before it got too hot, and I headed in the direction of Lefuga. The village school looked inviting in the early morning sun.

Further up the road I passed another school that almost looked like it was transplanted from another wealthier place. I suspect it is a church school, and I wonder if you have to be a congregation member to have your children there.
As I came back down the hill I realised I had passed this simple church as I walked up.
And nearby was this stall with some local produce and handicrafts..
The bus to Lefuga passed me. I wondered again whether I might get more adventurous and go to Apia on Monday. I'll enquire how often it returns so I don't end up trapped away from my lovely beach for too long!

These little beach fales have become quite a familiar sight on my morning walks now.

This butterfly sat on the road. I have seen fish with this kind of colouring in the coral.
Ahhhh my beautiful tropical views in the sunshine.

There was an opportunity to join a group of staff and guests for a trip to Apia today for the Samoa and Fiji game. I  ummed and aahed about going as I thought I 'd be sitting out in the strong sunlight without shade. But I watched most of the game here and it turned out there was plenty of covered stand in Apia so I could have gone.

And lest you think it might all be sunshine here- this afternoon it rained quite heavily for a while! Yes folks, that's not a blurry unfocused shot- it's rain pouring down.

So there is no beautiful sunset photo today either!
But this evening there was a different highlight. The Maeve Boys Band played at dinner. They sang and then they danced, and wow could they dance. The sweat was pouring off them! Their first song was a Samoan one with wonderful harmonies (the reason I am going to the local church in the morning!) Then they sang Pokarekare Ana so we Kiwis in the crowd could join in- and we were predominant in the crowd. They finished with O holy night with the lights off. I think one of the best things about this group was discovering that three of them were the three singers in the arrival hall while we waited for our luggage. They were given warm applause from the crowd with that announcement. 

Friday in Paradise

This morning I woke early enough to take another walk up towards the village. Saw lots of pigs along the way.

And this looked like a grand-daddy pig beside the road. 

When I passed the school it was a hive of activity: the mothers' group were weeding the playground area after the two week break ready for the children to return on Monday. 

I walked up the road and passed some more houses. Some of them, like the one below, were beautifully kept and decorated.

I had walked maybe a bit too far, seduced by walking on a road protected from the sunlight by shade from the adjoining jungle. But as I passed the school again, a man stopped to offer me a lift as he was heading my way back to the resort. My lucky day!
The rest of the day was very much a water day. Low tide for snorkelling was mid-afternoon but I had several swims in the interim. And when it came time for snorkelling again I tried the right hand end of the beach for the first time. It was wonderful with many different fish I hadn't noticed before. 
Again it was a lovely sunset.

Then this evening I got to watch the movie from the 1950s, with Gary Cooper, set on this very beach. It still looks the same- with rocks in the same places. After just a few days, the movie set felt so familiar. And Ramona told us that the baby in the movie was her sister which made for an extra special connection. 

Samoa -Thursday

I had intended to take another early morning walk to the village but I never woke until 7.20am, and I thought I had left it too late heat-wise for the return walk, so I dozed some more. As it turned out, it was a slightly drizzly morning and a bit cooler than other days.

After breakfast I sat on my balcony for a while, and all the action appeared in front of me. Suddenly there was one of the wonderful gardeners, climbing up the coconut tree to trim its old branches and the coconuts.

All ended well, but I was nervous for him!

Today I took my first swim at higher tide, with just my lane swimming goggles, and the water was murkier and I never spied many fish. The best time for snorkelling is definitely 90mins either side of low tide. But it was still a great time for a swim.

Low tide wasn't until later in the afternoon today, and I enjoyed the snorkelling so much. I am used to the 'blurry' bits now that happen when you pass over the mineral freshwater springs- and I know it's not a problem with my goggles. And each time I have gone out I have noticed more different kinds of fish. Such splendid shimmering colours. Magical. Today a new family arrived and there were delighted sounds from the children as they noticed some of these beautiful fish.
It looked like there might be more rain but it never amounted to more than a few spits.
Truly eat your hearts out. This is the view from under the shady tree I have adopted for the week!

There was more excitement landside- I spotted a crab, with quite a large shell moving along the sand. Great to see one of the creatures making some of the trails that I had noticed in the sand.

And I explored a nearby rock pool. Can you spot the tiny blue iridescent fish swimming?

Then it was time for another sunset in Paradise.

At dinner tonight I joined a couple from Waipukurau who came over on the same flight. Small world. And one's a teacher... even smaller world!