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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Fish Markets & Fales

SAMOA | Thursday, 13 October 2016 | Views [508]

Last night I told Robert that today I’d be going in search of greener pastures (and bluer seas and clearer skies) so he advised me to head south. There isn’t a whole lot to love about Apia but it’s a good place to get settled and stock up on provisions. It’s a rather difficult place to get your bearings, as I still don’t have an idea on how to get to Robert’s work without jumping in a taxi. Up at 3:30 AM I went for a short walk in the dark before thinking "fish market" as it makes sense to go as early as possible. With my camera and a bottle of water I wandered past locals cycling and jogging, getting their exercise before the heat of the day. As it was still dark the market was barely setting up. In the meantime I got a ham (possibly Spam) sandwich and a cup of instant coffee; the "ham" was absolutely putrid and on white bread. I was asked if I wanted butter, mayonnaise, or cheese. Thanks, but no thanks! By no means Tsukiji or Jagalchi, the Apia Fish Market is at its busiest on Sunday morning and there’s an array of colourful fish. Parrotfish is so colourful it looks plucked straight from the rainforest and into the sea.


I’d like to pitch the idea to Robert that if I buy some fish, could we have a fish dinner at his home. Fish is very reasonably priced at the market, yet it’s heavily ironic that in a country surrounded by sea, there seems to be a lot more canned fish than fresh fish around. One of Robert’s workers said canned fish is cheaper but Robert says differently. Some fish here are gigantic.

I’ve been going against my usual travel style in Samoa and have yet to have a local experience in a Samoan home, either staying the night or having dinner. My initial plan was to rent a flat or a room in a house at a local rate, using Samoa as a base rather than a trip in its own right. There are no active CouchSurfers or BeWelcome members here and the only campground apparently no longer exists as I searched fruitlessly yesterday. The Sheraton must be the only place in Samoa with free wifi so I managed to jump online for a bit to catch up on a few things I’m unable do on my phone before I wandering outside into the sticky Samoan heat.

Robert noted a number of sights on my map and advised me to head to Saleapaga, a two hour bus ride away. Samoa may look like a little speck on a map of the South Pacific but both ‘Upolu and Savai’i are huge and going from anywhere to anywhere can take much longer than you’d expect. The colourful buses stop running rather early and barely run at all on Sunday. With all my gear I took a taxi over to Robert’s work and got some fish & chips at a nearby shack for lunch. Robert advised me to get moving because the 4 PM bus is chock-a-block with commuting workers. Samoan buses are an experience themselves. They’re open to the elements and are often packed; schoolgirls sit on each others’ laps on their way home. During a break I got some tasty chop-suey for 2 tala. Chinese dishes provide a lighter alternative to Spam, chips, sausages, and fried fish. Samoa, as with many Pacific countries, struggles with obesity and related health problems due to fried food, tinned corned beef, fizzy drinks, white bread, and the like.

For many visitors, there is the beach fale. As I was dropped in Saleapaga I stood directly in front of Faofao Fales. Though the fales themselves are a bit kitschy, they’re good value at 70 tala (NZ$40) per night including dinner and breakfast. I have a mattress, a raised platform under a thatched roof, a mozzie net, and the ocean out the front!

beach fale

I’ve met, surprisingly, quite a few French tourists; I thought they’d all go to New Caledonia. I sat and chatted to some French visitors and an Australian couple. I said "I have no plan, but I’m going swimming" and they said "that’s a good plan." The water is bathwater warm and you don’t need any time to adjust to the temperature. The south coast of Samoa is a world away from the relative hustle and bustle of Apia. Dinner tonight was a filling one: fish in coconut cream, chicken with potatoes, pasta with vegetables, taro (breadfruit), and tossed green salad. Full after only a little more than a plate of food, I sat with a glass of white wine and chatted whilst enjoying the balmy evening. Honing my vexillology skills, we all took turns guessing the flags of the various countries that hang from the ceiling. Jo regards herself a vexillologist: someone who studies flags. Another interesting fact of the evening: you can fit all the letters in "Samoa" in "Somalia." Many people are surprised I managed to enter Samoa on a one-way ticket, including an Aussie expat who runs a dive shop in Apia. He said that, even though he lives here he was given a very hard time by the check-in staff at the airport when returning to Samoa last year.

With the exception of Hawaii, there are nine Pacific countries that Air New Zealand flies to and I’ve been to six of them: Fiji, Tonga, Niue, Cook Islands, Norfolk Island, and Samoa. The remaining three are New Caledonia, French Polynesia, and Vanuatu. I’m running out of comparisons to make, but whilst not as easy as Fiji, Rarotonga, or Norfolk Island, Samoa isn’t as remote as Tokelau, Tuvalu, or Kiribati. Samoa isn’t as famous as some other islands for diving or snorkelling but I reckon swimming is wonderful. Samoa seems to on par with Tonga in terms of having a cultural experience but I’ve yet to find it. It’s turned out to be rather pricey but I’m not complaining. I’ve overcome a fear, got my Tokelau paperwork in, and have enjoyed my sixth Pacific island destination so far. Hell, what is there to complain about when I’m practically sleeping outdoors with the only sounds being, a la the Norfolk Ode, the ocean waves lapping lave.

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