. . . Monday January 31, 2005

Road Rage in Paradise

The main route across the island of Upolu (Samoa’s most populated island and home to its capital, Apia) is the Cross Island Road. The road takes you from the main town center in Apia across the island on a picturesque two lane road (every road in Samoa shares those dual qualities).

click photo for better version

The villages on the other side of the island vary in terms of wealth and modernity, but all share a beauty and a civic pride that is maintained in part through annual village landscape competitions. Even in the land of mellow, the sway of a good competition is not to be underestimated.

In nearly every village, you’ll find a volleyball or rugby game in someone’s front yard along with at least one squat shack convenience store where you can pick up a few drinks and snacks. My wife and I have always lived by the Diet Coke rule. We refuse to live anywhere where it would take us more than five minutes to get to a Diet Coke. Even the most remote village on Upolu qualifies.

Many of the residents still live in open air Fales. There is a concrete slab from which wooden posts rise and support a wooden or tin angled roof. You can see right into people’s living rooms where they might be seated on a couch watching a rabbit-eared television set.

The roads on the backside of the island are shared by cars, groups of teenagers riding in the back of pick-up trucks, locals walking beneath large rainbow umbrellas and of course, pigs, roosters, birds, cows, horses and dogs – and yes, pretty much all of them bite. It is without any jest that my Mother-in-Law advises me to bring a stick if I want to go jogging. It’s called aerobic exercise, Samoan Style.

And even though on our drives there is a Palagi (white dude) behind the wheel, nearly every person walking or sitting in a Fale on the side of the road smiles, waves, and says Talofa as you drive by. There is no road rage in paradise.

And the views? Everywhere, spectacular. From waterfalls, to mountains, to pastures, to coconut and banana groves to the simplicity of the white stripe of a two lane road, this is like Hawaii before the hotels and crowds arrived, only much more beautiful. Less lava, more Kava.

Here is a glimpse of what our voyage looked like from the passenger side of our rental car.

The full slide show will be up after I get back to broadband.

Concentration is important!