Travel Through Samoa on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Samoa on a Harley (12/8/08 - 21/8/08)
Distance 202 km (508685 km to 508887 km)

This is part of the fourteenth section of our around the world trip. 
Complete Trip Overview & Map 

Coming from Vanuatu

12/8/08 After a four hour layover in Nadi we arrived in Apia, Samoa at 2am and after a long day it was still the 12th as we had crossed the international date line going backwards, so we get to have the day again. Phoned for accommodation from the airport and found a cheap place for the few hours we had left of the night and slept late. Expecting to be spending a bit of time in our hotel room for the next week waiting for the motorcycle and writing the book we moved to an air-conditioned hotel, a little above budget but great value compared to the last few countries. On checkingFutasi boats, practicing for the Teuila festival at sunset with the local Air New Zealand office we discovered they still fly directly to Tonga from Samoa. Their web page didn't show this sector so we had booked with Polynesian Airlines via New Zealand, an expensive mistake. Bought a temporary local driving license, a formality, a revenue raiser, just a piece of paper. Checked out onward shipping, a couple of hundred dollars to Tonga, quite reasonable, cheapest sector for a long time, and sitting around the hotel pool, by early evening, and after a little red wine, we crashed early, a long two days in one. 

13/8/08 I know the banks are doing it tough around the world but I don't feel like paying for their mistakes. When we started travelling we received the mid rate for electronic currency exchange and had no currency exchange charges on our credit card or debit card. Then the card companies introduced a conversion fee, between one and two percent of the transaction. And recently we have been charged that fee and are now receiving the normal, across the counter bank currency exchange rate, not the inter bank rate we used to receive, plus an international ATM charge. Perhaps it is just my Commonwealth Bank in Australia that is doingVilla Vailima, Robert Louis Stevenson's house this but they tell me it is the international Cirrus and Maestro Networks, a virtual monopoly on international electronic money exchange. It has become so expensive to use their ATM's overseas because of this bad exchange rate and fees that carrying cash and travellers cheques and changing locally has become cheaper than using an ATM. A great step backwards for international travel. Whether this poor electronic exchange rate is just in the islands, I doubt, or more wide spread I guess we will see when we get to New Zealand, but we changed Australian cash at a local money change place today and received a 10% better rate than on our debit card.

14/8/08 Visited the shipping agent, again a different port procedure. Goods are delivered to the port but inspected at bonded warehouses, one for each shipping agent and as our import agent is different from the outbound one it would have meant moving the crate. Generously the import agent will allow us to clear the goods and have them sent directly to the onward shipping agent saving this freight. Mr Richard, at Customs, offered to assist us with customs clearance which can't be done until the motorcycle arrives, and with an onward quote of $US 200.00 for Tonga, weOverlooking Apia Harbour from the grave site had achieved as much paperwork as possible. In the evening we sat on the waterfront and watched the training of futasi (long canoe) crews for the up coming Teuila festival. About forty paddlers, a drummer or whistle blower to set the pace, paddle out nearing sunset for the  practice.

15/8/08 Robert Louis Stevenson lived his last four years at Villa Vailima, a lovely home he built overlooking Apia. He died there in 1894, having long suffered from tuberculosis. During the last four years though he wrote thirteen more novels, making over 40 in his short life. The villa fell into disrepair until an American philanthropist leased the property and restored it to open on the 100th anniversary of Stevenson's death. Stevenson is buried, on his request, atop a hill a steep walk from the Villa. We visited the impressive museum and building and walked to the grave for its views.

16/8/08 Apia is a quiet city, strung out along the bay and our accommodation allows for evening strolls along the foreshores. We have been moving up in our liking of countries, Vanuatu better than Solomons, and now SamoaOur fale, seaside hut, at Faofao Beach better than Vanuatu. The people here are a little more reserved, a little less English spoken, but the place is tidy, easy to move around and the shops have what we need. Purchased a new battery for the motorcycle, the old one dying between shipping, not holding its charge. Also purchased a turn signal, the left rear one broke off in PNG and we thought we might need one to get into American Samoa, as we have booked on the local ferry which goes weekly. Just on dusk the Bali Hai ship arrived, and started unloading, so we hope our motorcycle was part of its discharged cargo.

17/8/08 Sunday morning and quiet. The Bali Hai has sailed, but we won't be able to get to see the motorcycle till tomorrow, Monday. The streets remained empty till evening, barely a shop open. We walked for a few kilometres from one end of the sea wall at the port to the other, midday, hoping to find a drink, a soft drink, no luck but a lovely walk in the sea breeze.

18/8/08 Paid the motorcycle's port fees, a cursory quarantine and the helpful customs officers completed the release documents but it all moved at island time.Kay resting on the Faofao Beach The 8.30 start time easily extends to 9.30 before anyone is comfortably awake enough for business and things progressed steadily but relaxed. BBE shipping company agreed to store the crate for us for the motorcycle's three week stay, and carted it to their warehouse where we unpacked the motorcycle, installed the new battery, and a little after 1pm rode it into its 191st country. A ride to town and repacking for living out of the motorcycle filled the rest of the day. In the Solomons and Vanuatu we stayed almost entirely at the one accommodation but in Samoa there are three easy islands, including American Samoa to visit, and reasonable distances, well at least for the Pacific islands, so we will be accommodation hopping.

19/8/08 Ready to find a beach and be away from Apia we headed east, the road following the coast for much of the time. The first thing we were surprised at was the extensive use of tropical plants in the locals gardens and the effort they go to maintaining a pleasant living area. Each family has a fale, an open building, meeting place, where they sit in the evenings, or sleep in a cool breeze. The island is made of volcanic rock, pretty young it has lava flows and large rocks rather than soil most places making growingRugged lava coastline of 'Upolu Island food difficult other than the high rainfall and high fertility. We stopped at a group of tourist fale, small semi open beachfront shacks, for lunch, some were a little crammed into the small beach area, and most were full with travellers, from a lot of countries but Australian and New Zealanders were in the majority. Travelling along the south east coast we found a more relaxed, better spaced bunch of fale, for the night. With dinner and breakfast usually included in the price, and a bar to sit and chat in the evening, a great atmosphere. 

20/8/08 A morning snorkel, nice semi local breakfast, fruits, coconut, and toast, a short ride to look at a few more beachside locations had the morning disappear, and by the time the siesta, and an evening swim had passed, along with a bit of sunbaking the day was gone. Most of the island doesn't have white sand beaches, just pockets, as the volcanic rock reaches down to the coast, occasionally revealing an interesting coastline, blowholes, arches, but a fringing coral reef has built up around most of the coast with a shallow lagoon for safe, although shallow, swimming.

21/8/08 Said goodbyeQuarantine certificate of a clean motorcycle, with dirt on my hand from the underneath to the fale on the beach and rode back to Apia. The boat to American Samoa leaves at midnight, but we had to undo the motorcycle's import paperwork for export during working hours. Customs was easy and incredibly helpful again, but quarantine wanted to spray the motorcycle and used an industrial strength concrete water blaster, and while I was away from the motorcycle, they blasted off large amounts of the stickers, destroying many that we have collected over the years, removed paint from the licence plate and damaged one of the speakers. Obviously we weren't happy particularly as the topside of the motorcycle, the area they damaged, was already clean, while they had left a lot of dirt on the underneath side, an area their machine would have caused little damage. Following complaints to the lady in charge we also wrote a letter to the Minister for Agriculture, seeking compensation for the lack of care they had taken. The whole process took all afternoon with the motorcycle being loaded at 5pm, but we had to wait till 10pm before boarding time.                

Move with us to American Samoa or go to our next visit to Samoa


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