Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Hello my beloved parents,
We have been ever frustrated by our Internet connection in Samoa’s Capital, Apia, on the island of Upolu. Finally after a week, Eric has figured out the best method and now we have specifically purchased data sims to install into our phones in order to create hotspots to link our computers. I imagine this is going to be an ongoing struggle in each country we visit.
We plan to leave for Fiji tomorrow morning. Before we throw-off the lines, I’ll head over to the outdoor market to get some fresh fruit. I did find some tomatoes and apples this morning at a stiffer than usual price (everything here is discounted 60% for us with our great strong dollar exchange rate) than the local fruits, but still not expensive. For example, we can go to a decent restaurant (albeit not the most high end) and instead of paying US$70, we pay at the most US$35 for the four of us, and that includes drinks. We are charged about US$6.00 for an ATM fee. I find that fee a bit stiff actually…and then we have our own 1% bank fees at First Entertainment Credit Union. We stopped using our BofA account to withdraw cash because they charge 3%. I try to figure all those fees in when calculating our personal exchange rate.
Eric has been getting the run-around with immigration. One person says one thing and another says something else. We had wanted to go to the neighboring Samoa island Savai’i, but customs is requiring that we return and clear immigration from Apia, Upolu. I was actually told that when we first arrived, but Eric had spoken to someone else that said the contrary and didn’t believe me. So instead of departing tonight, we will be departing for Fiji tomorrow early morning, which, in fact, is really, really good. It makes all of us happy to have a sound night’s sleep as night watches are not our favorite, plus the constant movement and noises make for light sleeping. It will be a five-day sail to Fiji.
Sounds like you had a lovely and relaxing time in La Quinta getting to visit with Kay and Don and engaging in a lot of reading. Trent has gotten involved in a new series of 11 books: “The Ranger’s Apprentice” by John Flanagan, given to us by our La Cruz Mexico friends in pdf form. We loaded the entire series on his Kindle. He’s having a blast reading to his heart’s content. We got the new replacement Kindle from Michele and Ron, but now cannot find Trent’s – so back to two. We must find that Kindle! In Fiji, I guess we’ll unload the boys’ water toys from their ‘forecastle’ room and seriously dig around in the forward sail bins. We think it fell down into one of the bins when their bed boards were lifted up to store away the sails. Sigh.
Here in Suva, we were very fortunate to hook-up with a wonderful woman, Tasa, the first Samoan female passenger air pilot. She is on break from flying to take care of her aging parents, meanwhile making a living as a tour guide and masseuse extraordinaire. She popped over the first evening with the most remarkably delicious ice-cold beers in hand – the Samoan ‘Taula’ with no added preservatives (we never drank another brand while in Samoa as it was soooo tasty). Tasa is beautiful, amazingly friendly, intelligent, upbeat and enormously helpful. I think I found in her another friend for life. We spent a full Saturday afternoon with her touring the complete island and swimming the beautiful ‘To Sua Ocean Trench’ freshwater cave pool in the rain where the boys jumped 35-45 feet into the deep pool. Plus she directed us how to find the somewhat hidden Salani Surf Resort in the dark. Upon arrival at the resort, we made reservations for the following Monday morning (no surfing on Sundays due to church dictates) to surf at the renowned Samoan surf-site two days later. On top of all that, she insisted on doing our laundry, nor did I want to miss out on one of her massages performed in her spectacular semi-outdoor forest setting home. She made sure that we had papayas, lemons, and lemongrass a-plenty from her garden. Such generosity.
On a side note – the Salani Surf Resort ended up a bust. We had specifically rented a car for the occasion and left Kandu at 4:30 in the morning to drive to the other side of the island and arrive in time for the first boat out at 6:10 am. When we arrived there with the boys ramped up excited to go, the surf authority dude (a little Napoleon type) approached me and aggressively, in my face, spouted: “There is no way I am taking these boys out to surf the wave. The ‘reservation’ you made was not legitimate, and since you aren’t staying at the resort, there is nothing I can or will do to accommodate you.” Considerably affronted, we reloaded the boards back into our rental van and drove off to find surf at any of the other known surf sites in the area. Unfortunately, there were no waves to surf at the other southern sites: Boulders, Siumu nor Coconuts, so we drove back to Salani, the only site with some waves due to the strong southeast swell. Since we had heard you could paddle out to the reef break, we looked for the beachfront entrance accessed through a local village. A helpful woman on the road pointed us in the right direction, and we pulled into the village area surrounded by homes and a small local store adjacent to the surf-site. The boys were so excited that they took off like banshees for the water, surf shirts, sunblock zinc paste, and surfboards in hand. Eric approached the nearest local women to ask permission for the boys to surf, explaining that we had tried to surf through the Salani Surf Resort, but had been turned away even though we were willing to pay their expensive fees. With sympathy towards ‘boys’ and since she owned the beachfront, for a small fee, she generously allowed Bryce and Trent to disembark from her land to surf, even though she and the village had exclusively leased out the rights to surf the ‘Salani wave’ to The Salani Surf Resort. Three hours later when the boys returned happy and well exercised, they reported that Mr. Napoleon-surf-dude was not happy to see them, but he didn’t utter a word edgewise. Turns out that Bryce and Trent were as skilled as or better than most of the resort surfers that day!
Whenever Eric checks into a country he is full of smiles, and with upbeat energy he asks where to find the best local places to eat. Suggested by staff members of the cruising permit office for a ‘local experience’ was The Sunrise Café where Eric and Bryce both ordered a plate of fried chicken, taro and banana. It was simply that – the taro and banana were boiled and served w/o sauce. We didn’t return. Upon the advice of Curtis, Eric hunted down the little known local delicacy ‘Pangi Popo’ (sweet buns in fresh coconut cream custard) only available in two bakery’s: Mari’s on the beach front or at Myna’s, a rather isolated grocery store. They were finger dripping good. We also ate a delicious meal at Giordano’s Wood Fire Pizza Garden Restaurant. However, The Seafood Gourmet, across from the marina, became our hangout for inexpensive healthy options and ice cream. Unabashedly, we did go to McDonald’s once or twice for a taste of home. And aside from the ‘Pangi Popo,’ the other pastries available were also quite delicious. There are buns and doughnuts filled with cream and ever-so-soft-n-tasty cinnamon buns, plus an interesting hard cookie biscuit made with pig lard and sugar. It’s salty yet sweet: a rather pretty’n tasty substitute for breakfast toast.We enjoyed our movie fix in the evenings seeing four American movies in a lovely modern cinema theater. We felt spoiled because it was soooo cheap for the four of us: US$4.00 per ticket. We were thrilled to attend a fabulous and free four-hour presentation at the Tourism Cultural Center including real traditional tattooing, cloth painting, carving, tapa cloth tapping and scraping, dancing and singing, palm frond weaving of headbands, and a taste of their ceremonial drink, Kava. In fact, Eric and I hunted for Kava everywhere in the open market, super markets, Chinese stores, and finally found it in small 4-ounce quantities for US$6/bag at the flea market. Whew! We were told that we needed it to present to chiefs in Vanuatu when arriving in their villages. While at the flea market around 4:00pm when the kids are returning home from school, we saw the most incredible parade of brightly decorated buses loading up to travel to the far sides of the island. Each truck-bus was sponsored by a local restaurant or organization as advertisement! Fun! On our own time with the rental car, we extensively explored the island getting to swim with the fish in the iridescent aqua freshwater Piula Cave Pool. It was an extraordinarily refreshing experience during that hot and humid day. On another day, we had more energizing fun at the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks close to the University of the Pacific in Apia. Being in Apia on a Sunday, Eric and I got up early to attend a church service at the extraordinary Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral located on the main Beachfront Blvd. Already at 7:00 am, we were late getting there only hearing the tail end of the service, yet what we heard were the most incredible mix of native sounding Catholic liturgical hymns. They were uplifting and deeply emotionally stirring when surrounded by an exceptionally beautiful and grandiose interior.We’re all in decent spirits – not excited for 5 days at sea, but ready to leave Samoa. It has been a fabulously profound time here with such delightful people and arresting beauty. We never seem to have quite enough time to discover everything. Sadly, we missed visiting the two Samoan museums in town. But, the boys got to surf the famous Salani reef – which is the most important thing in their book, and therefore in ours! It’s been a spectacular visit.
Oh – one of the reasons we wanted to come to Samao for was to meet up with Eric’s Samoan family through his Uncle Dan. Auntie Lori is from Upolu and her grandparents are still alive. We got a chance to see them at their Bartlay store – Amazing!
Had better sign off. I’m glad you well received the cards – I penned those poems. A little corny – but straight from the heart! Hey – there is a fantastic cribbage app that you can add to your phone. It teaches you how to make the best moves and which cards are the most appropriate to discard from your hand. Trent, Bryce and I all played it so much during our night watches that we’re already rather bored by the game. I’m trying to get them to play a threesome. Probably will succeed during this next five-day passage.
Sending you virtual saltwater and salty hugs – Leslie