The first day we got picked up from the airport and the shuttle driver was such a funny, happy-go-lucky local who told us the temple was called Salt Lake City, UT, and he told us all about the cannibalism they had here and lots of interesting facts. So pumped for our ride back to the airport J That afternoon we decided to hit the beach, but got pretty lost because there are no addresses, much less street signs anywhere. We finally found a little one, and the water was so clear and so warm! And super salty so you float really easily, it was glorious!
On our way home, we decided to keep looking for a more legit beach (ours was kind of rocky/coral instead of sand which hurts your feet) so we kept walking and soon realized we were being followed by two of the many wild dogs in town. Theses ones may not have been wild, but we weren’t sure so we were still nervous (some of us more than others…) and just hoping that dogs can’t sense fear like horses or other animals can, cause we’d be gone-ers. It drew even more attention to us from the locals as well as all of the other stray dogs, so finally we went into a building and had these huge guys go scare them away. When we left we were still ducking around bushes and stuff cause we could see them looking for us (they clearly would be bad police dogs, cause you’d think they’d be able to sense us coming or something). Long story short we made it out alive. (ok, that wasn’t short…sorry)
The rest of the walk home wasn’t very good either, we were carrying our McDonalds home (only fast food here that doesn’t look sketchy, and that’s saying a lot) and got very lost (anytime we’d ask for directions they’d point in one direction and say “keep going that way” excluding vital steps such as eventually turning. Thanks, you’re so helpful.) When we finally got home to eat our cold dinner, we all just started bawling and decided we needed to go home tomorrow. Luckily we hadn’t figured out the internet yet, otherwise we would have probably gone ahead and booked flights home, so we were forced to sleep on it. It’s already funny looking back on because we were seriously a sorry bunch, but we felt much better in the morning!
So we decided to go to the temple first thing in the morning, and I may or may not have shed a tear or many when it came into sight and I realized we made it without getting lost. And it was like having a little piece of home. When we walked in though, they didn’t speak more than 5 words of English, but we got enough to know to come back at three for baptisms. Then we headed next door to the mission office to just get a contact number to feel a little more secure in this foreign place and while we were talking to the secretary, a woman stopped us and asked if we needed someone to show us around. We didn’t know it then, but that woman, Tina Youngyen, would change our week forever! Naturally we jumped right in her car and were on our way.
Tina first took us to these sliding rocks. (aside: we thought she and some other YSA friends were just going when she invited us but in our car ride we found out she works with the tourism group and would be charging us for everything, but hey, we had been so lost on our own so we went with it) The sliding rocks were a series of waterfalls that you slide down, and it was so fun! I would like those of you who know that I am a pansy to know that I went first on one of them, even without locals doing it first (for proof that we wouldn’t die at the bottom)! It was so beautiful there, totally rainforest-y. That’s me at the top of the big slide. Afterwards we went to the temple for our baptism appointment, and by the end of that we went back to the hotel happy as clams, and ready to “survive” through a week of 90 degrees, sunshine, white sandy beaches, and the clearest/warmest water I’ve ever seen.
The fun continued as we spent the next two days with Tina, here’s what we did:
We spent the first day driving around to see all of the small island (the one we’re staying on) by driving along the road that goes around the edge of the island and stopping at cool places we came across. First was just a stop on the side of the road to get a taste of the wonderful white sand and crystal clear water. This is a picture from where we stopped, and this palm tree/ocean combo is what you see out your window the entire loop around the island, love it!
Next we went to this waterfall that may not have seemed worth 5 Samoan Tala, but then we realized it was equal to about 2 US dollars, and anything is worth two dollars! It was very pretty, and had a sweet jungle to walk through to get to it, but it was a bit disappointing that we couldn’t swim to it.
Our final stop that day was to these lava caves that you swim in. There were tons of fish in the water, so again I overcame my pansy-tendencies and was first to jump in! It was so cool, yet slightly scary (I’m starting to wonder if I have a mild form of claustrophobia…) and very romantic (just ask the couple we shared the cave with).
The next day we were picked up at 4:30 am to catch the first ferry to the big island, Savai’i, which is even more primitive than the one we stayed on but also even more beautiful! Our first stop was called “Swimming Turtles” which is not exactly the whole truth, because yes the turtles were swimming, but WE got to swim with them too! Kelly, my dear sister, I dedicated that swim to you because the whole time I was thinking “Kelly’s gonna hate me, she loves turtles!” We fed them pawpaw (not my fav, we had some in NZ, looks like cantaloupe) and they’d come right up to us! We tried picking them up, but I must have found the big papa of the group cause he was SO heavy and this is as far out of the water as I got him. From this picture you can clearly see I kept my cool the entire time… Turtles as SO not scary, right? Debatable.
Next we stopped at another beach along the road and went out for a swim, but after walking for 5 minutes in water to our knees, we decided that would just have to be deep enough for floating on our backs (we spend 75% of our time in the water floating on our backs, makes it feel even more paradise-y). It was so funny how the waves were so far out, and it was cool being able to just sit in the water and cool off without being completely demolished by waves every 30 seconds. The aunty in me was thinking it would be great with all of our little kiddies because they could play in the water without being held onto for dear life. So maybe we should take our beach week from VA beach to Samoa next year. Who’s with me?
We went to another waterfall after our swimming break and this one was so much more legit than the one from the day before. We swam right up to it! I can’t help but think of my trips to Niagara Falls with Sophia Montenegro in elementary school with our matching fanny packs and ponchos whenever I stand right next to a waterfall!
Here we are at lunch on the second day with Tina, she bought us “real Samoan BBQ” both days and both were essentially the same thing: 3 or 4 pieces of chicken (drumsticks and unidentifiable parts) and a hot dog, with rice and chop suey (spelling? Totally thought that was a karate move) at one place and taro at another. The taro just seemed like a baked potato to me (we just had it sliced and somehow cooked I think, dipped it in tomato sauce). But both times it was SO much food and we couldn’t finish it, which I hate to admit is saying a lot for all 4 of us. It was delicious though!
Can’t forget a ferry ride shot- the girls make fun of me cause I got so excited when I first heard we were riding a ferry to Savai’i and because they know how much Jess, Heidi, and I rode it in Australia. Yeah so what if the ride alone would be worth all the money we paid for the whole day??
Today we will go to church with Tina, pack up, and try to make the most of our last night of the past four months! We’ll probably watch a movie like we have every night here due to our self-imposed 7pm curfew (when it gets dark) and swap stories from our adventures.
We made it through more scary van rides and have seen many more lizards than we would have ever dreamed of! But now it is the end of the Most Fantastic Vacation Ever and the end of my adventures in the South Pacific, how sad! This day wasn’t actually supposed to get here…I am so ready to get home though J When we get to the airport I’ll have just 22 hours of flying and up to 11 airport hours until I’m at my favorite place in the world, HOME!