One of my journeys I am most proud about is without any doubt the one to Samoa Islands in Polynesia. What surprised me most, especially on Savai’i Island or Upolu, was the simple life of the inhabitants.
My boyfriend and I arrived on Savai’i after a long and uncomfortable journey by ferry. Once at the harbour we had to choose a bus towards our final destination: Tanu Beach Fales.
The small harbour was like a big marketplace, people everywhere, relatives hugging each other, drivers taking you into getting in their cars no matter where you were going. With steadiness and determination we moved on and, after asking among a few bystanders, we found our bus and jumped in.
If you didn’t before, please experience a trip on Samoa’s busses at least once in your life. They aren’t just like any busses, they are adapted trucks. The seats inside are wooden banks, and if there is place for two there is also place for three, since the passengers are not allowed to stand while travelling. The driver’s seat is decorated according to his own taste and, if there isn’t enough room, the kids just seat on some adult’s lap, no matter if they know each other or not.
If you want to take the bus you will have to follow their rules. There is a rough timetable, not a precise schedule, and the bus may arrive ten minutes before or ten later than expected. You may even have to wait for half an hour, but that’s the Samoan time.
We didn’t stop at the closest station to Tanu Beach, so it took us a while to get there. Do not expect a five star residence: it’s not my style and this time I wanted to try something new: a fale.
Fale is the Samoan term for those huts built on pilings, kind of the traditional dwelling for the local people. We booked through email, accommodation, breakfast, dinner and taxes for 80 tala (about 25 euros).
The classical fales are round, with roofs made of palm leaves and moving walls (made of thin wickers sheltering from the wind). Inside a small mattress, two pillows and a mosquito net covering entirely the bed. We had shared toilets parted from the fale, with just the essential features and no hot water. That was all we had, and actually we didn’t need anything else.
The stairs led directly to the beach. Waking up in the morning with the sound of the waves and the sun rays entering through the palm leaves was all we could ask for.
A bell would alert us when breakfast or dinner were ready, every day at the same time. You missed it, you skipped the meal. We ate together with all the other guests. The owner and her children and grandchildren stayed with us, but they ate later, “for respect” said our host. Sharing the same table allowed people coming from all over the world to exchange opinions and experiences. There were people from New Zealand, from the Netherlands, but no matter where you came from we felt everyone was a precious addition.
Samoan people study English since they are very young and we could chat without much effort with the children, who became our Samoan teachers after the second evening.
An experience in the fales can change how people look at life, especially us Westerners used to modern comfort. Here we lived with just the basics, we enjoyed the nature, its silence and its sounds. Things which seemed necessary here are suddenly useless. The simple life of the local people is disarming and mind blowing.
Spending an entire vacation in a fale is not a choice for everyone, it requires a remarkable ability to adapt – and to sleep in any condition! – since you are 24 hours a day in touch with the environment. But should you ever have a chance to try it… don’t miss it!