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Your shirt clings to your sweaty back as you disembark the massive wooden bus onto a lone, worn road lined with curved palm trees. The low diesel earthquake of the ancient bus fires up as it lumbers on down the road, trailing away until the blaring reggae remix from the radio can no longer be heard. You’re left with the sound of distant birds as you wander down the simple dirt path towards the beach. As you reach the powder white sand of the idyllic Lalomanu Beach, you feel the sun beat down on your neck. The luminous sea beckons you forward. Where else could you be but Upolu, Samoa?
Possessing Samoa’s lone city, Apia, Upolu is the more populated of the two Samoan islands. Apia is the jumping off point for most visitors, containing most of Samoa’s commerce and several wonderful local markets that hum in a sort of meandering, distracted way. There’s no rush, no fuss, but the markets are all rich with gorgeous produce and local crafts. Every ounce of shade is utilized to escape the prickling tropical heat as acquaintances and friends stop and chat, leaving you with a feeling of ever-present community and warmth - a nation of Cousins and Aunties, eager for a laugh and some shared food. It’s a difficult place to feel alone, even flung far into the middle of the Pacific.
Even with all of its numerous natural gifts, Upolu has managed to skirt the mega resorts and upscale attractions. Instead you’ll find azure waves lapping at peaceful beaches, tremendous waterfalls roaring as they crash into the volcanic rock below and tangled jungles just beyond the roads edge, exuding a feeling of wildness off of every path. Perhaps most enchanting of all is the stunning To Sua Ocean Trench, a natural salt water swimming hole sunk deep into the earth. Navigating the long, slick ladder down to the cooling water below is as harrowing as it is rewarding, but it’s worth each and every precarious step. For a more relaxing getaway, look no further than the Papase’ea Sliding Rocks, a mini waterfall utilized as natural slides, brilliant for cooling down in the staggering heat. Who needs upscale attractions when the land has given you all that you need to have fun and relax?
While the pristine beaches and peaceful vibe brings most to Upolu, it’s hard to leave without being enamored with the tiny Pacific island - it’s just so charming. So charming that the famed author Robert Louis Stevenson saw fit to spend his last days in Upolu, where his former estate still stands as a museum along with the grave of the great author and his wife, Fanny. It’s a country that, despite a century of missionary influence and European occupation ending in 1962, is still firmly rooted in tradition and control of its own culture, Fa’a Samoa. Samoa is a country that moves at it’s own speed, but why rush? Best to slow down and take it all in - it doesn’t get much better than this.