We’ve been in Apia, Samoa for 32 hours and have already had adventures and delights aplenty.
After sailing 1,244 miles in nine days, we pulled into the marina at 10 am on Monday morning, breathing huge sighs of exhausted relief. We hailed the harbor master on the VHF, and he instructed us to stay on the boat until officials from the health department, quarantine, customs, and immigration control paid us a visit.
The gentlemen from the health department and quarantine arrived within 20 minutes, and were two of the sweetest bureaucrats I’ve ever met. They were wearing what we know realize is the typical Samoan uniform, a button down shirt tucked into a lavalava, a wrap skirt for men made out of heavy cotton; Mr. Health Department wore khaki, Mr. Quarantine had pinstripes. They were very curious about us, asking where we were from, what we did for a living, then quickly getting to the hard hitting questions: how old are you? why don’t you have any children?
After we checked a few boxes certifying we had no pets, no plants, and no plague, they went along their merry way.
Next to arrive were two customs officials. We made similar small talk in the cockpit, then they proceeded to go down below to give our boat a pretty thorough inspection. The didn’t look into the deep storage areas within the bilge, but they did go through the galley, our closets, and the head. The most suspicious items onboard? Our flare gun and Dominic’s rock climbing chalk (which, as a fine white powder, does look like a huge bag of cocaine, and Julie, the official, seemed to be totally unfamiliar with rock climbing as a sport).
The marina security guard told us if we waited for immigration we’d be waiting for days, so we hopped in a taxi for our first foray into town. It reminded me of La Paz, Mexico: there’s evidence of rapid development (desultory sidewalks, primarily single-story buildings), but is clean and well organized.
Dominic and I were going on nine days of sleep deprivation—mere husks of ourselves—so the immigration office felt like heaven. It had air conditioning, seats that didn’t rock, and there was a movie playing. There were about 30 people in the DMV-like waiting area, so we were pretty excited to just sit and relax. But then, everyone sitting there waiting, started to tell us to jump to the front of the line and go next.
We were flabbergasted by this kindness (can you imagine inviting someone to cut in line as you waited, interminably, to do paperwork?). We hesitated at first, no one wants to be the foreign jerk that cuts to the front of the line, but after a few you’re-an-idiot eye rolls and verbal encouragement from a number of people, we went for it. Twenty minutes later, we were back in the taxi, back on Helios, and taking serious naps.
And then a cruising miracle occurred: our neighbors in the marina, Asmara Sky, had extra wahoo curry they delivered to us for dinner. Delivery!! A luxury we would never think to consider. We ate quickly, went to bed at 8 pm, and slept for 12 hours.
This morning we explored Apia. The highlight of which was a stop at the Cultural Village. We were treated to a free meal, demonstrations from traditional tattoo artists, fabric makers, wood carvers, and, of course, dancing. In the image above you can see the dance group performing a traditional welcome ceremony. The daughter of a village priest sits before a bowl of water mixed with root powder, while one of the men in the village serves the concoction to the visitors in a coconut shell. Welcomed, we feel, indeed.