I open the throttle and the engine roars — all 110cc of it. Melissa and I perch on the seat of the little Suzuki scooter — bags strapped to our backs and chests, respectively — as it works its way up to cruising speed. The sky is a flawless blue overhead, and brilliantly hued plants planted in a bed of porous volcanic rock line the road. We’ve just come off several days of absolute relaxation on the beach, and this road-trip marks the dissolution of our dependence on Samoa’s unreliable public transportation system. Renting a scooter in Savai’i had been a spur of the moment decision, but it was looking like a good one.
‘This place is so like the Philippines,’ I think as we cruise down the narrow coastal road. The ways of the road, the bombastic buses, the children running naked from their homes to wave and shout whatever English words they know in your direction…
But that’s not an entirely accurate comparison. The homes are even more colorful, as colorful as the plants surrounding them. Many structures are a roof set on pillars, covering a concrete floor with mats placed on it for sitting and sleeping. People drive… sanely. Speed limits are followed, and traffic is nearly non-existent. And the air… it’s clean, fresh, and pure.
We bypass town and head down a village road to the Tafua Rainforest Preserve. On the way, signs announce a crater ahead. We draw closer, and are hailed by a wrinkled matron from her veranda.
“I’m the keeper of this place, you need to ask my permission to visit.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize that,” I said, removing my helmet. “My name is Nathan.”
The ‘entrance fee’ will be $5 tala per person, and we have to be firm in our insistence that we don’t want a guide. No, really, we’ll be fine.
Wheels greased we carry on, and after a short drive down a jungle road find ourselves emerging back on the road we arrived on. A man ahead hails us from his veranda, beckoning us to come closer — much like the matron had beckoned us to her porch. I turn the bike around and drive away.
A few failed forays into the jungle dissuade us from wasting any more time; we cut our losses and abandon the quest for the crater. It’s not a total failure, though. We manage to see some jungle, and scrounge up some bananas directly from the source.
Police checkpoints are never an exciting prospect when driving in a foreign country. Tourists make tempting targets, and some lawmen can’t resist padding their pockets by fleecing those intrepid enough to visit their country. Samoa, though…
“Do you have a license?” the police officer asks me. He’s a huge man, but not at all fat. Still, his forearms look about as thick as my thighs, something his imitation Dolce and Gabana shades and traditional sarong do nothing to diminish.
“Of course!” I answer, digging through my pockets and thanking the heavens I actually have one.
He looks it over, then returns it.
“Do you know how we get to the waterfall?”
“Just go a bit further, then take a right just before the bridge. You’ll see a sign!” His response is in perfect English. “Have a good day!”
Yeah, Samoa is a pretty cool place.
And the waterfall… it’s like something out of a fantasy. An aquamarine pool, hollowed out by the relentless cascade of water from the gully above, surrounded by cliff-walls draped in foliage, trees hanging on for dear life, and sheltered from the blazing tropical sun.
After a scorching hot ride, this is just what the doctor ordered.
Crisp, clean, cool. The water is an immediate balm, shocking our heat-dulled senses and lowering our body temperatures to blissful levels.
Gust, mist, roar. The falls dominate every angle, the spray spreading out over the pool, the current pushing at us as we swim. When I dive through the veil of water, it swats me down like a fly and I emerge sputtering from the roiling base of it.
If there was a moment to press ‘pause’…
But rocks make a poor mattress, and moss an unsatisfactory pillow, and we have to press on. Our paradise fades in the distance, then disappears altogether.
After the stunning Afu A’au Falls, the Alofa’aga Blowhole is mildly anti-climactic. Down a bumpy, shifting road, a large shelf from an ancient lava flow stretches to meet the sea. From within the designated ‘safety’ zone we watch as geysers of seawater erupted from not one, but several holes in the flow. The spume creates miniature clouds of mist, which dust our skin with cool relief before evaporating almost immediately in the heat.
Satuiatua Beach Resort comes into view at last, and we peel our backsides off the pleather seat. Slightly bow-legged and in dire need of a drink, we walk inside.
How about you? What’s a recent road trip you’ve been on? How did it go? Share your adventures in the comments below!