The Lunch Shack on the Beach


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Oceania » Samoa » Upolu
August 18th 2018
Published: August 19th 2018
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Issy says she spent half the night awake listening to a pack of marauding dogs trying to chase off a squealing pig outside our room. She’s wanted me to get my hearing tested for a while now, and even more so now that I managed to sleep through the whole show.

We spend the morning lazing on the beach and then set off along the coast in search of some lunch. We’d been recommended a small restaurant on the beach sandwiched between two fancy resorts about twenty kilometres from ours. The "restaurant" is a beachside shack with some small fales for rent around it, and it calls itself the Maninoa Beach Club. The food is excellent, as is the beachside setting. It is run by an Australian girl and her Welsh partner. She’s trying to get a Welsh visa and he’s trying to get an Australian one, and they’ve decided to camp on the beach here in Samoa while they wait to see who gets their visa first, and they will then go and settle in that partner’s country. I wonder how long you’re allowed to stay in Samoa without a visa. I don’t suppose the Samoan Immigration Department would be too fussed. I doubt there’s any such thing as the dole or universal healthcare here, so I don’t think that a couple of itinerants squatting on the beach would be doing too much to drain the Samoan economy. If anything I would have thought that the Samoan government would be trying to do all it could to try to stop people from leaving rather than preventing them from staying here. We’ve heard that hotel staff here get paid the equivalent of AUD $1.50 per hour, which is why so many Samoans leave to go to New Zealand and Australia, where they can get much higher wages and then send money home to help support their families.

While we’re here we decide to take a sneak peak at the two fancy resorts on either side of the restaurant. The one to the east has a security guard on the gate. He looked like he was happy to wave us through until Issy wound down her window and told him we were just visiting, but as I look in the rear vision mirror he doesn’t look like he can be bothered chasing us down the drive, so we motor on in. It’s deathly quiet and there seems to be no one here, which is a bit odd because it looked to be booked out when I was trying to find places for us to stay a few weeks ago. I’m not quite sure how they would have known they didn’t like us if they didn’t know who we were, but I suspect Mr Google has now become very proficient at identifying people no matter how hard they try to remain anonymous. It’s an adults only resort, and there are signs everywhere telling us that people under 12 are banned from coming anywhere near the place. There are also lots of other signs telling us things that we’re not allowed to do here such as dragging sunlounges along the sand on the beach. As if anybody would have the temerity to do anything so uncouth. It’s so quiet here that we start whispering to each other, just in case there’s a sign somewhere banning conversation.

We’re keen to see the other fancy resort, as this is where we spent most of our rain soaked expedition to Samoa in 1993. We park the car, and as soon as we get out it starts raining. This is just as we remember it. We begin to wonder whether a competitor has managed to work out a way of permanently parking moisture laden clouds right on top of this place. The resort has had a slightly sad history. It was founded by three Californians who came here in the early 1990s with the dream of setting up a simple hotel and restaurant on the beach, and we recognise the three of them from when we were here before from their pictures in the lobby. Leasing land in Samoa is apparently very complex and involves lots of negotiations with the village chiefs, but they got through that alright, only to then be partly wiped out by successive cyclones and the 2009 tsunami. We recognise the rooms we stayed in previously, but the rest of the resort looks like it’s been significantly upgraded, and now even includes the only overwater bungalows in Samoa. As we should have expected, as soon as we drive out the gate the rain stops.

The cocktails at our resort are half price during happy hour and we haven’t yet made it to one of those, so are anxious to make up for lost time. I’m not quite sure what they put in Issy’s concoctions, but shortly after we leave the bar I find her sitting on the beach with her eyes closed humming the Australian National Anthem. I think I might be in for a long night.

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