August 30, 2017

Cycling in Samoa

We had longed for warm weather so when we landed at the Faleola airport in Samoa and exited the plane to a warm sunny thirty degrees we couldn't have been happier. What a feeling! Once in the terminal we were greeted by three smiling men singing and playing ukuleles. Once through immigration, where Emma thought they were going to stop her from entering because she had a coughing fit, we were met by our shuttle driver. We loaded the bikes into his ute, changed some money and then were off towards our resort LeVasa. On arrival we were welcomed with a fresh juice and friendly faces. We checked in to our room, had a walk, went for a kayak and a swim then showered and changed for dinner. We had the most delicious fish and a glass of wine for dinner then headed off to our room for a good night's sleep. 

Day one - LeVasa Resort - Manase (58kms)
After a delicious tropical fruit breakfast we pedaled the 6 km down the road to the ferry building where the ferry to Savaii was waiting. It cost 12 tala person and 10 each for the bikes. The ferry was pretty run down and basic with nowhere to sit and took about an hour fifteen. The highlight of the trip was seeing a turtle swimming by as we were heading into land. On arriving on Savaii we went to the supermarket to get some bananas and bread and then set off to ride 20 Kms to our first planned spot at Lano beach. The roads were smooth and the wind slightly behind us.

Lots of children yelled bye bye, the pigs and dogs roamed freely, everyone smiled and waved and the gardens were well kept and beautiful. It was stunning. We passed some roadside man made pools which looked very inviting. These pools were clear and clean but we weren't quite hot enough to take a dip. Not long after that we saw a beautiful beach so pulled over for a swim and some bread and bananas. We had only just got off our bikes when a lady came over and asked for 4 tala

 each for using the beach  We paid our money and then went for a swim and had a lie down on the sand in the shade. It was hard dragging ourselves off the beach but we knew there was more to come.   Before we knew it we were in Lano and true to Debbie and Emma form we decided to carry on to Manase another 32 km away. Half way there we stopped for a sprite which was sooo delicious. Once in Manase we decided to stay at Jane's beach fales. 70 tala each for a basic fale including breakfast and dinner. We checked in went for a snorkel out to the reef then had a shower and relaxed before dinner. How nice to have someone cook for you. 

Apart from the odd downpour of rain and the over zealous rooster we had a reasonably good sleep in our basic beach fale. 

Day 2 - Manase to Vaisala (42kms)

Breakfast was served at eight and we were entertained while eating by a lady from NZ who has been coming here for the last seven years. During breakfast we decided to stay another day and spend it snorkeling and relaxing. Apparently turtles come up the beach on dawn so we thought we'd stay and do that before leaving the next morning. After our first snorkel where we saw a turtle big eating seaweed off the ocean floor.  It just cruised around and didn't seem phased by us at all.  How lucky were we!  We had talked about perhaps staying another night here but decided that it would be a long day with not a lot more to do, so we loaded up the bikes and headed off. The road was stunningly beautiful and the wind behind us. Talk about being in our happy place. It wasn't long before we headed inland and started to climb it was raining on and off and extremely humid between the showers. We certainly sweated more than yesterday. It really was like cycling through someones garden . The houses and gardens here are so well looked after. At about 20kms into our 42km ride we stopped at a shop for coke and lollies. We were hoping to buy bread and bananas and fresh fruit but there was nothing other than beer coke water lollies and chips and Twisties. Luckily we had brought some Radix breakfasts so decided that would be perfect for lunch. It was so delicious and perfect food for Cycle touring in a place like this where it is impossible to buy anything healthy. The road continued to rise up inland and we were looking forward to the downhill as it was extremely hot and sticky. After a last climb we started to descend. Bliss a cool shower and a downhill whoop whoop. We rolled into Vaisala beach hotel with huge smiles on our faces. What a day. We checked in for 70 tala each including air con hot water and breakfast. The snorkeling here was awesome and well worth a look. There were fish everywhere. After a hot shower we headed up to the supermarket hoping to find something delicious to eat. Once again we were disappointed and only managed to buy chips, sprite and a Snickers bar. Luckily dinner wasn't far away. The dinner was delicious fish (30 tala each)- we have had fish every night and it hasn't disappointed yet. What a great sleep we had in our air conditioned room.

Day 3 Vaisala to Satoratua beach fales (57 kms)

Breakfast was at 7 this morning so we took the opportunity to get an early start as we knew we had a reasonably big day of hills ahead of us. We were on the road by 8. It was Sunday today which meant there was hardly any traffic and everybody was in church. Riding through villages was the most peaceful it has been. Today we ticked off a bucket list item and bought a papaya from a roadside stall and saw pineapples growing.  One tala each wasn't too bad. Not long into the ride we left the coast and started to climb. We felt the humidity as soon as we were climbing and out of the wind. Emma was dripping with sweat as we climbed up each hill. Once we dropped down to the southern coast we took a secondary road which was mostly gravel and wound it's way through spectacular coconut plantations.

 The ocean waves were deep blue and crashed along the rough coastline. We rode passed sleepy villages where only the occasional good bye could be heard. The road was hilly and the wind was quite strong in our faces but the remoteness and spectacular views made up for it. Luckily Emma caught sight of the famous sea arch out of the corner of her eye and we stopped there for some biccies and photos. The signage over here is pretty non existent so I guess it's a bonus to be on a bike where you don't miss much. We were pretty happy to roll into the Satoratua beach fales as our bums were a bit tender and the wind has picked up. The large, roomy beach fales (75 tala each including dinner and breakfast) were built under a huge Banyan tree right on the water. We spent the afternoon walking, resting and reading. We were joined for dinner by two Kiwis from Wellington who were living in Apia and had a lovely night chatting about donuts chocolate and shortland Street among other topics !!

Day 4 Satoratua to Le Vasa Hotel (73kms)

The conditions were perfect so after an awesome breakfast of pancakes, cocopops, papaya and coffee we set off for a snorkel. The current was pretty strong so we headed upstream of the current so we'd be pushed back down. It was pretty shallow but the coral and fish life was pretty good.

Once back at the fales we packed our things, said our goodbyes and set off for Sili via the Alofa Aga blowholes at Cape Auisui.

It was a stunning gravel road along the coast and to the blow holes. The blowholes were spectacular and worth every tala of the 5 tala a person admission fee. It was right on hightide and the blowholes shot around 50 meters into the air. We got soaked when we went up close and peered into the hole the water was spurting out of.

Luckily we have a waterproof camera!
We enjoyed paid 3 tala to a local man and got a coconut straight from his chilli bin. He knocked it's too off and put a straw into the hole - ah, it was so refreshing!

We then headed off for Sili. But it was a day for changing plans. The beauty of traveling by bike is that you have the freedom to change your plans when ever you want. Sili was not on the coast but we had read that it had a lovely garden fale accommodation beside a river. We actually ended up on the opposite side of the river and although there was a ford, we decided to just push on to Saleliloga where the Ferry comes. We would then be able to take the earlier ferry the following day. It didn't seem to take long and we arrived at the only set of traffic lights on the island. It was a short downhill into town from here.

We looked out for a nice seaside fale but there wasn't really anything. Well - it was about 3:55 and the 4 pm ferry looked like our new plan. We rolled into the terminal, paid our 14 tala each plus 10 each for our bikes. We were off to Upolo.
Our circumnavigation of Savaii was done and we couldn't have had a better time. We loved the roads, the people, the heat, the snorkeling, the food, the relaxed way of life!

We enjoyed chatting to some people on the ferry. There was a car of 3 ladies who had stayed at the same beach fales as us in Satuiatua beach. We also saw them at the blow holes. They were so excited to see us and we were both very appreciative of the water and bananas they gave us.We shared our ginger nuts with a girl from Tauranga who had come over to Samoa to bury her husband who had committed suicide. She was great to talk to and pretty philosophical about life. You get one and you need to do what makes you happy. Once off the ferry we hightailed it back to LeVasa resort and checked back into our same room. Ah home sweet home. After a shower and a short swim in the pool we headed to the restaurant for spicy fish and a glass of wine. Happy happy. The people we caught the airport transfer with sat next to us and we had a lovely conversation about where we had been and were going. They were heading to Savaii the next day so we gave them some tips.

Day 5 - LeVasa resort to Vaiala Beach fales (68kms)

We both slept well and enjoyed our tropical breakfast and thick machine coffee.We headed off for a short day cycling to our planned destination if Matavira. Wow there was a mighty steep hill in our way. Debbie played it safe and walked her bike up while Emma stayed in granny gear and sweated her way to the top. We're not sure the local buses make their way over that hill!
On the way down the road turned to gravel and wound down passed small settlements, plantations and over a reasonable ford. The rain started... It got heavier and heavier and we decided to take refuge in a small shop front.  Luckily we did as it bucketed down! 5 mins later we were back on our bikes and drying off.

We arrived at the Giant Clam conservation area and a very friendly lady met us and told us a bit about them. We paid her 10 tale each to be able to swim in the reserve and she informed us we could get a toasted sandwich afterwards. That sounded pretty good to us!

We were in the water until our fingers were wrinkley and numb. It was amazing and one of the more incredible things we've seen since being in Samoa. They have a breeding program going on so we could see the different sized clams. We were also lucky enough to see a turtle. It was just cruising around and wasn't shy at all. We got some great footage with our underwater camera and gopro.
The sandwich was equally as good, even after the 45 minute wait. We just ordered one sandwich for 25 tala and we got served up a plate of 8 quarters if toasted sandwich made lovingly with onion, greenery, cheese and tuna. It also came with a huge plunger of coffee and a plate of chopped papaya. Yum. Just what we needed!
That plate of food fueled use all the way to  Vaiala beach fales (47km) They were so authentic but then had old NZ billboard canvas's around the sides.  Mitre10, the NZ bachelor, wotif, pop up globe Auckland. A young girl came and set up our fale while we went for a walk along the beautiful white sandy beach. Everything we needed- woven mat, mattress and mosquito net. It even had a light! We had a cold shower and washed our cycling gear before having a lie down before dinner. It really is something else to be cycle touring and not have to shop and cook.
We went to sleep to the sound of the waves hitting the reef, Cicadas and the odd gecko, not a bad  a way to unwind and relax.

Rain rain and more rain was what we were served up all night. We also had a noisy hightide around midnight. 

Day 6 Vaisala beach fales to Lalomanu Taufua Beach fales (36km)

We got up at 8.30am and headed out for a snorkel before breakfast. There wasn't much to see and the water was on the chilly side so we didn't stay in for long. Breakfast was toast, bread, boiled eggs and papaya. After breakfast Emma treated the lady running the place as she had been complaining about her knees. We then set off to ride the 15km to the trench

What a beautiful place the Te Sua trench was. Huge manicured gardens and views over the rocky shore line and reef. On a fine day it would have been perfect to just sit up there and whale watch it eat a picnic lunch. Our day however was not sunny and in fact extremely wet and even slightly cold. It didn't stop us from enjoying the experience of the Trench which was truly magnificent.
We continued on our merry way with beaming grins and soaking wet skins. For the first time in our trip we were not wet from sweat!

Approaching the end of the southern coast the landscape changed dramatically. The road travelled beneath a huge cliff and right beside the coast. We noticed tsunami evacuation trails zig zaging up the bushy cliff face.
In the teaming rain we pulled up at our planned accommodation. The lady in charge took pity on us and handed us a nice fluffy dry towel! We had to wait quite a while for our room to be prepared but there were plenty of interested people- mostly Kiwis to talk to. They all  thought we were mad but all sounded very impressed with our journey so far.

The Taufua beach fales with its large restaurant and bar was very busy and we felt s but overwhelmed by the crowds initially but really enjoyed the interaction and buffet style eating in long benches. Everyone introduced themselves and we're really great to chat to. We had a few hours lying in our fale just reading and reflecting on our trip so far. 

It didn't talk long for Emma to be asked to look at a lady Pauline's knee. She had recently had a total knee joint replacement and was struggling with regaining her range of motion. After a 45 minutes consult and treatment we were rewarded by a couple of glasses of wine and she was feeling and walking a lot better.

We all sat along long trestle tables and food was bought out in quick succession. Pizza, chicken curry, green salad, prawns, spaghetti, spring rolls, mashed potatoes, rice, oranges. It really was a bit much but ideal for two hungry cyclists!  We even got to try Taro - we had been seeing it growing in the fields almost everywhere.  

Day 7 -Lalomanu to Matareva (62km)
The rain continued through the night but by breakfast time we were treated to blue skies and we were off on our bikes again.  Breakfast was equally as huge as dinner. Porridge, toast, eggs, pancakes, papaya and spaghetti toasted sandwiches. We finally rolled out with full bellies at about 10am.

What a day... It was Samoa heat again and boy were we sweating. We had a tail wind most of the day but that also meant we didn't really cool off. We stopped and bought a deep fried bun from a little boy. Yum, it was still warm and it was great. He was very pleased when we have him a lolly as well his money. Riding along the coast, Debbie suddenly yelled out to stop. Whale! Just over the reef was a humpback whale cruising along and spraying out his blowhole. We watched his tail disappear as he dived down into the depths - we felt pretty lucky have seen this. Several Kms down the road we stopped at a little shop for a Sprite and with our change bought a cream donut! Wow. What a treat!   We also stopped for a coconut drink and Emma gave the little boy a ride on her bike - he loved it!

Next stop was Matareva. We paid 3 tala each to enter the private road and bounced our way down the sandy corally drive.  This was our final night in Samoa and it felt like paradise. The sky was blue, the ocean was incredibly clear and we could see the coral reef beneath. Matareva has a wonderful white sandy beach and coconut trees tower above the road. We were very relieved when we scored the last cabin which had its own ensuit and two fans! It was 200 tala for the room which included dinner and breakfast. We enjoyed s snorkel and a good walk around the large grounds. We decided out if all of the places we've stayed in Samoa, this is the place we could stay more than one night. There is a lot to do here and more opportunities to explore the coastline. 
It was great to be inside a room with an ensuite  but boy was it hot hot hot. We fell asleep to the sound of the fans.

Once again we woke up to sunshine and breakfast. After breakfast we had a snorkel, a rest in the hammocks, another snorkel then reluctantly packed our things and headed back to the big clams for another sandwich and coffee. (8.2km)

After lunch and a pretty decent snorkel at the giant clams we cycled the final 21kms back to Le Vasa resort. We then packed our bikes back into their boxes, had a delicious fish meal and a Pina colada before being picked up by a taxi and taken to the airport.

What an awesome holiday. Samoa is the perfect cycling destination - lots of accommodation options, great roads, friendly people, few cars and a speed limit of 45 km an hour, beautiful beaches, breakfast and dinner included in most accommodation bookings, well priced, lots of sun and warmth. We will be back.

Essential gear for Cycling in Samoa

Nappy rash cream
Bug spray
Shampoo and conditioner
Face moisturiser
Toothpaste and toothbrush
Hand sanitizer
Snorkel and mask. Fins or booties
Lava lava
Rash vest for sun protection
Bike shoes
Cool clothes for riding
Sun visor on helmet
Cool evening clothing
Clothesline and pegs
Waterproof panniers or dry bag
Bike lock
Spare tubes, repair kit, pump, chain break, bike lube, fully serviced bike
Water bottles - minimum two each
Steripen or purification
Underwater camera
EFTPOS card - ANZ ATMs throughout
A good lightweight book
Chargers - same plug as in NZ
Head torch
Map of the islands - things not well signposted

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