Apia, Samoa Western – January 5, 2016
This was my first trip to Apia, Samoa, a business trip.
I made it to Wellington Airport around 08:00. After I checked in, I was “greeted” by a rather large dragon head, a model of the dragon from The Lord of the Rings trilogy sits in the terminal across from the check-in area.
Since I had plenty of time, I went upstairs to the shopping and food court area to wait for my flight. One of the first sights I saw was Gollum, a character from The Lord of the Rings. The pose looks as though he has his head underwater in a stream, trying to grab a passing trout. Although Gollum is ugly, the overall display was unique. I found it hard to keep from looking continuously.
At the other end of the shopping and food court area were two raptors suspended from the ceiling, one of them ridden by Gandalf. Gandalf is a wizard character from The Lord of the Rings.
My flight to Auckland boarded and departed on time. I found myself sitting by Brent Arnell, a right-handed batsman with the Wellington Firebirds cricket team. The entire team was on the flight. Brent said they were on their way to Auckland for a match. I must confess, I did not know who Brent was until I got back to the internet, and I was able to ask Mr. Google.
We made it to Auckland in about an hour, landing without incident.
About an hour after leaving Wellington, I arrived in Auckland. I waited for the free shuttle bus to get me from the domestic terminal to the international terminal. It seemed like it took forever. I probably could have walked it quicker. Oh well.
Once at the international terminal, I made my way into the main waiting area. While I was there, I saw a massive Airbus A380 taxiing. Those are truly amazing planes. I understand there are “suites” on the upper level of some of the aircraft. I am confident I will never experience one.
While I was waiting at the airport, I stopped at a shop and bought a book on the history of New Zealand. It has been fascinating so far.
Boarding the plane and the takeoff were uneventful.
I was happy to see that one of the white wines they served onboard the Air New Zealand flight was Thornberry Chardonnay. Leslie and I have become quite fond of that particular Chardonnay.
I arrived in Apia at about 20:30 local time. Samoa is just to the west of the international dateline. I felt like I could see yesterday if I looked to the east. My one checked bag was one of the first to come off the carousel. From there, I went to stand in line at customs. I had a brief conversation with the customs agent and then sent my bags through the x-ray machine.
Walking through to the other side, I quickly spotted the driver for the shuttle to the Tanoa Tusitala Hotel. He took my bag and me to the waiting van. Once seated, he went back to wait for another couple who were also staying at the hotel.
The drive from the airport to the hotel took about 45 minutes. It reminded me a little of Georgetown, Guyana. The road was only a two-lane road. When the van caught up to traffic, it took a while to find a proper location to pass the vehicle. One big difference from Georgetown is there were streetlights along the entire route, even away from the city.
As we passed homes, it was amazing to see that every home was virtually wide open. When I say wide open, I mean WIDE OPEN. Many homes had no windows or doors. House after house saw family after family sitting and watching television as traffic buzzed by on the road.Many of the homes had a fale in front, or near the front, of the houses. A fale is a large open structure used as a meeting or gathering place. They have tall coned or domed roofs held up with large timbers and no walls. The driver said that when there are deaths in the various families, the fale serves as the funeral location.
The number of churches we passed on the way to the hotel surprised me. By far, the largest church compound was the Methodist Church. Both sides of the road had Methodist Church property for a half-mile. In Apia, the driver pointed out the Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. He said its compound is even more extensive than that of the Methodist Church.It was close to 22:00 when the van reached the hotel. Not surprisingly, the registration lobby was in the middle of a fale.
After placing my bags in the room, I stopped by the bar, in a fale, for a beer. I had a Vailima, one of the beers made in Samoa. On the way to the hotel, the driver proudly pointed out the Vailima brewery as we passed.Before departing Wellington, I queried Mr. Google for the location of the U. S. Embassy in Apia. He very kindly showed the site and indicated the walk would take me about 17 minutes. I departed the hotel with a map neatly tucked in my pocket. It was not that hot, probably just 81 degrees Fahrenheit, but the humidity made it a little uncomfortable.
At the end of my nearly one-mile walk, I found myself facing a rather dilapidated building, but there was no indication of the Embassy. Regardless, I soldiered on, taking the elevator to the fifth floor…no Embassy. I walked down two levels, by now sweating profusely, still no Embassy. I walked into an office and asked the receptionist where the U. S. Embassy was located. She was quite surprised. She told me it was back down the road.
Armed with that information, I began my three-quarter-mile walk in the direction from which I had come. I finally stumbled across the correct building and located the Embassy. The staff was surprised my “five-minute” walk had taken me so long. I told them Mr. Google is usually a pretty smart guy, but he missed the mark this time.
At the end of my workday, I walked the three-tenths of a mile back to my hotel. It was much quicker and easier than my morning tour of Apia.
One day for lunch, we ate at Sails Restaurant and Bar. The view of the ocean was breathtaking. The waves broke far offshore. There is a coral reef that does not allow the waves to come onshore unless it is a cyclone. There is a shipwreck that was visible from the restaurant that was the result of a past storm.
The buses on the island are colorful. They are not as bejeweled as the jingle trucks in Pakistan, but they are very nicely painted. The slogans on the sides of the buses are the names of the bus companies. Painted on the front is the name of the village to which the bus is destined.
I did see Robert Louis Stevenson’s home on the island. I did not have time to visit, but I will on a future trip. The house is now a museum. He is buried on top of the hill overlooking the home.
On Friday afternoon, I began my journey back home.
Departing Apia, Samoa was uneventful. However, about 45 minutes out of Auckland, the ride got a little bumpy as we crossed a weather front. I believe it was the remnants of a cyclone. Thankfully, the landing at Auckland was nothing compared to our first landing at Wellington this past November.
Even though the ride had been a bit bumpy earlier coming into Auckland, the landing in Wellington was surprisingly smooth. The pilot did say we had picked an excellent time to arrive in Wellington. Earlier in the day, Wellington airport was closed periodically because of high winds.