Untamed Paradise

There are two Samoas. We’ve been to both sad island realms. At Pago Pago in American Samoa two tuna canneries harbor Asian ships and hundreds of illegal workers. The population is about 65,000. Local youth hang out aimlessly around the capital city that resembles a U.S. ghetto. The place is dirty, smelly and in general disrepair. Many of the citizens, attracted by higher wages, come from neighboring (Western) Samoa. While this country is very poor, its stunning natural beauty helps make tourism its major industry. The capital Apia boasts only one bookstore, essentially a bible shop. The residents (some 180,000) don’t like foreign investment, and complicated laws hold back growth. Ordinary citizens are controlled by the matai (chiefs), the family, and religious institutions. Fa’a Samoa – the Samoan Way – justifies all manner of ills and inequities.

Located on the southern sunshine coast of Upolu, the main island of Samoa, 25 miles away from the airport, lies a unique resort – Coconuts Beach Club. If you are looking to get away from it all, this is the paradise you have been seeking. For there are no high rises, no phones, no Internet, and no TV’s at this resort, just native-type modern fales on the water and sandy shore. This is a small, intimate retreat, which incorporates friendly service, native entertainment, superb cuisine, and a profound respect for the local culture.

We spent a week there, mixing with German and New Zealand tourists, relaxing under sunny skies by crystal clear waters, and thrilled with exposure to the island mores and patterns of life. We had to get used to doing nothing – a nice challenge. The highlight for us came one morning when we asked to be taken to a deserted beach. The chef whipped up a box-lunch and a young native helper drove us five miles in the resort’s jeep along narrow tracks to a remote, isolated beach. He promised to be back six hours later.

This was a beach straight out of the movie “South Pacific”. Part of it was open across a sandy stretch to the wild Pacific, but one half was protected by a low rocky reef which created a placid lagoon refreshed gently with soft trickles from the ocean beyond. Coconut palms fringed the beach creating spots of welcome shade. It was a truly idyllic setting with the crash of gentle waves and the call of a few native birds the only sounds around. The shallow water was warm and inviting. With no watching eyes swimsuits were discarded and we frolicked like children in our own perfect paradise.

All that was missing was Mitzi Gaynor’s voice as she washed ‘that man right out of her hair’. Nevertheless we creative souls managed some of our own romantic togetherness, with the promise to do it again. We took some photographs that are still revered personal treasures and wonderful fond reminders of a younger time. No, they won’t be shared on the Internet.

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