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Savai'i Bike Trip - July 2004

We spent an AWESOME week biking around the island of Savai'i - 7 days, 175 miles roundtrip and probably 1000 Samoan kids waving at us. The island is rural and charming with few tourists. Savai'i is a fantastic place to bike because it's relatively flat and there are a lot of little "attractions" along the way.

Day 1 - We left on a Sunday and rode the 20 miles from Apia to the ferry terminal on the western point of Upolu island. The Samoan ferry travels across Apolima Strait several times a day, connecting Savai'i with the rest of the world. Although there were a few cars on the ferry and lots of people, we were the only bikers. In fact, throughout the bike trip when we told people we were biking around Savai'i we would consistently get strange looks and disbelieving laughter. Our first night in Savai'i was spent at Lusia's Lagoon Chalets, a charming place with very friendly hosts and quaint beach fales (huts) built right over a picturesque blue lagoon.
Ferry to Savai'i.

Setting off from Lusia's.

Day 2 - After a refreshing morning swim and coffee on the deck, we bid farewell to Lusia, Albert and Derek and set off on our bikes to conquer the south coast of Savai'i. The south side is much rainier than the north...the prevailing trade winds from the southeast hit the mountains in the center of the island (Mt. Silisili is the tallest place in Samoa at just over 6000 feet). We took a loop through the Tafua Rainforest Preserve then rode to Aganoa Beach for some lunch where we met a bunch of Australian surfers. We kept riding on, stopping to visit the Afu Aau waterfall and to hike up to some ancient mounds. By this time, it was pouring rain and the waterfall was raging down from the mountains. On our way back from the mounds, we met Elin and Ilse, two archeoligist/osteologists from the Kon Tiki Museum in Sweden. They have been working with the Samoans to study some recently-discovered ruins up the mountain from the Pulemelei ancient mounds. Elin and Ilse graciously set us up with a place to stay for the night in the village of Satupaitea with a Samoan family. We spent a very pleasant rainy evening dining on traditional Samoan food, reading on the porch and watching the kids play.
Laundry day in the river.

Kids on the porch in Satupaitea.
Day 3 - After a big Samoan breakfast, we set off in a drizzly rain for the Mu Pagoa Waterfall. There are lots of little stops along Savai'i, all marked with red signs. Some of these are on the map but others just pop up along the way as we are riding along. The Mu Pagoa Waterfall comes down from the mountains and cascades dramatically right in to the ocean. Next, we stopped at the Muu Black Sand Beach...although I've seen many beaches before, I've never seen one where the sand is black and the ocean is white. It was a visual trick to the mind. We kept riding and came to Taga where a sign professed the "Best Blowhole in the World!" We paid our 2 tala (about 75 cents) and walked out to an shoreline of lava where explosive waves hit the land and blew out of holes in the rocks. A Samoan tossed a coconut into the blowhole and it blasted up over a hundred feet in the air. I had to agree, that was the best blowhole I've ever seen! We biked on to Satuiatua to our next beach fale.
Mu Pagoa Waterfall into the ocean.

Muu Black Sand Beach
Day 4 - Satuiatua was a great little place to stay. We had a cute little fale (hut with no walls) built right on stilts on the beach. We spent the morning snorkeling around and saw tons of colorful tropical fish. After breakfast, we set out on the bikes again, headed this time to the western tip of the island. We left the main road and took a less-traveled loop out to Cape Mulinuu. This is the westernmost point in Samoa. In addition to being a beautiful venue for sunsets, this is the last place in the world you will see the sunset on the day (when we sail out for Tonga, we will cross the International Date Line and it will be the beginning of each new day). We biked through sandy beaches and the Falealupo Rain Forest Preserve then flew down the hill to the beautiful beaches at Vaisala Bay. We were the only guests at the Vaisala Hotel that night. Our day of biking was rewarded with a deluxe beach cottage, a tasty Samoan dinner and our own private Samoan band playing while we dined on the balcony. Two of the band members played guitars and the third played a sort of homemade bass made out of a pickle bucket, some twine and a stick wrapped in ribbons. The music was wonderful as we watched the day end with the sunset over the Pacific.
Samoan lady weaving a mat.

Approaching Vaisala, our home for the night.
Day 5 - We started the morning with breakfast on the deck and then a snorkel at a reef several hundred meters from the beach. We saw fish similar to the ones we saw the day before but each time I thought I had seen them all, a new fish swam up to me. We biked up to Aopo, a village in the hills where a large lava flow has covered all of the land to the sea. On our way back down the hill from Aopo, we stopped at the Peapea Cave, a large lava tube that you can walk around in. We continued down to the beaches of the north coast, stopping at little villages here and there to drink a coca-cola or chat with the Samoans who lived there. Throughout the trip, everyone who saw us ride by would stop whatever they were doing to wave and shout "bye-bye" or "where are you going?", a common greeting in Samoa (much like we say "how are you?" or "how's it going?"). We made our way to Mataolealelo Spring, where sacred freshwater flows from under the lava rocks to create a cold freshwater pool. Since I was a woman, I wasn't allowed to swim in the pool, but I swam further downstream where the sacred water met the saltwater of the bay. We rode the final stretch to Jane's Beach Fales in Manase. This was the best place we stayed. Not only were the accommodations and the weather perfect but we met up with lots of other interesting travelers from Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland and Sweden. We spent a great evening eating and drinking with the other guests at Jane's.
Our little fale on the beach.

Day 6 - We were having so much fun in Manase that we decided to take a day off from biking and hike up an active volcano called Mt Matavanu. We biked part of the way to the trail, then hiked up through taro fields and palm tree forests. Several miles into the hike, we started seeing these colorful signs, all painted by a guy called "da craterman". When we reached the top of the ridge, we met the Craterman in his little blue fale. He was our tour guide up to the crater. Mt Matavanu last erupted in 1905-11 and is still an active volcano. When we got up to the rim and peered inside, it was so deep that you couldn't see the bottom. What you could see was a beautiful view of the countryside, the coastline and the bay at Manase. We bid farewell to the Craterman, hiked down the mountain and went for a swim back at Jane's Beach Fales. Most of the same guests were still there so we made plans to meet some of them back in Apia so they could see Seawanhaka. We also ran into Hanna, a boat we had met in Pago Pago and Apia. They were anchored out in the bay, not far from our beach fale. We spent the evening dining and then watched the New Zealand/Australian rugby game, complete with commentary by Tim, a Kiwi who loves rugby. His explanations made the game more interesting and exciting because we knew what was going on. South Pacific Islanders are passionate about rugby and there are a lot of really great players from Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.

Hiking through the cow pasture.

Bill and the Craterman look out over the crater.

Day 7 - It was difficult to leave the peaceful atmosphere at Jane's Beach Fales but we said our goodbyes, made plans to meet several of our fellow travelers in Apia and headed off on the bikes. We stopped at a little freshwater pond to swim with turtles. There were probably 8-10 turtles all swimming around in this cool, clear freshwater pool. It was cool to swim alongside them and watch them glide fluidly through the water. Not far down the road, we stopped at a little stand where women were weaving and selling their wares. Next, we came to a group of CRAZY Samoan ladies who were the guides for a site called the "Virgin's Grave". When the volcano erupted in 1905-11, the lava oozed down the mountain and buried this village. In addition to the Virgin's Grave (where the lava parted and spared the gravesite of the chief's daughter), there were a couple of churches half covered in lava. At this point, we had the toughest biking of the trip in front of us...25 miles southeast straight into the wind. We bucked up and biked it because we knew a cold Vailima and a swim at Lusia's Lagoon were waiting for us. We spent another great evening at Lusia's and even ventured out to the local (i.e. only) dance club on the island. A very interesting experience, complete with live Samoan music.

Bill swimming with turtles.

Elizabeth buying a woven bag.
Day 8 - Ahhh! The last day of the trip. We awoke at Lusia's Lagoon Chalets and enjoyed a tasty breakfast on the deck. Lusia packed up a lunch to go and we headed out to the ferry dock. Going back east across the channel was much rougher than our trip across and Samoans were puking everywhere. As Mike observed, "for a bunch of people that live on an island, Samoans aren't really that seaworthy." Mike got to ride up in the bridge (i.e. the control room of the boat where the captain sits). We got back to Upolu and rode the 20 miles to Apia in time to meet our dinner guests. All in all, it was one of the best weeks I've ever had. Savai'i is a charming place to spend some time and biking around it is the only way to go.
Chalets over the lagoon at Lusia's.

Mike in the bridge of the Savai'i Ferry.

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