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Pictures of our Samoa trip
(Island of Upolu: Part 1)
Part 2: Island of  Upolu: Part 2
Part 3: Apia/Upolu: 47th Independence Day - June 1st, 2009
Part 4: Island of  Savaii

            Samoa Map                        Map of Upolu 

                                Map of
                             the Pacific
latest picture: April 29, 2009
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01  On April 1st, 2009, in the port of
Apia, Emil is driving our LandCruiser
– arriving from Fiji – out of its
15th container into its 163rd country
 02  Our LandCruiser gets a Samoan
license plate. "Penina ole Pasefika"
means "Pearl of the Pacific"
03  The white Catholic Cathedral on
the city's waterfront is a glooming
landmark of Samoa's capital Apia
It is 1.30am of March 31st, 2009, a day that we regain due to the crossing of the date line during our Air Pacific flight from Fiji to Samoa, from Melanesia to Polynesia. Somewhat weary from the night flight, we enter the terminal and are surprised and pleased to see that a 5-men-band is still welcoming newcomers with Polynesian music at this early morning hour. Immigration is fast and smooth; we get a two months’ stay stamped into our passports. Then we grab our only bag that is already on the conveyor belt and hesitate: Shall we take the green exit (nothing to declare) or the red one?
04  Honourable Misa Telefoni,
Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa,
introduces us to the press .....
 05  .....and is eager to drive
our Guinness Record LandCruiser
for one kilometer through the
city of Apia
06  We drive through the
arch of "The treasured Island
of the South Pacific" in Apia
Our indecision is caused by Emil, who by no means did want to leave behind a piece of cheese from Fiji that we could not finish. Knowing that on all Pacific islands, cheese belongs to the forbidden items to import, we cautiously mentioned it on the customs form. So where to now: “Red” or “green”? While we are still arguing about it, a lady customs officer from the “green line” who attentively watches the exiting passengers, waves us to her side. Our “cheese problem” turns out to be no problem at all, because it is originating from New Zealand.
07  Honorable Misa Telefoni, Deputy
Prime Minister of Samoa, is presenting
Emil a souvenir of Samoa – a framed Fish
Hook – at a dinner in the "Sail" Restaurant
08  The "Fale Fono" – Samoa's
parliament house – sits at the
Mulinu'u Peninsula, which stretches
to the northwest of central Apia
09  The Clock Tower is the center
of Apia. It was constructed in
memory to the fighters and to those
who lost their lives in WW1
The ATM at the airport does not work – we change a few dollars to be able to pay the taxi to drive us the 22 miles to the capital Apia, where we booked a room in the Tatiana budget hotel. At the reception, there is a lady waiting, a bit sleepy though, but friendly. “We have upgraded you and put you in a better room on the 1st floor for the same price”, she welcomes us. Things seem to start rolling really well! We collapse onto the two comfortable beds in our spacious air-conditioned room with toilet and shower and realize only later that we are facing directly the busy road. Often we have the impression that the traffic rolls straight away through our room. Accordingly, we are still tired when we get up, but enjoy our rich self service breakfast consisting of banana and papaya, butter and marmalade, cornflakes and cracker, milk, tea and coffee.
10  Saturday afternoon at the central
bus terminal at "Maketi Fou" – the
fresh produce market: People are
waiting patiently for their transport .....
11  ..... the bus to Saleimoa
arrived and people are boarding
12  It is Kava time at "Maketi Fou".
Kava is a stimulating beverage that
belongs traditionally to all
Pacific islands
“The ‘Tropical Islander’ – the ‘Greater Bali Hai’ vessel with our LandCruiser’s container on board – has already berthed and started to unload”, informs us Hugo, the manager of Betham Brothers, our shipping agent, whom we pay our first visit. “I suggest you come tomorrow at 9am for the car release procedures”, he adds. As it is raining, we walk straight back to our hostel and buy our lunch – a frozen Hawaiian Pizza – at the Farmers Jo Supermarket nearby. After we moved into a quieter room, we put the pizza into the microwave, which in Samoa in most of the hostels belongs to the standard equipment. “Have you seen the two bottles of Gordon Gin from Fiji's duty free shop”, Emil asks when it is time for out traditional gin tonic aperitif?” We look everywhere, even in the old room, but it is nowhere. “I don’t believe it!” grumbles Emil. “We left it behind in the taxi. We are slowly getting old”.
13  Tombs of kings are spread out
at the Mulinu'u Peninsula northwest
of central Apia. Here rests
Malietoa Tanumafili II .....
14  ..... and at the tip of the Peninsula
are the seven-tiered tomb of the
Tu'imaleali'ifano dynasty and the
mausoleum of Tupua Tamasese
15  The white turreted church at
Vaipuna in Apia is a beautiful sight
Next morning, we are standing with a positive feeling in front of our 15th container. It is always an uncertain moment of getting our LandCruiser unharmed back, because such a container is moved several times around. Everything is proceeding fast and smoothly. The only thing we are asked by the quarantine is to have our car steam cleaned – this is their rule. One hour later, we are already driving out of the port. All fees have been waived – customs, quarantine and port – what a most appreciated surprise. What’s left now is the vehicle registration office, where we will have to get temporary local license plates and pay the road taxes.
16  In the flowering garden of the
Le Manumea Hotel in Vailima, every
morning and every evening this
beautiful Cardinal pays us a visit
17  The Ginger plant in its
deep red color is one of the
most fascinating flowers
of the tropics
18  This black crested
endemic red-vented
Bulbul is very curious
and relatively tame
However there is no favored treatment. As everybody else, we have to queue up with our agent for two hours until it is our turn. And as everybody else, we have also to pay the full yearly tariff of around US$200 despite that we will remain only three months in the country. But we do not want to complain, because we are more than grateful that the country’s Cabinet exceptionally accepted to admit our left hand driven vehicle temporarily. Any such import has been recently banned due to the fact that in September the island will change from right to left hand drive – a much discussed and hot subject. After buying a local driver’s license and having fixed our brand new license plates with the number “18864” to our LandCruiser, we are ready to explore the “Treasure Island of the South Pacific”, or “The Pearl of the Pacific”, as it is also called and written on the plates.
19  A lovely sunrise announces a new
day on the island of Upolu in Samoa
20  Girls are practicing for their
dance performance behind the
Tourist Office in Apia .....
21  ..... and the men are practicing
for races in 45-man canoes held on
special occasions, e.g. during the
independence celebrations on June 1st
“In Samoa, the world seems still to be intact!” This goes through our mind when we step into the anteroom of the Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Misa Telefoni, without being checked and screened. We want to express our gratitude and appreciation personally for all his support regarding our car’s entry permit. Shortly after, we already sit in his office in front of a cup of coffee. After Yemen und Guyana, it is the third time that we are greeted at such a high level, except in Kuwait maybe, where Emil was invited to a Sheik to attend an Ambassador’s farewell.
22  The unique flair of Polynesia is
awaiting us at the legendary Aggie
Grey’s Lagoon Beach Resort & Spa
at the Northwest coast of Upolu. We
are invited there for two nights .....
23  ..... sleep in a deluxe room
facing the Pacific Ocean and
enjoy the beautiful exotic flower
arrangements on our beds .....
24  ..... and the lonely sand beach at
the far east corner of the Hotel Resort
The conversation is very relaxed. And in the short available time before his next meeting, Hon. Misa Telefoni gives Nora, his secretary, the order to arrange a press conference for tomorrow. Casually he remarks that he will arrange for us a couple of nights to a minimum cost in some luxury resorts and expresses his wish to be allowed to drive our widely traveled LandCruiser for at least one mile. Additionally, he spontaneously invites us to a personal dinner with friends for next Saturday. In Samoa not only the world seems to be still intact, but it appears to be full of surprises too.
25  The Museum of Robert Louis
Stevenson, Scottish author, who made
Samoa his second home and who spent
his last five years in this beautiful
residence four miles South of Apia .....
26  ..... His last wish was to be
buried at a plateau just below the
summit of the “Mount Vaea Scenic
Reserve” – a one hour steep trek
through the forest. This was 1894
27  View from Robert Louis
Stevensons’s Tomb over the
harbor and the city of Apia,
capital of Samoa
The press conference is taking place in the open behind the tourist office. At least, the rain has stopped, which has bothered us since our arrival. It is a very unique moment when Hon. Misa Telefoni climbs onto the driver’s seat of our LandCruiser, with Emil as co-driver, and off they go together. For the cameramen of the two TV stations and the journalists it is peak time. After a while, the two return smiling. “You should have seen the face of the policeman when he realized WHO is sitting behind the steering wheel of this ‘funny’ car”, recounts Emil. “He could not stop staring after us with his mouth left open”. It is one of those happenings that make us smiling whenever we remember it.
28  Samoa has one of the biggest con-
centrations of churches of any kind we
have ever seen. This is the treasure of
Fasitoouta near the airport of Faleolo
29  Children, all dressed in
spotless white, sit outside a church
in Apia during Sunday mass
30  Another of the plentiful
churches that shape Samoa
Saturday, we put on our newly ironed best dresses and head for the Sails Restaurant at the seashore for the private dinner with Hon. Misa Telefoni and his wife, Ms. Sarah Retzlaff. The place of honor is taken by Christiane and Herwig Niggemann, Germans from Bochum, who have published a small picture book “Samoa 1904” with old photos from Otto Tetens, the brother of Christiane’s grandfather, who traveled to Samoa in 1902 to build the Apia Observatory. It is an impressive collection that shows the way Samoan people lived 100 years ago.
31  Both are impressive: The oval
Meeting Hall in the Head of State’s
compound as well as the
huge tree beside it
32  A typical more modern home
in Samoa. It consists of one room,
just with pillars without exterior
or interior walls to maximize the
cool breezes inside
33  A relaxed picnic at the sea shore
With exquisite food we spend a relaxed evening. Emil and I enjoy striploin steak with pepper sauce, vegetables and potatoes as main course, while the other guests prefer garlic prawns with ginger, rice and salad. The other invitees are: Former Tourism Minister Hans Joachim Keil with his wife, and our Swiss Honorary Consul-General Marco Kappenberger with his wife. We are the last ones leaving in heavy rain and returning this time to the up-market Le Manumea Resort Hotel at the foot of Mt. Vaea, where, through intervention of our today’s host, we will be staying for an entire week in an own spacious garden bungalow with an outdoor (!) bathroom.
34  Near the pass of the „Central Cross
Island Road” stands the” Baha’i House
of Worship” with its 62ft. high dome. It is
one of the eight such temples in the world
35  From the “Central Cross Island
Road” a sweeping view opens to
the palm fringed South coast
36  Locals pose spontaneously
for a picture
After the last eventful days, it is getting quieter around us. And after the long lasting rain, finally also the sun is shining again. We are eager to explore the surroundings and head to the nearby forest of Mt. Vaea, where the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson spent the last five years of his life and is buried at a platform below the peak. We can imagine how difficult it must have been to carry his coffin up the steep narrow forest path to his last resting place, when it takes even us one strenuous hour to get there from his mansion, which has been transformed into a museum. From his grave we enjoy the lovely view over the capital.
37  The Togitogiga waterfall on the
South coast plunges in two levels
into refreshing pools
38  A single yellow star charms this
white blossom. These flowers are
especially suitable for decorations
39  The tiny tropical island of
Nuusafee on the South coast
protrudes from the Pacific Ocean
Apia, Samoa’s Capital with its provincial character is the most attractive along the water front. The harbor wall stretches more than a mile to the tip of the Mulinuu peninsula, where the parliament house and also some tombs of ancient kings are located. But along this seashore it is also more or less the only spot where we can pitch up our camping table and chairs and enjoy our lunch without being afraid of being on private land. Because on one occasion we experienced a rather embarrassing situation: Misguided by a road sign saying “Reserve”, we entered a gate and suddenly landed in the unguarded premises of the Head of State.
40  This traditional modest thatched
house (Fale) with its simple meeting
place is a harsh contrast .....
41  ..... to the monumental new
church with its modern meeting
houses standing right next to it
42  Still the traditional Samoan
way: A home, open to all sides,
with blinds woven from palm
leafs to shut down during the night
Only through the two watchmen who immediately showed-up we realized where we are. We expressed our apologies and started to pack-up. To our big surprise, the more competent of the two suddenly said: “It is not a problem; you are welcome to eat your lunch here!” We could hardly believe it – neither scolding nor a charge, simply nothing. This can happen only in extraordinary Samoa! As it is the case on all of the Pacific Islands, the “private land system” applies also in Samoa, i.e. every square inch is family owned, what makes it not only impossible to camp but also very difficult to roam around freely.
43  On the Southern side of the „Le
Mafa” Pass the spectacular 177ft. high
waterfall Sopoaga plunges through dense
rainforest into an impressive gorge
44  Very green is the landscape
from the “Le Mafa” pass towards
Falefa on the Northeast coast .....
45  ..... with an amazing
looking vegetation
Unique in its construction are the traditional houses, called “Fale” – the landmark of Samoa. They are round or square in shape with a high thatched roof supported by wooden posts. There is only one room, without outer and inner walls in order to allow the flow of the cool sea breeze. For privacy or in the event of rain, woven blinds made of coconut leaves can be lowered. Nowadays, modern houses prefer to use curtains. These structures dominate the landscape and villages of this peaceful Pacific island; they serve not only as homes, but also as primary class rooms and especially meeting places. With their posts painted in different colors and surrounded by much cared tropical plants and flowers, they are always a lovely sight. Samoa often looks like a huge exotic garden to us, and the red, green and yellow seem to be more intensive than elsewhere. It is also the cleanest Pacific island that we have visited so far.
46  One of the beautiful coastal
views near Vailele on the North coast
47  Despite of the afternoon heat,
women are playing fistball
on their sport field
48  Preparing to thatch a roof with
palm leaves the traditional way. Four
layers are used. A thatched roof keeps
a place cooler than a corrugated iron
roof but needs much more maintenance
The deep-rooted customs – the ‘Fa’a (the Samoan way of life) – are still widely used. The villages are built on common land of extended families. Everything is communal. People deliver their earned money and merely receive some ‘peanuts’. There is no “I”, only “We”, what – to our opinion – reduces the motivation to work harder and gain consequently more. On the other hand, everyone is looked after. The head of each village is a “Matai” (chief). Together with his council he makes the rules, discusses problems and arbitrates over disputes. He is also maintaining peace, order and discipline, especially among young people, and watching that the evening prayers are observed by everyone. Every night – mostly around 6pm – the church bell (usually an empty propane tank is hit with a stick or a conch shell is blown) sounds three times. At the first struck of the bell, all activities cease. At the second each family gathers for evening prayer and at the third one the prayer is over. Interesting is also to discover that outside of Apia town there is hardly any police, may be once in a while a patrol car. All difficulties are tried to be solved within the village community.
49  People leaving the church in their
fabulous white dresses after a Sunday
mass is always a most beautiful sight
50  View from the „Theological
College“ of Malua direction
East towards Saleimoa
51  Marching of the “Royal Police
Band of Samoa” from the police
station in Apia to the Government
building: The flag rising ceremony
is daily (working days) while the
national anthem is played too
Religion still plays a vital role in Samoan life and the pastor carries the status of a “Matai” (chief). In no other countries we have seen such an accumulation of imposing churches. The communities seem to compete with each other in the size and elaborate architecture. They are a striking contrast to the simplicity of the homes. It can easily happen that in a small village there is up to three churches, standing side-by-side, each one more impressive than the neighbor. Each community wants to show its wealth. In a way, we have a problem with it considering the modest houses of the islanders in comparison, who also take turns in providing food to their pastor and contribute large amounts of money to their church (up to 30% of their income – we were told). Sunday is sacred and is spent with the family. Together they attend the mass. For us, it is always a joyous moment seeing the church goers in their spotless white dresses, and it is also always an experience to listen to their beautiful chanting through the open church doors. Except for established hotels and restaurants, in most of the Pacific islands alcohol is also prohibited to be sold on Sundays, be it because of a possible abuse or for religious motives.
52  Our house on the seashore in
Puipaa, 4 miles west of Apia,
which we rented for a couple
of weeks. Camping isn’t possible
in Samoa, and spending the nights
in hostels gets more expensive
53  „Our“ Kingfisher that is
always sitting on the same tree
and on the same branch beside
our house (see the white
Kingfisher in
American Samoa (picture 14)
54  A lonely fisherman gliding
silently in front of our house
through an almost
mirror-calm sea at sunrise
On Easter Sunday, we change once more our accommodation – from Le Manumea Hotel to the “Aggie Grey’s Lagoon & Beach Resort” in the Northwestern part of the island, where we are able to enjoy all the luxury for two nights – and once more at a reduced rate. Here we encounter some of the romantic South Pacific atmosphere remembering from our short-term vacations back in the 1970’s, when we traveled through the Pacific islands more than once: Palm trees, a turquoise lagoon and a white sandy beach. Our room is decorated with a profusion of tropical flowers – beautifully arranged on the two king size beds and the table. And in the bathroom red Hibiscus flowers are glooming from every corner. It is a lovely welcome! From June to September the whole hotel complex, which normally is booked mainly by package tours from New Zealand, is rented out to the American television network CBS for their 19th episode of the “Survivor” series.
The sunrises in front of our house show each day a new spectacular picture
The name “Aggie Grey” derives from a courageous American lady, who in 1942 in World War II sold hamburgers and coffee to US solders in order to feed her family. This made her known throughout the Pacific region. Her snack corner was the social meeting point of war tired solders. Some decades later, she expanded her “burger bar” into a hotel – the„Aggie Grey’s Hotel & Bungalows“ in Apia. Still today “Aggie’s” is a legend, where after more than 60 years bungalows are still named after visiting celebrities like Marlon Brando or Roberta Haynes. Aggie Grey died 1988 aged 91. The „Aggie Grey’s Hotel & Bungalows“ in the town of Apia, as well as the „Aggie Grey’s Lagoon & Beach Resort“ near the airport, respectively near the ferry terminal to Savaii, are now managed by her nephew Frederick Grey.
58  The traditional „Fale“ on poles
without walls dominate the look of
Samoa. They are used as gathering
places (in Siufaga – Southwest) .....
59  ..... or as family homes
(in Falelatai – Southwest) .....
60  ..... and also as school
rooms for lower classes
(in Fasitoouta – Northwest)
As it was already the case in New Caledonia, Vanuatu and Fiji, we spend also three months in Samoa in order to “amortize” the hefty shipping and airline costs of our Pacific island hopping. But the thought to have to move back to the cheap budget accommodations for the remaining ten weeks – and cheap means at least US$45 a night for a double room, does not make us happy. Why not try to rent an affordable apartment or even a house? We start investigating. Luck has it that one of the furnished houses of the Deputy Prime Minister in Puipaa – approx. 4 miles West of Apia – is vacant at the moment, and he is willing to rent it out to us for the required period for a price that costs us half of what we would have paid in a budget hotel.
61  View over the Fagaiofu Bay in
the Southwest (and in the background
the sister island of Savaii) .....
62  ..... where in the village of
Falelatai stands one of the most
beautiful monumental churches,
which are nearly as numerous
in Samoa as the “Fale“
63  The setting of the “Return to
Paradise Beach” in the Southwest
comes already very close to our vision
of a Pacific paradise. It got its name
from the shooting of James Michener’s
novel “Return to Paradise” in 1951,
starring Gary Cooper
It is situated directly at the seashore, has a living room, three sleeping rooms, a shower with hot water, a kitchen and a porch. We like it at first sight. And being able to access also internet via Lesamoa.net, we move in on April 15th. It contains everything we need, even a washing machine. Very soon we make acquaintance with our surroundings: With the yellow-blue king fisher that is sitting always on the same tree, with the curious bulbul birds, with a red-black cardinal that feeds on the red hibiscus flowers, with the nearly flightless buff-banded rail (a kind of a small chicken) that is looking for food all day long on the lawn and with the smart mynas that appear in groups and seem to chatter all day long.
64  Sitting in the refreshing sea
makes washing the laundry by hand
in the tropical heat less strenuous
65  A father is fishing with his
two children. Each time a wave
approaches, the little girl grabs
fearfully her father’s leg
66  A fisherman is banging with his
stick onto the water surface in order to
chase the fishes into his laid out net
Continuations from Samoa:


Articles in newspapers about us in Samoa:
Article: "Switzerland couple have travelled to 163 countries", Daily Newspaper "Samoa Observer" - April 5, 2009
Article: "World travellers take fond memories", Daily Newspaper "Samoa Observer" - July 1, 2009