Sunday, 6 May 2018

The Importance of Taking Mini Retirement

It was in the middle of savannah in Africa last year and among the herd of thousands Zebra and Wildebeest when this idea came to me like a seagull took a dump in the sky and landed on my head. Can't ignore and pretend it didn't happen. Anyway I tried to brush this aside and concentrate back to this once in a lifetime moments that's happening within meters from me.

Back to my life in Christchurch, New Zealand this idea creeped its way back to me and reading some blogs, some people done it in their 20s, 30s, 40s. I started put real thoughts to it. It's also been over 12 years since I bid farewell to my root, Indonesia to try my luck overseas. That saying about grass is greener on the other side? Well, yes I bought that sh*t too. The relocation works well for me, financially and traveling wise. Though it means I also been missing out on what's mostly been happening with my family back home. After those years of blood, sweat & tears I made a promise to myself that 2018 is the year I should put my stuff away and take my backpack home and pursue this idea of mini retirement.  

Herds of Zebras in Maasai Mara

My mum is not getting younger although the ones who've met her before might be fooled by her look :p, another reason to take this long break is because I'd love to explore places that had become my backyard for the first 26 years of my life before I lived abroad. I'd like to take a walk down the memory lane as well, eating dishes that burst with flavours and induced me some endorphins from every bite, then hop on a train from Jakarta to Yogyakarta to grandma's place where we used to spend our school holidays with the whole family. I'd love to sit by the window and watch the world go by as it carves its way through the railway between lush of rice paddies, palm trees while reminisce on childhood memories. Growing up, we used to take both economy(3rd Class) or Fajar/Senja(2nd Class) train. Economy train, being the cheapest, the condition back then was appalling, the carriage cramped to over capacity, the air was stuffy because there was no AC, everyone was enduring around 12 hours journey. It's funny now when flashbacks came and visited me from time to time. I remember quite vividly how some me and & my sister had to sleep on the bed of newspaper under the seat that mum and aunty occupied, as well as tiny spaces between the seats. I was worried what if the seat above me collapse and flatten me into pancake. What would my last thought be before I die?!
There were so many stops along the way , not just stations, random ones too, in the middle of rice paddies or something. It just stopped out of nowhere and waited for premium train to pass us. It could take ages at times. Wish I knew what middle finger was for back then. There was constant street vendors from nearby villages and stations that hopped into the carriage to sell food like instant noodle, hot beverages, snacks etc. They walked back and forth, over people who were sitting in the hallway, I wonder how many toes they have accidently stepped on. Ah the joy of traveling 3rd class eh? What about some random vendor who placed his paper wrapped rice dish onto someone's cheek who was asleep at 3 o'clock in the morning or deaf tone street entertainer who were singing before us & asking for some loose change after damaging our ear drums. That's pretty much the array of entertainment we had on this never ending trip to grandma's. Mum usually packed enough food to last us the whole journey however there were few times that we got some warm peanuts or hot beverages too. I love when she packed simple food like homemade rice and Indonesian style fried chicken and we ate it together among all the chaos in the background.

Morning walk with this hunk in Zimbabwe

Could these flashbacks try to send me a message? To take a break and go home and spend some quality time with my family, the people who supported me the most and visited me countless times in my dreams? When you live abroad, away from the comfort of their existence, your mind is constantly divided into two places and this is always a battle you have to choose.  
Apart from this, traveling around Indonesia would also be something that has been put aside for a while and the time to do it is finally here. Activities like attending yoga classes & volunteering at local shelter in Bali; visiting exotic endangered wildlife like Orangutan in Sumatra then to Flores to lurk on Komodo, prehistoric looking giant lizard with saliva loaded with venom capable to kill a buffalo; a cruise on the biggest volcanic lake on earth, Lake Toba; checking out the natural beauty below and above the water of Bunaken in Sulawesi; the diverse cultures of tribe people that occupy the lush jungle and islands of Indonesian archipelago, and the list goes on. These can't be done in one month. Reconnecting with our roots take time, you can't rush it and I've to allocate enough time and do it in my own pace. I also be traveling to some new countries other than Indonesia, all in the course of twelve months.

One of many beautiful things of Africa

I've been putting something aside to sustain this lifestyle, although I feel the urge is always bigger than what I got so far. Since this is crucial moment of my life, there's no going back, there's no diversion. You see, I'm not actually a career oriented person. Yes we all need to work. But in my two cents I don't think that job should be a parameter of someone's success in general. I do care about my job and always give 100% towards it however it doesn't mean it should fully control the way we live. There are other things that I could connect in deeper level and therefore job for me has become a vessel to enable me to turn those other pursuits into reality. There's no right and wrong obviously. No guide book whatsoever. We all have different outlook how we would like to perceive our jobs and there's absolutely nothing wrong in voicing it out according to what we feel. By all means, if you're a person with ambition to climb the ladder and achieve  higher spot in the hierarchy of your organization chart and treat it as some kind of matrix of how you'd like to be perceived as the role model of success in the society, then go for it. The truth is, while career may sit on much higher ranking on some people, it sure doesn't in mine because I never let it sit on the driver seat in the first place. It doesn't mean I care less about all the jobs I ever had, that's beside the point. Do me a favour and don't mix the two wrong.

A year off will give me more time although I know it'll be a trade off with reality of not having income for a while. There's always sacrifice to make. The more we procrastinate, the further we push this idea away to the corner room until it gets dusty and eventually forgotten, while the point of living itself isn't it to squeeze the most juices out of life? No one ever said that the essence of our existence is spend your youth working your ass off until you reach retirement age then begin your everlasting holiday. Who can guarantee we even reach golden years? What about health that keeps on deteriorating as we gets older? Can you handle 20 hours bus ride in Asia when you're 70? 

I love this colour combination at Stonetown market, Zanzibar

There's a lot of benefits in taking mini retirement during the span of our lives, it creates more endorphins and contribute on having new perspective about our life, refresh our minds, reenergize our body, it's like we get rebooted all over again and reminded what is it like when we used to have more time to play as a child but doing it now from perspective of an adult.

Ultimately, time is what we all crave. For every bills we got,  stuff we accumulated over the years, we've been paying it with the time we spent working. In our death bed, we'd be wishing to live longer in order to do things we didn't get the chance to do, time is the most valuable commodity out there. And we keep losing every second of our life as the clock ticks over. So if I want to take a year off and go on adventures whether it'll be on my own or with people I deeply care and love, then I goddamn will. Don't ever compromise your life and gamble it away for something that's not equally worth it.

Until next time. Be free. Be wild. Be silly.

Hey good looking :p


Saturday, 5 May 2018

A Week Exploring Northern Part of Argentina

Our Tucan Travel trip continued after a whirl wind three weeks in Brazil. ‘Rosita’, our beloved truck did a great job so far showing us around all the nooks and crannies of every places we been. We crossed the border at Foz do Iguassu city in Brazil towards Puerto Iguassu, Argentina. With total of 275 waterfalls that stretched between two countries, about 80% is on Argentinian side.  The next morning after we were briefed about the activities we can do there, it was time to head to the station and hopped on local bus. After all  the complicated prolonged process of my Argentinian visa that started in Wellington, New Zealand all the way to Rio, I was just so relieved to finally able to step on Argentinian soil. It makes me think that the more difficult something is, the more rewarding it is in the end. 

Walking  trek around the falls in Argentinian side was much longer in comparison to Brazil. There are also slow trains that connect to different side of falls.  Ideally, if you have 2 days then it’s perfect time to do the whole tracks however we only had 1 full day, we didn’t visit all but we did most of it. We walked on the footbridge that took us to Devil’s Throat. We didn’t get soak here unlike in the Brazilian version as in Argentinian side the footbridge finishes on top of the falls. The roar however was so loud as we were only inches from it! The highlight of the day was when we were Jetboating on the Iguazu river right into the falls and had gallons of spray drenched the whole boat from top to bottom! Incredible!

The next morning I took a long morning walk to a lookout called Tres Fronteras or Three Frontiers, which is a landmark that sandwiched between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. From this lookout is also where Iguazu flows into Parana, a river that separating Paraguay and Argentina.
Iguazu flows into Parana River
Tres Fronteras
Tres Fronteras

San Fransisco Mini was our next stop of few days as we were heading towards Salta. Taking a break from camping for a while, we stayed in another hostel. It was raining a lot during the whole time we were there, so was good timing to stay in hostel. In San Ignacio, we visited ruins of Jesuits that were established during Spanish colonial period. It has been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Overall the site was quite well preserved and there were many pilgrimage visiting here due to the easy access to the complex.

Ruins of San Ignacio

Ruins of San Ignacio
Leaving San Francisco Mini, we made our way further north to Salta, a city that sits at the foothills of Andes mountain, situated at over 1000m altitude above sea level. The weather was definitely getting cooler here. There were many of old colonial buildings scattered on every corner of streets and alleys. We took a ride on a cable car that took us to the highest point of the city to admire the view from a birds eye’s perspective. There were so many beautiful buildings that enticed me to take some photographs. I explored different kinds of alleyways and just wandered around until I got lost before finally found my way back to the main square. They say “Not all who wander are lost. " Was I lost on purpose? 

We went on rafting trip on the river that surrounded by stunning canyon and valleys, it took us nearly 2 hours passing by windy road and bays to get to the river. Once rafting done, huge Argentinian barbecue, Asado was waiting for us. There was never been a better time for lunch I’d say! Such a scrumptious feast to enjoy! I think we went way over our meat intake for that whole week in Argentina just stuffing our face with steak after steak, washing it down with Argentinian wine. Well it’s YOLO anyway right?! 

Next stop: Bolivia!

It was short yet still sweet knowing you! Hasta Luego Argentina!

Ps: Currency in Argentina was insane! By insane I mean cheap as chips! They have 2 currency rates and it has been going around for over a decade! The normal one, which is if you go to the Bank and the other one is the Blue Rate/Black Market. Here how it goes :
$1US : 8 ARS (Argentinian Peso) à Normal/Bank Rate
$1US: Between 15 up to 18 ARS à Blue Rate
We had a guy came to our hostel when we were in San Ignacio Mini and he brought this stack of ARS money so we could exchange our USD, felt like we were closing a drug deal! 

Thursday, 28 April 2016

My Mountain Hike Mission Unaccomplished

ANZAC* long weekend was less than two weeks away and it was not like me having no getaway plan trip yet! I quickly jumped online to check out some hiking spots around North Island and as I did that I had flashback of how memorable hike I did back in 2011, it was Tongariro Alpine Crossing. A 20km day hike over alpine terrain and active volcanoes. It was by far one of the most amazing hikes I’ve ever seen in my life however it was also the hardest day walks considering I’m not a gym person or very fit runner. I love walking and hiking. I don’t go to the gym for workout even though at my work we have a built-in gym that we got to use for free. I’m not being fussy, some people like gym, some don't. You'll find me more going for a bush walk for hours as I love being in the nature.

Anyway, I was browsing hike options around Tongariro National Park and finally chose the one I wanted to do. The track called Tongariro Northern Circuit, a 3 or 4 days loop hike around the National Park. This track is an extended version of the Alpine Crossing that I did few years ago. As I tried to book my bed in all three huts, I soon found out that they are all fully booked due to it was still in the Great Walk season. Every year in New Zealand, this season commences from October to end of April. There are 9 Great Walks scattered on both islands, with 3 located in the North Island, 5 in South Island and 1 in Stewart Island(third largest island in New Zealand). So I thought to myself, camping it is! I was aware that the weather and temperature could be potentially horrendous due to mountainous area, alpine that can be very exposed terrain as well as altitude level, but I always wanted to try multi day hikes on my own. The idea of being in the wilderness and just walking for certain hours every day admiring the jaw-dropping landscape in front of me really fascinating and with winter approaching soon, I felt that this upcoming long weekend was the time for me to do it.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing - 2011. Much better day eh?

Tongariro Alpine Crossing - 2011


A week later I started to do some packing that consist of tent, sleeping bag, mattress, cooking utensils, food supplies and couple of thermals and a down jacket. In the end, I think I looked like I was carrying another person on my back, my backpack looked bigger than me! I planned to do this hike for 4 days instead of 3 as I didn't want to rush myself, also when there's a chance to be in the wilderness, I wanted to take my time and enjoyed it while I can. When I felt like stopping for photos or breaks, I'd do it without worrying too much about time constraints. And because I was doing it on my own pace, I didn't hold everybody up and ultimately can soak up the whole experience! On Thursday afternoon, I drove down to Lake Taupo after work to break the journey and spent a night at one of the backpackers there and made my way to the National Park the next morning. Leaving Taupo that morning, the weather was looking pretty overcast all the way until Whakapapa Village, starting point of the hike. I went to Visitor CEntre to find out some terrain information and wheather forecast also to register my car as it will be left parked nearby for a few days.

Tongariro Alpine Crossing - 2011

Made my way to the starting point, there were other keen hikers at the car parks, though they did different tracks as I saw them walking away. As I started hiking, I felt that the weight of my backpack was pretty tough on my shoulder as this was the first time I had to carry that many stuff in one go. I kept walking regardless, diverting my thoughts more to scenery and watching this tiny bird flew between branches so close to me as it made a whistle sound. The track was passing through bush area, beech forest and alpine terrain with sounds of native birds kept me company. I was alone but I didn't feel lonely. There was so much things happening around me and I was grateful to be there and enjoying it all. The day turned out to be sunnny and in a distace I could admire an unobstructed view of Mt Ruapehu and Mt Ngauruhoe aka Mt Doom in LOTR movie, they were looking all tall and handsome! Few hours later I arrived at the first hut, Mangatepopo. This hut has 20 bunk beds in total however a group had booked the whole hut so I set up my tent for the night. We had Hut Talk at 7pm where the Hut Ranger explained about temperature we'd be expecting that night, what's the weather going to be like the next day and brief story about the hut itself, oh also what we needed to do in the event of volcano eruption! As night fell, we can feel that outside temperature was definitely starting to drop. With 0 degrees Celcius creeping in, I wore all of my thermals and wrapped myself inside my sleeping bag, may the force be with me, I told to myself before wishing silently for a good night sleep. It was freezing and holding on to my backpack tightly to get warmer was the only effort I could do. I couldn't sleep well the whole night, maybe only and hour or two and got woken up with my alarm. It was 6 o'clock and wished I could sleep in but no time for daydreaming and wishful thinking. With rain overnight soaking my tent, I wasnt to keen when folding it and its base was covered with dirt!

Northern Circuit - 2016

Northern Circuit - 2016


I started walking at 7am as looking at the weather forecast and from what the ranger told us last night, wind will gradually get stronger up to 65km/hr in the early afternoon around Red Crater area. So he was suggesting for everyone to leave as early as possible as it took around 6 hours to get to the next hut. So right after sunrise I was ready to leave. Oturere, the second hut is situated on the higher altitude than the first one. Also to get there, the track must pass through a place called Devil's Staircase as well as Red Crater. Three hours on the strenuous track, wind was blowing stronger and rain didn't stop either since leaving the first hut. My backpack felt heavier than yesterday due to my wet tent adding more weight on my shoulder. I managed to adjust it so that the weight can be distributed on the waist too. Weather was getting nastier as I kept walking and climbing towards the crater. At this point, I couldn't feel my hands anymore, it was freezing cold, wet and fog just got thicker and lower resulting very poor visibility. Just before we got to the ridge, wind was blowing much stronger and it got to a point where lots of people had to turn back. Safety is paramount and we were all there in the first place for the experience. I didn't need to proof anything. I gave my shot and I am still proud with what I've achieved. Mother nature was just too powerful in the end. I love going on adventures however when it gets to the point where things get worst, I chose to trust my gut and retreat.

Northern Circuit - 2016


Northern Circuit - 2016

Hiking back to the base, I found myself repeating some words of encouragement 'hot showers, hot soup, hot tea' as if it was a mantra. Feeling cold, wet and shivering, I was back at the base and with tens of other people, we hurdled up, some blowing their fingers to warm them up, some where doing some exercise also to keep warm, though I saw few people were quite angry for not bearing the cold anymore. Most of everyone who were there had no idea how to get back to their accommodation since they had to retreat early. Some trying to contact the shuttles, hotels transports etc and that could take a while for them to get despatched. I started chatting with this girl who was on her own also and asked what's her plan from here, apparently she was waiting for her other two friends who were walking behind her on the track. She was actually running and as it was just too cold for her to walk. I ended up hitching a ride with them, they were kind enough to do a detour from where they were supposed to go just to drop me off back at the village. With heater blasting in the car and a chocolate bar to wake us up, I soon learned that they are all Doctors who work in the same hospital. As we arrived at the village, I told them they're life savers! God knows how long I could've still stood there in the cold had they didn't give me that ride!

Soaking up in hot pool an hour later, I could not believe how fast things had turned. From getting caught in the horrendous weather to kindness from strangers I received along the way. From people at the huts and hikers along the tracks who were checking on me if I was ok, to Doctors who gave me a lift. It was these kinds of moment that made me appreciate everthing that happened in my life. All the situation taught me something. Yes, it was unfortunate that the hike had to be cut short, however the experience still as powerful and profound as if it was done in four days.

Oh well, there's always next summer!

*ANZAC day is the commemoration to honor Australian & New Zealand soldiers who fought at Gallipoli, Turkey during World War 1

Saturday, 16 April 2016

From Samoa with Love - Part Two - The End

After an eventful first day of my visit, the next nine days of my stay in Samoa were filled with more adventures, love stories and chasing waterfalls to put it in summary. From Vailua beach fales, we hitchhiked to Taufua beach fales which is located on the east coast of Upolu. We soon found out as we hopped into the car we hitchhiked, that  the guy who picked us up from a side of the road was a policeman. He was in his private car with his girlfriend & he wasn't in his uniform. After 1 1/2 hours driving along the villages and coastal road, we arrived in beautiful Lalomanu beach. Taufua beach fales in Lalomanu is another Samoan typical simple thatched hut on the beachfront, it was our home for the next three days. The beach was just breathtaking! Can't believe this area was hit by tsunami back in 2009, looking out from where I stood, the beauty after all that sad time still speaks louder. Though when I snorkeled just stone throw from the beach, I could see how the corals didn't survive but there still lots of colorful fishes staying put in this part of the island. When it comes to water activity, M has warned before that he can go for hours looking for Octopus that usually hiding under the rocks. I couldn't keep up with him so I went back to the shore and lie down with occasionally watching him from a distance coming in and out of the water. 

I love the concept of communal dining in Taufua Beach Fales. At 7pm sharp we were all seated around the long table, with our cocktails from Happy Hour, M & I were looking forward to  the meal that soon to be in our tummy! I was quite surprised with how delicious and scrumptious the food was. There were pasta, chicken with mushroom sauce, lamb chops, veggies, salads, plates after plates came out from sizzling kitchen nearby. We devoured them as we got to know other travelers sitting next to us. From French duo mother & daughter who were on a short stint break to a Dutch guy who been living in this fales for 4 weeks, a melting pot kind of companions. After dinner, we went for stroll on the long stretched beach of Lalomanu, with the moon brighten up the sky, it was my favorite walk!

The following day I parted with M for a day and I got to know my fales neighbour, Jule, a solo traveler from Germany currently works in New Zealand. Together we hitchhiked to To Sua Ocean trench, which is the number one spot to visit in Samoa. This is the signature advertisement picture you see every time they're promoting their country. It's translated literally as 'big hole'. It's undoubtedly one of the most beautiful swimming spots I ever been. Jule & I wasted no time to go down on the slippery steep wooden ladder. I think going down was more intense than going up! 

Next day was check out day from Taufua. After bidding goodbye to Jule and the lovely staff, I walked bit further from the fales and waited for a lift. However after an hour waiting with very few traffic of only a taxi and a truck, I retreat back to the fales and as I was about to enquire the reception of the once a day public bus, I saw a local postman collecting mails from the mail box. I soon approached him and asked if he was going to go anywhere near the wharf after I told him my plan to cross to Savai'i. He happily said yes and told me I could catch a ride with him. Though he said the ride will be longer as he needed to stop by and pick up mails from some shops along the way. Of course I was ok with that. We chatted many different things on the way to the wharf and the journey itself was fun! We stopped at one of the shops to pick up  our Samoan style lunch that  consist of Chicken with soy sauce, Taro with coconut milk and Sapa sui(Samoan Chop Suey). It was how I thanked him for giving me a lift all the way to the wharf. 

M came bit long after I was waiting for a while, I spotted his blonde hair as he tried to make his way out of the public bus. The crossing took about 1 1/2 hours to reach Savai'i. From there we walked to our accommodation, Lusia Lagoon Chalet, it was an enclosed rustic fales that was built above the lagoon. There was balcony so we can watch colorful fishes, turtle and a good size of GT(Giant Trevally) that occasionally swam below our feet. I loved this kind of accommodation, it's so down to earth and simple yet still serve its purpose. The staff were courteous and friendly, they also helped us to rent a scooter. 


The next morning we took our rented scooter around the island. It took us around nine hours until we were back in our chalet that night. Pretty ambitious but sometimes that's what travel is all about. Its spontaneity that hooked us. From just go with a flow kind of ride to see how far we can get. So here we were, riding from  sunny weather to heavy rains that felt like hundred needles pinching our skins to night ride filled with insects hitting our faces. The ride was exciting as we passed by many villages, national parks and often wave back to locals as we crossed path with them.

Savai'i has been such a beautiful spot to zoom around, it's simplicity and deep turquoise colour shades of water never failed to tease. Rock pools that were scattered alongside of the road kept calling us to stop to cool off for a while. We also stopped to grab our favorite "instant" drink, coconut juice. M had his knife handy so off he grabbed some coconuts from the tree and we took a sip of the mouthwatering goodness! 

We went hiking on muddy track, overgrowing Taro plantation, herd of cows looking  at us in confusion as we walked pass them, crossing stream in search for waterfalls. It was quite tricky at times as we tried to retrace our way back to where it started due to the track that was not really exist! Well, sometimes it's not just about the destination but it's more about the journey itself. It didn't matter if there was waterfalls in the end of this mind boggling track or not, it's the hike to get there that engraved within me more. Some blisters and cuts on my feet were just scars to remind me of those wonderful memories. Being in the outdoors with M chasing blowholes, waterfalls, off beaten tracks, secluded beach, giant clams etc is what it's all about. 

Back in New Zealand, I could only reminisce those times as if it was a fantasy. Fantasy that was good to be true. Only this time, it was real. Something that I could go back to whenever I would like to vanish with my thoughts for a while. Something that I longed to relive one day. Whenever that moment may come. Que sera sera....

"Whatever will be, will be"

Friday, 1 April 2016

From Samoa with Love - Part One

Boarding the plane bound to South Pacific islands always gives me butterflies. Born and raised in similar tropical country of Indonesia, somehow this feeling reminds me of going home. I chose Samoa this time as my Easter travel destination as I have been intrigued by its landscapes for a while, it was my fifth country in the pacific too! That part alone excited me! The islands in Samoa are close enough with each other therefore plenty of time to do exploration rather than doing the logistics like dealing with transportation to get to one island to another. Samoa consists of 2 main islands, Upolu and Savai'i, with Apia, its capital located in Upolu. There's also a tiny island of Manono that is sandwiched between two main islands. 

Just under 4 hours flight from Auckland I arrived at Faleolo International Airport. Warm breeze and hot sun greeted me as I was leaving the aircraft. I approached one of the ground staff who was standing outside the terminal to ask him where can I wait for public bus to Apia town. He then tried to persuade me to take taxi instead with his hand holding on to my backpack. I walked away not long after and decided to go across the road. The reason of my travel is not only for doing it on budget but also to try public transport of the countries I visited. It looks too normal and easy if you just land and go straight to your taxi. I guess I'm looking for more excitement and connection with the country and the people. And somehow I get this if I take public bus and do what the local do. Anyway, back to where we left of, a couple of friendly local boys were kind enough to show me where I should wait for my bus. The bus in Samoa is so retro, like it was back in the days. It reminded me of buses in Fiji and South America actually. The interior of the bus all made of woods, from chairs to floor up to the ceiling. There was also Lava lava(Samoan sarong) that were prettily hung above the driver. The bus doesn't have sliding window though, instead, you pull the window up when it rains. When the bus is full, it's a common thing there for someone to offer their lap for you to sit on. It looks awkward in the beginning but I guess when you're in Rome....
The ride was slow yet pretty. Passing by many villages, beautiful architecture of churches on every corner and stunning beaches. I also saw many rock pools alongside of the road where locals cool themselves off in scorching 30C heat. Street vendors like BBQ stands,  Taro, Banana and other fresh produce stalls are seen along the road, outside their houses.

An hour later, the bus finally reached bus terminal in Apia town and I was hoping to get another bus that could take me to my accommodation. I asked around and unfortunately not many people speak English, it was just after half 4 and weather looked as it will get worst, so I bargained a rate with a taxi driver in the end as my accommodation is still quite far from town. There's no taxi meter in Samoa, so try to bargain before agreeing.  

My first accommodation is Vaiula Beach Fales. It's located in Tafatafa, south side of Upolu. It has very long driveway from the main road. I guess that's why it's so quiet there. Most of the fales(Samoan simple thatched hut) are located on beachfront so it was nice to hear the sound of waves when you're about to sleep and wake up. As it was shoulder season, there weren't many guests there. The beach was white sand, there's no big waves as reef fencing out the island it's safe for swimming and snorkeling. One of the staff gave me a plate of fruits of coconut, star fruit and paw paw. As I ate my fruit in my fales, I made conversation with M, a Welsh guy who been living in the country for few years. He lived in Hawaii for ten years prior Samoa. I can understand why he always chases the sun :) He's an artist, spear fisherman, guide, and landscaper around the accommodation. I think I got it all haha! A multitasking and functional man to say the least! He took me to waterfalls that afternoon, this waterfall is not on the map and we hitchhiked to get there and back. I was enjoying this warm welcome and straight into adventure set of mood. We walked through streams from just above our ankles to right up to our waist. At some stage, I had to hold my backpack above my head to keep it dry. As we walked, he picked up some wild Ylang ylang flowers and gave them to me. They smelt divine! Finally we reached the waterfall, we drank our beer that we brought with us. We got to know better about each other's lives and I asked him also about living in Samoa etc. It was interesting talk and I felt so relaxed. We then dipped ourselves under the waterfalls. He asked me if I wanted to go behind the waterfall as there's a small chamber where we can stay dry. So he held my hand and we swam to the side of waterfalls and as we climbed onto the rock, it was too slippery for me to go up. I kept on falling backward back to the water as I tried to make my way up. So we flagged it and swam back in the end. He then went up to the highest point of the falls, about 12 m in heights. He took a deep breath and next second later, I saw him flying down. It was too quick before it all over. I applauded his courage and he gave me a cheeky smile as he swam his way back. 

We made our way back to Vaiula, a bit late for dinner as it was just over 7pm. I was so happy for my first day in Samoa. M is warm and adventurous, his knowledge about nature is impressive. It was such an effortless encounter. After dinner, he took me to this stunning beach lagoon. With full moon shinning brightly, thousands of stars above us and powder soft white sand beach soaked our feet, I felt like we were in our own fairy tale. We immersed ourselves in the warm of South Pacific ocean and for a moment I wanted to live in this Carpe Diem moment. I wanted the time to stand still. Did I just get sweep off by his charm? I didn't come to Samoa expecting for romance to happen, but who can deny faith and why should we deny what's meant to happen...

Good night from Vaiula Beach.........xoxo

"There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be" - John Lennon