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Sunday, May 30, 2010

Thursday 27th May 2010

We hired a car today to go to Robert Louis Stevenson’s house and to explore the island a bit. An interesting experience as Western Samoa has only recently started driving on the left side of the road, so we were driving on the left, in a left-hand-drive vehicle, with the arrows on the road still pointing the old (and therefore wrong) direction! That made for a few interesting moments!

Robert Louis Stevenson’s house was great – a really nice place, and we could understand why he chose to come here and to build and live in such a nice place when he was sick and dying. Some say it was asthma, some say TB; I think the latter was true. He was buried on top of the mountain next to his house. Quite a trek and not one to do in thongs and without a supply of water so unfortunately we didn’t go up there, but the house was good to see and the grounds were also pretty speccy.
Note the fireplace - the first in Samoa! But never lit due to the heat, and also due to the fact that there was no chimney. It was purely for decoration, to make RLS and his guests feel at home.

RLS study

Dining / Ballroom

Perfect spot for a quiet gin and tonic on a hot day...

Statue symbolising the end of cannibalism in Samoa!

Every day, two people were selected for the honour of being the Chief's dinner.
One day the Chief's son decided he felt sorry for two of the men and set them free, binding himself in their place to be presented to the Chief.
On seeing his son (who was still alive at this stage) the Chief decided to end cannibalism and they started feasting on fish instead.

We continued our drive through to the other side of the island. A pretty drive on very skinny roads – so skinny that when a truck came past us in the opposite direction too fast we didn’t have anywhere to go and it swiped the passenger side mirror. What a fright! Luckily they pulled over and we got their details, although the passenger was madly beeping the horn and telling the driver to get back in the car. We always pay extra to get full cover on our rental vehicles and this was no exception, however on return to the rental place we discovered that they had never heard of paying extra to drop the excess so, if we were to go through insurance, it would cost us 3000tala (around $1500 AUD)! Hang on, we said – it wasn’t our fault so won’t the other driver pay? Oh absolutely, but here in Samoa we pay the bill and then go and visit the other driver who will apparently pay us back. And if they don’t cooperate we take a Police officer with us. What a palaver! It turned out, however, that a brand new mirror was only about $150 AUD so we paid that and should be able to claim it back on our personal travel insurance. We didn’t like our chances of tracking down this other driver ( we had a phone number and rego plate) let alone getting the money from her, particularly as her husband was so keen for her to leave the scene of the accident and just drive off.

After that bit of excitement we continued around the island passing through lots of little villages. It seems that they are made up of a group of houses and a couple of communal open-air buildings, plus a small shop of sorts, and not much else. It also appeared that there were a lot of people having a snooze in these communal buildings and not a lot else was going on... We also noticed that the houses had graves in their front yard, most complete with massive tombstones and some with shelter structures built over them and masses of flowers covering them. Some were enormous, and some houses had 3 or 4 of them. Rather than bury family members in the local cemetery, most locals opt to bury them in their front yard. It’s never dull to see how people in other cultures live!

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