The very first day of our retirement, Trish had and accident and fell into harbor waters of Apia, Samoa. In coming to her
aid, the camera, which was in my pocket, was destroyed. Consequently we have only a couple of photos of our month long
sojourn in the wonderful island country of Samoa. This web page consists of an essay written to our children from the very
small island of Namu’a, off the coast of Samoa.
It’s our first Sunday in the Samoa Islands. We are alone on the island of Namu’a off the Eastern coast of Upula. The only
ones here besides Trish and myself are Sala and Tyson, the watchdog. Everyone else took the skiff into the village on the
mainland to attend church. When the wind dies down, we can hear their singing wafting across the lagoon. We awoke this
morning, shortly after dawn and watched Capelli and his uncle (a Matai, or noble) harvesting fish from their gillnet, just
yards away from our Fale. We’ve been here alone on the island of Namu’a for four days. I now have some time to rest in
our Fale and go over my notes.
The native wooden interior of our bus to Namu’a was painted red, yellow & blue, but nothing equaled the vibrant green of
the profuse vegetation climbing the steep mountains and covering the valleys outside. We found that whenever we boarded
a bus on Samoa, even if very crowded with people, livestock, coconuts, etc., there was always a seat available for us. Not
only that, but it was always the best seat, in front by the driver. We eventually realized that this was not a coincidence, but
that the Samoans always made room – in a very subtle way – for their “guests”.
When the bus stopped for gas, everyone got off and went into the little adjacent store for snacks and supplies. Later, in the
country we stopped at a small farm and were provided with fresh baked pastries (50cents).
The driver told us where to stop for the island of Namu’a. There was a small building across the road with a very small
wharf. There was a red flag on a pole in an adjacent tree. Trish put the flag in the step on the wharf and we waited for
some one on the island to see it and come fetch us. It wasn’t long, in fact we barely had time to run down to a nearby store,
wake them up, and get some beer.
A short ride across the luminous coral lagoon brought us to the island. When we landed, there was a party of loud Aussies,
and a couple of girls from Utah staying on the island. However, they all left within the hour, leaving us alone, except for two
Swiss men that had come on the same bus we had from Apia. When they left the next morning, Trish and I were alone, the
only guests on the island for the rest of our four day stay.
Our accommodations consist of a traditional Samoan “Fale”. This consists of a raised wooden platform about ten by twenty
feet in an oval shape. The poles, made of local tree trunks, hold up the thatched roof. The whole affair is open on all sides.
Woven panels of pandamous leaf can be lowered for wind and rain.
When we came, Sala placed fresh woven mats on our floor and a couple of thin mattresses placed in the matrimonial; style.
A mosquito net and lantern were also provided. There is no electricity on the island.
That first day, we were told it was “a twenty minute walk around the island”. We attempted the walk. Sala did mention
that we should “be careful of the rocks”. The sandy beach became more and more rocky; the rocks larger and larger and
very slippery. Around each bend we expected it to get better, but the opposite kept happening. When we finally reached the
point where the reef met the island, the high, unpredictable waves and the lateness of the hour convinced us to turn back.
After this first adventure, we settled into a pattern of snorkeling on the reef, hiking about the island and swimming; all
interspersed by three wonderful meals a day, each announced by the traditional drumbeat. Usually, Tui Sipa joins us at our
meal. At first he stayed at his own table, but as we became friends, he joined us, telling many stories about the island and
the neighboring villages. Tui is a ‘Matai” and his family has lived in the local village for “a long time”. In addition to
Samoan, he has Norwegian, Irish, and German blood in his veins. He is a large man, 62 years old, and definitely the boss.
We he speaks, things get done. The whole area is swept of leaves every day.
I must describe the water supply for the island. A one-inch PVC pipe has been laid across the lagoon from the main island, a
distance of about a half-mile. On the island is a labyrinth of tanks, pipes, sinks, showers, etc., all out of Robinson Caruso.
It works! Before the pipe was laid, they had to carry up to forty buckets of water to the island every day.
The island is covered with Hermit Crabs of all sizes. The most interesting example, which we discovered on a hike up to the
top of the island, was using a large red bottle top for his borrowed shell. Apparently the hermit crabs find their shells on the
beach, and then return to their haunts all over the island.
At night the fearsome looking land crabs come out of their numerous holes in the sand. This is a delicacy to the native
islanders. To catch the crabs, they simply bury a large bucket in the sand up to its brim and place bait in the bottom. The
crabs smell the bait, fall in the bucket, and can’t get out.
Another universe exists in the coral reefs surrounding the island and overwhelming us with their beauty.