Travel Journal

Paradise Found, Lalomanu Beach, Samoa

(Wednesday 15 July 2009) by Dopps Family
Liku’alofa Beach Resort, Kanokupolu, Tonga (July 7), Taufua Beach Fales, Lalomanu, Upolu, Samoa (July 7-13)
The last several days have been spent snorkeling and swimming in tropical paradises. Our last day in Tonga was spent taking a ferry out to a small Island with Irene (wife of Mana our taxi driver). The island is only 10 short minutes from the mainland and has only one place for eating and sleeping (the most basic of accommodations with no electricity. There are a couple of shipwrecked boats right off the beach and the snorkeling around it was the best I’ve seen while in Tonga. Unfortunately we couldn’t make it to Vava’u, the island up north that everyone says is a must see and a hidden paradise. All the flights for the week were sold out and the fastest ferry, which just started service this past Friday, takes 11-12 hours across rough seas. However, this island had some beautiful golden sand beaches and was small enough that you could walk around it in about 45 minutes. At 4pm we headed back to be picked up by Mana. They took us to the market and bought the girls and us some nice gifts and were sorry to see us leave since we’d developed a friendship with them.
Our flight to Samoa wasn’t until 9:00pm Tuesday night and we arrived around 11:00pm and finally to our hotel in Apia (Princess Tui Inn) around 12:30 am. Since we crossed the International Date Line we started Tuesday all over again. We spent our second Tuesday trying to figure out where our bed would be the next night (and remaining in Samoa) but soon found out that most everything in Samoa was fully booked. There is a Methodist convention in Apia and the Survivor show is being filmed on the SW side of Upolu Island and they’ve closed the main (and largest) hotel in Apia reserved for Survivor show personnel as well as the resorts along the beaches there. As a result, the remaining places are all full but we lucked out for yesterday and tonight and have an open fale on the best beach on the island, Lanomanu beach on the SE side of Upolu Island. A fale is a traditional “hut” raised off the beach with mattresses, sheets and mosquito nets with tarps draped around the sides to keep out the sun, rain or wind. They have a ton of these packed in close quarters all along the beach with dinner and breakfast included in the price. Not bad for $70 Tala per person and kids free, which is only $28 US dollars per person, but you have to cross the road to the bathrooms and showers where there’s only cold water. The beach here is gorgeous white sand and perfect for swimming and snorkeling with a coral reef starting about 20 meters offshore and extending out several hundred meters where the waves break. But the tide here is very dangerous and last night 2 Australian women went out snorkeling around 5pm and beyond the reef. Tragically only one woman made it back in around 9pm after spending about 3 hours holding onto her friend and trying to get back to shore finally giving up after being exhausted and needing to save herself. The locals started a search using kayaks last night and this morning the authorities sent a helicopter to aid in the search. Around noon what looks like a naval ship has been going back and forth about a kilometer offshore as well as a smaller local boat and other kayakers. It’s been about 24 hours now so hope that she is still alive is very small.
Thursday, July 9th. Tragically the body of the Australian woman was found by some kayakers underwater out in the reef so there’s still a somber mood but relief that at least her body was found, unlike most others who have drowned in these waters. But life around here goes on and tonight is fully booked so we made arrangements to move to another beach fale next to the bar and ice cream shop which is ironically closer to the Taufua restaurant than the Taufua fale we were in the last couple of nights. Cianna has also made friends with an Australian girl, Zoe who is also 5, or turns 5 on Friday. They also have a 3 year old boy, Sunny, but they left on Friday. Since the snorkeling, weather and food has all been so good and so affordable we decided to remain here for the rest of our time on Samoa and just spend our last few days soaking up the sunshine, relaxing and building sand sculptures. I’ve found my beach sport calling and have been building sand sculptures every day each one increasing in size and complexity. The first day I built a large sand castle which lasted less than an hour or so before the girls and other local kids happily destroyed it. Next were a large sea turtle and octopus, also rapidly destroyed. The next day I built another large pyramid, which lasted all night and into the morning, even the surf was no match until it was also destroyed by the local kids later the next day. The next day I sculpted an even larger sea turtle with a small baby turtle on its back. The trick is using lots of water to pack the sand and make a solid foundation. However, by this time the locals and tourists started taking note of my creations and helped keep the kids from destroying them too quickly. Even Anisa, who was now my water girl and co-creator, started to tell some of the other kids to stay away (even though she eventually ends up initiating the final destruction sequence). I also created a large whale (one of my favorites) and a dolphin which the kids really liked, but my favorite was a mermaid which got much praise from the adults as well as the children so it stayed intact for much of the day. My fun also inspired others to join in and try making their own creations but my only competition was a large crocodile created by a couple Norwegians, Havar and Tone, which I gave 2 thumbs up for. Our last night I talked with the friends we’d met over the week, David and Laura and Havar and Tone (the Norwegians) and told them we should join forces (and buckets and backs) to make a large sea serpent and gather up all the kids on the beach to sit on it for pictures as a last masterpiece. Monday morning we all banded together and created a 17 meter long (with tongue) sea serpent and rounded up all the kids for a photo session.


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