SAMOA

Go Travel The Pacific - - Contents - By Ross Bid­mead

Watch­ing the sun­set as we sit in the beach fale, with beer in hand,

it’s easy to be­lieve we are liv­ing our dream.

Samoa was a spon­ta­neous des­ti­na­tion six years ago. We cy­cled Savaii, the big­ger but less pop­u­lated is­land. It was a leisurely trip with no ac­com­mo­da­tion pre- booked, en­abling Frances to get fit­ter be­fore her hip re­place­ment and a chance for me to un­wind af­ter hand­ing over the reins of my IT com­pany.

While the trip started as a bike ride we quickly re­dis­cov­ered the joys of “camp­ing” on the beach with warm, safe swim­ming and snorkelling amongst the coral and turtles as well as very friendly peo­ple liv­ing a much sim­pler ex­is­tence.

The 200km ride around Savaii be­gins with a gen­tle, flat cy­cle through vil­lages be­side the la­goon. There is very lit­tle traf­fic on the sealed roads, but we soon had sore arms from wav­ing to the kids and re­ply­ing to their en­thu­si­as­tic “bye bye” calls. We were also mar­vel­ling at the open meet­ing houses at the front of most houses and en­joy­ing in­ter­act­ing with the vil­lagers in ways that can’t hap­pen in a car. Later when we stopped in the more re­mote vil­lagers we would end up in con­ver­sa­tion with lo­cals who were in­ter­ested in us and our bikes. There was no sell­ing or beg­ging and as English is com­pul­sory in schools we had some com­mon lan­guage.

Mostly we stayed in Fale re­sorts. Th­ese pro­vide ac­com­mo­da­tion in small tra­di­tional beach huts with solid floors and roofs and mat­ting sides. They are of­ten lo­cated at the wa­ters edge on white sand beaches in front of stun­ning la­goons. The re­sorts are usu­ally in or on the edge of vil­lages on cus­tom­ary land and are very much fam­ily run op­er­a­tions. A book­ing at a fale resort in­cludes break­fast and din­ner and the fales come with mat­tresses, bed­ding and mos­quito nets. The fales are equiv­a­lent of camp­ing, but with­out the has­sles of tents and vir­tu­ally no risk of be­ing rained out or blown away. It’s a good start to the day, wak­ing to waves lap­ping at your feet as the sun peaks through the mat­ting, throw­ing back the sheet and leap­ing in for a swim.

Each place was ( and still is) spe­cial and unique. Lauiula has a magic Fi­afia night of tra­di­tional dance. It be­gins with guests help­ing pre­pare the umu feast ( but they are not asked to help pre­pare the

swells is ex­cit­ing and gives al­most unique ac­cess to re­mote is­lands, whales, dol­phins and birdlife. Watch­ing Frigate Birds pinch­ing their food on the wing from other sea birds is quite spe­cial ( Frigates have no oil in their feath­ers and so are un­able to swim and rely of aerial theft).

Build­ing a new busi­ness in a de­vel­op­ing coun­try like Samoa has cer­tainly tested my sec­ond in­ter­est of risk man­age­ment. We de­cided at the start to fo­cus on main­tain­ing qual­ity equip­ment and lift­ing the qual­ity of our sup­pli­ers of ac­com­mo­da­tion and other ser­vices and the re­wards come from the e very sat­is­fied clients re­turn­ing at the end of their ad­ven­ture. Their eir re­views on Trip Ad­vi­sor - see sep­a­rate box are what keep us go­ing. This year we have had a lot more families of all ages, some tour­ing with our baby car­ri­ers, ta­ga­long and bike trailer. The whole fam­ily re­turns with the en­thu­si­asm we e ex­pe­ri­enced at the start of our stay ( and came back from our r best fam­ily holidays with). But ut age is no bar­rier and last year I greatly en­joyed a guided trip with 12 Kapiti 50 plus rid­ers, of whom the old­est was 83.

Re­tire­ment is not a word used around here and we are busy plan­ning and test­ing new w ideas for next year. We are work­ing with other op­er­a­tors to of­fer canyon­ing and coas­t­er­ing ( chal­leng­ing sea, beach and climb­ing jour­neys), moun­tain bike trails, art tours and ex­tended cul­tural ac­tiv­i­ties. We are also tri­al­ing elec­tric bikes and de­vel­op­ing a new ride around Upolu. But in between th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties there was time for a gen­tle ride around the coast yes­ter­day with Frances. She had her hip re­vised six weeks ago and has just got back on a bike. Rid­ing gen­tly through the vil­lages, call­ing “bye bye” to the kids was great and the steady pace was enough to gen­er­ate a cool breeze that was more pleas­ant than walk­ing. We are liv­ing our dream.

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