"Arctracer" Letters

Savaii Island, Samoa, Sept 2003

We sailed from Apia, Upolu Island, Samoa (13 degrees 50 min. S, 172 degrees W) on the 17th of September. After about 50 miles we anchored at the nearest anchorage on the bigger Samoan Island of Savai'i. The following day we sailed about 20 miles to a more protected anchorage on Savaii ( 13 degrees 30 min. S, 172 deg 40 min. W). We met some friendly locals after being the first boat to anchor off the village of Auala this year. Within a few minutes we had visitors in a leaky outrigger canoe. Later we were given a palm-made basket of drinking coconuts, bananas and papaya. The following day one of our visitors had arranged for us to go to the Falealupo Rainforest Preserve. They have a forest canopy walkway between two huge banyan trees. The neatest thing about going there was to see the construction in the trees. It sure was high off the ground! We looked for a lava tube trail and cave in the same area, but our guide was unable to find it. We did see what the tourist board calls a star mound. In the local Polynesian language it is called Malaefono (meeting place of devils) and it is shaped like a star. Two stones had been shaped into bowls, which present owners of the land think were bowls for kava. Apparently, men who weren't popular with the villagers long ago met there. We got to see quite a bit of the country by driving around and noticed that the people on Savaii keep great hedges and gardens like the people on Upolu.

When we returned from the trip the wind was back to the normal trade winds, and we could definitely see why we were the first boat to anchor on that lee shore. The wind was quite strong so we decided to find a much more protected anchorage in the bay. From this second anchorage we took a bus to the main town of Salelologa. This is the only town with an ATM and it is where the ferry arrives 3-4 times a day from Upolu. We got to look through the market & go to the non-functioning ATM. We didn't even have enough money to take the 2-hour bus ride back to the boat so were a little anxious for an hour or so until we found the ATM working again. Then we got to have lunch in town and do some more walking around the town and ferry terminal before catching the bus back to our anchorage. The buses are very colorful here - painted all kinds of bright colors. The seats are wooden benches, but were fine for the amount of time we had to sit on them. During the bus ride we got to see houses built on black lava fields (must be very hot), "Lover's Leap" - a high cliff overlooking the sea and lots of seaside fresh water pools - lots of stones and cement forming the sides of circular or oval shaped pools. We saw people swimming in them and women doing their laundry in them. We also noticed lots of traditional fales (houses) with open sides and at least one bed on a bedframe (unlike many of the islands where the people sleep on mats on the floor). The open sides often had large mats that they could roll down to keep the sun or rain out. In some cases we saw blue tarps for this purpose. Houses on Upolu were of the same type when we hired a taxi to take us around that island with Pete and Judi. Both of the large Samoan islands had many walls around houses made by piling up black volcanic rocks. Even their taro and manioc gardens had lots of these rocks and in some cases we wondered how anything could grow in these areas. Most houses had grave sites in front of them. Some of these were quite elaborate cement memorials and we wondered if a chief had lived there.

As embarrassing as it is, we must say that upon our arrival back to the dinghy, there was no dinghy. We had gone ashore at low tide onto a rocky coast and hadn't put it above the high tide mark or tied it to a rock - this was a first! And a last we hope. After an hour or so, Jerry returned, rowing our dinghy to the original point where we had left it. Locals had seen it going across the bay - lucky for us the wind was blowing onshore! We figure that the worst thing that could happen would be that we'd have to buy a tree, fell it and dig out the inside to make an outrigger canoe. We certainly won't be seeing dinghies for sale for a few months. Anyway, a guy in his late teens had brought the dinghy ashore near his village and tied it. Jerry gave him 20 tala for a reward and he was quite happy with that. We figure that may be a day's wages for some laborers in Samoa, while it is about $7 U.S.

(view Savai'i photos)