Monday, 26 May 2014

A Samoan sojourn

At long last, a travel entry! Boy, Lauren and I have been craving an overseas trip and our six days in Samoa really hit the spot. The timing was particularly good as we were starting to feel the gloom of winter closing in around us and I'd be really busy at work.

Despite rave reviews from friends, we were a bit dubious about how the break in Samoa would be. We stayed at Aggie's Grey's Resort, which was our first time doing a resort holiday. It was also our first overseas holiday with two kids, both of whom are very young. Would the humidity turn them into little balls of grumpiness?

So, was it a dull, stressful, hot, waste of money? Thankfully no. It was great!

People travel for a few different reasons, such as partying, adventures or relaxation. Two little kids means we don't do any of the first two any more and, while we were hoping for some of the latter, we knew that after more than a day of chilling out on a beach and/or a pool we'd be bored. We primarily travel for the exotic, the feeling of being somewhere different.

With that in mind I think we, like many in New Zealand, saw the Pacific Islands (or at least the ones on the tourist radar) as a bit tame. Beautiful beaches, but if you want exotic, you go further afield, say to South-East Asia.

Well, we were wrong. Samoa really, really feels like being in a different part of the world. Pigs, dogs, chickens and shirtless children wandering across the main road. Lizards climbing on walls, a rhinocerous beetle outside the door. Palms overlooking fales, the traditional houses that are everywhere.

And the churches. Almost every village has one that is fancier than almost every church in New Zealand. Though I note that shortly after driving past the church below ...

... the main road around the island turned into this one-lane, pot-holed track.
We turned back when puddles covered the road and the jungle closed in.

Well, it's up to the Samoans how they choose to prioritise their spending. When we stopped in one village and heard magnificent choral singing coming through the dusk, we wondered who was happier - New Zealanders with our wealth and infrastructure, or Samoans with their family and religion.

But while it has exotic charms, Samoa also feels comfortable. English is widely spoken, the locals are wonderfully friendly and there are the strong ties to New Zealand. The local paper, for example, had news of the sex scandal involving a Samoan-New Zealand Shortland Street actress and lots on the Super 15.

Those ties were another reason why we went. Samoan is the third-most commonly spoken language in New Zealand and Samoan-New Zealanders, from Tana Umaga to Oscar Kightley, are an important part of this country's culture. It's good to get a feeling for where they come from.

Being only there for six days and biting off small chunks of it, not wanting to push the kids too far, we've only seen a little of what Samoa has to offer. We'll be back soon.

Next time, Savai'i!