To travel to Samoa is also to travel in time
Do you know that you suddenly sink into a daydream?
Half awake and half asleep, you get mixed stories and time together for a nice little out-of-body experience that can make the rest of the working day completely manageable.
The North Cape comes to Treasure Island
I miss my eyes and get a little stuck. I can see and hear something, but it is murky and gritty and grunting. The picture gets clearer all the time until I can suddenly see what it is; Troels' "with-the-huge-nose" Kløvedal troops up on the screen wearing old shorts, sailor philosophy and a beautiful old ship called the North Cape.
The broadcasts, which will later be rebroadcast so often that even the Matador gets competition, clear the residential roads. As a teenager, I sit in the house firmly planted on the sofa with the rest of the Jørgensen family. We all try to suck as much heat as possible out of the screen when it is now so cold and dark in Dannevang in the winter. The Northern Cape is traveling to Samoa. Where the tax island's author Robert Louis Stevenson settled down and found his life, and where the Polynesian culture has to that extent survived - and partly originated from.
In the program, the North Cape people take a tour of the island and interview locals in all colors, and suddenly my mothers say the few words that should make the world concrete and a trip around the world inevitable:
"Well, isn't that Carl Erik ?!"
We look at her suspiciously in the belief that she's probably talking in her sleep or should have new glasses, but no, she repeats and insists that he is probably an uncle, maybe a great-uncle, and that his name is Carl Erik, and that he is from Holte.
He has now landed on Samoa, and as a real sailor he has married a South Sea girl, she says. I want to go there, I think, and that travel dream turns out to be so strong that a number of years later it takes me the many thousands of kilometers out to Pacific Islands in Oceania.
Apia, the main village of Samoa
Zap. I see a garden with avocado trees, banana palms and a lot of flowers. Uhmmm, it's hot and it smells, aaaahhh…
Carl Erik smiles and welcomes us to his house in a suburb of Apia, the main village of Samoa. There are no road signs or mailboxes, so he just has to pick up mail down at the post office. As we drive down there, he tells sailor stories from the seven oceans of the world and then he tells about the highly fascinating and predominantly strangely decorated Samoan community of which he has been a part for many years.
For example, all these small villages around Apia have open round huts without walls, called a fale in Samoan, so you can follow the gait of large families, which, however, is not primarily gait, but sitting, sleeping and eating.
He also talks about all the churches. Of course, all these villages also have their church. But as the Samoans - as the hospitable people they are - have for many centuries received various Christian missionaries, there is a forest of churches in what is today called the Bible Belt in the Pacific.
Strange really, because the Samoan culture is probably the closest you get to a communist paradise on earth, where the land until absolutely recent times was owned by the village and you got food for your labor. You gave what you could to the community, the extended family and the village, and if you gave, you were rich.
When lava-lava is just a poor word
They dance, they dance and are happy. I like to danced, and eat, always eat
Samoa seems like the land of opposites, but in a completely peaceful, pragmatic and happy-go-lucky way, where it is fine to have a competing church next door. The decolonized island kingdom still still pulls a proper imperialist police orchestra that, like a living anachronism, wanders around Apia with giant truthorn and white or blue robes.
And what if some Chinese people thought they were going to help poor Samoa build a proper parliament, and when it did, it turned out to look like an ugly high-rise and not the traditional fale at all? Yeah Al that sounds pretty crap to me, Looks like BT aint for me either. Then it goes.
The family tells stories of the local transvestites, fa´afafine, who in this thoroughly Christianized society are the most respected community group ever, and who often have honorable professions and do dance shows. A rather unclassical career path in my own country, where it only leads to exclusion, I think.
And why are there so many who are "middle-sex"? Yes, if now a family with the obligatory 8-12 children gets too many of one kind, then you just raise one or two as the other kind to a degree, so the boys become girls and vice versa. The second is too impractical when there are now so many practical things to take care of and still quite a few gender roles to live up to, regardless of the children's biological origin.
Because there must also be time to have fun and - not least - eat. And eat, the happy, proud and calm Samoans go up in it, all the time. And when you have eaten, you have to sleep, why else eat all the wonderful food? In fact, the large-boned and rather tall inhabitants are the world's coolest people, but the thread should have been broken all over colonial land in American Samoa, where the traditional goodies like ground-baked fish and pork with root vegetables and coconut milk have been replaced by whoppers and super-sizeri.
The result in Samoa is i.a. a festive time giant women that we see on the street and who quite appropriately walk in a lava-lava. It is not a volcano costume that would otherwise be able to match these voluminous women from Volcano Island, but the local sarong that envelops both men and women. Both sexes also have traditional body tattoos and flowers behind the ear - the latter, however, is mostly a masculine trait…
White man in brine, mums
Zap. It looks at me suspiciously. Hmmm, what does it want? And who forgot his brain there? This water tastes of… salt!
A small fish with the apt English name trigger-fish happily bites into my thigh, but slips again at the sight of a hand about to eat it.
I float around looking at brain corals and colored fish off the beach in Manase on Savaii, the other major island in Samoa.
In suitably casual Samoan fashion, Savai's westernmost point was the westernmost place before the date line, so here the last rays of the day go down. In the year 2000 the hysteria of being the island where the new millennium first peeked out, the Samoans were proud that it definitely came last to them. You have to reach that, that millennium. Since then, they have moved to the other side of the date line, so it was easier to travel to New Zealand, but in reality, they fit best on the other side.
The guidebook calls Savaii the most traditional island in all of Polynesia, and it is not many years ago that electricity and asphalt came to the island.
A trip to Samoa is also Vailima and good company
Grandpa Tanu and his little family of 35 have built a fales once directly on the beautiful beach, and here you are just. Some of the 17 siblings in the youngest generation help with breakfast and dinner, and then there are bananas ad libitum and smiles, singing, dancing and calm.
In the evening, a cold Vailima comes to the table, and the beer, which is brewed on German technology from Samoan ingredients, is a real friend to share with the other guests from New Zealand, Germany and Denmark.
There is also an Australian bride and groom who refuse to believe that the Vikings and their linguistic ravages are to blame for her now calling her husband "Husband", the farmer of the house.
The days fly by, the books are eaten, and the local hen has time and time again forced the palm blind into the falcon and lays its eggs on our mosquito net. It's nice, but also good to think that there are no dangerous animals on Samoa before I settle down under the mosquito net, enjoy the fresh 23 degrees and fall asleep to the sea shower, so you can be ready to make as little as possible the next day.
Zap. Zap again. A mosquito smoked in the light. It seems to me that there is both very high down and up and that I am supposed to stay here tonight?
The Banyan tree is Samoa's pride and giant, and in this approx. 70 meter high tree on Savaii I have to sleep tonight on a platform high up with a view of the rainforest around. The body feels charged after the days in the sun, and the altitude seems more surreal than anxiety-provoking - a unique experience.
Well the same, it turns out, because the morning offers the most misunderstood breakfast I have ever tried, but still at the very top according to Samoan logic: If now everything western is good in principle, and you want the best for the western tourists, and the western one can get hold of naturally enough needs to be imported and one does not have that much money, so it ends up with a breakfast of sandwiches of toast with canned spaghetti! It is an experience that gives completely new meanings to the word klæg…
The palm road continues towards the blowholes, where the seawater rises in geyser-like formations from the lava field. There should probably also be something about a pyramid, but even the guide book is somewhat vague, and it all seems mostly like a local Loch Ness story, but like Indiana-Jacob, I make an attempt to find it with my travel companion. Behind the banana plantations, and then a bit inside the forest there is a forest, and a lot of it. It's damp - 30 degrees - and we sprinkle the field with our sweat and get dots in front of our eyes while we dehydrate.
We circle, no signs, no paths, only small variations in the forest. But suddenly it goes up a bit and there is an unnaturally similar angle on the hill we are facing and there it is, the pyramid of Samoa. No, I have not got globe coals, it is an overgrown semi-pyramid-shaped thing of 12 x 50 x 60 meters called Pulemelei, and the path up there reveals itself in all the green, and we wipe the sweat away and roll up to the flat top. And of course, this special place unites both the practical - a lookout point - and the religious - a place of rituals.
Here, many hundreds of years ago, they could look out at the canoes, which via navigation based on stars and temperature differences in the sea found their way across the troubled Pacific Ocean to Tahiti and Easter Island, and which populated the rest of Polynesia, and from the top they could then send hopefuls thoughts set off with common rituals and good food.
There is nothing to see on Pulemelei, no people, no animals - even the mosquitoes are gone, and yet we feel that it is a place of soul and history. The soul of Samoa.
To travel to Samoa is to see
Zap. I'm shown at home in my own little house. It's 14 degrees and it's raining even though it's summer. I'm freezing - I'm not built for this climate! Is that wall not very empty and where did my trip to Samoa end up?
I stand with a few artistic black and white images from Samoa in hand, and they show tropical rain on the way, and not least the beach at Manase with palm trees, eerie shadows and fresh footprints in the sand.
People I know say what I know: that it looks absolutely stunning and looks like a dream of the Pacific Ocean like the lost paradise.
But it's much more than that, because when I see that picture, I suddenly get the taste of fish with coconut milk in my mouth, water frothy around my feet, smiles from tattooed brown people and a strange Samoan calm that says it's ok, that I have not got the wall done with travel photos right now. It should probably come… now eat something first…
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