Dec 042014

I’d arranged a taxi to meet me at Fagali’i Airport, and was back at Aggie Grey’s way before my flight to New Zealand. Since I’d already checked out in the morning before heading to Pago Pago, decided to grab a small appetizer at the hotel restaurant and enjoy one last sunset beer. Hotel provided a free shuttle to the airport about two hours before the flight, and in no time I was there and checking in. Nothing exciting, immigration and security were a piece of cake, and soon I was in the departures lounge. The duty free store was all sorts of festive:


Our plane arrived from Auckland about 30 minutes late, giving us only 30 minutes to turn it around, so it was becoming clear we’d be slightly late. Of course, they waited until the scheduled departure time to tell us it was going to be “a little late.” A little late became a little later. And a little later. An hour after departure time, I was getting worried the turnaround crew would go illegal, so asked the gate agent what the story was. Appears there was only one working lav on the entire plane, and they were doing their best to fix it. 90 minutes past departure time they gave up, and we decided to board:


Air New Zealand flight 997
Apia, Samoa (APW) to Auckland, New Zealand (AKL)
Depart 21:45, Arrive 00:45 next day, Flight Time 4 hours
Airbus A320, Registration ZK-OJC, Manufactured 2003, Seat 11C

As we were boarding, the flight attendants informed us there would be a one beverage limit per passenger “except in case of emergency” due to the fact there was one working washroom for over 150 passengers. It was a completely full flight except for four seats, and coincidentally all 4 seats were in the same row…a row which according to ExpertFlyer became completely empty 10 minutes before departure, and then they placed one passenger in the middle seat of each row. These passengers were very chatty with the gate agent, and it’s a safe bet they were either friends or employees. Rather sad.

Before takeoff, it was time for the most epic safety video ever:


Some thoughts on the flight:

It was only about four hours, which is about the limit of what I can tolerate in economy, even in the exit row. Fortunately my row-mates were polite and not overly large, so it was a pretty good flight. The odd thing is, how the food on the flight works. You only get free food and drinks if you purchase a more expensive fare, which appears to be approximately a Q fare or above. I figured this meant very few people, but it looked like nearly half the passengers were offered a meal. Everyone else had to pay for something from the buy on board. The meal was actually decent, certainly on par with what you’d get in domestic first in the states.

The coolest thing about the plane was that you could order drinks or make requests through the seatback touchscreen. It even knew what fare you were on, and if you needed to be charged for your request or not. After dinner, I decided to try my luck and order a second glass of wine. The very friendly flight attendant appeared with it about 5 minutes later, and reminded me it was only one drink per passenger except in case of emergency. I smiled at her, and said “it’s dark…I won’t tell if you don’t tell…and plus…the wine volume in my blood is getting dangerously low…almost to emergency levels!” She laughed, and just said to use the touchscreen when I needed more. Needless to say, a great crew can make an otherwise average flight great!

Landed quite late, just after 2am local, and fortunately immigration and customs was a short wait. Took the airport bus downtown to my hotel, and was finally in bed just after 3am. Was very glad I’d canceled my kayaking trip the next day due to rain, since it would have been a very very short night otherwise. I was staying at the SkyGrand hotel, and for some reason they’d kindly upgraded me to a nice corner room where I promptly passed out the moment my head hit the pillow.

Dec 012014

Quick transfer by shared hotel bus to my hotel the Aggie Grey’s Resort which was less than 10 minutes from the airport. First impression on check-in was that the hotel/resort seemed to be absolutely dead. There were no people around at all, and the staff was moving at about half of normal island speed.

At least things looked promising on the hotel activities board;


Had to try two different rooms to get one with adequately functioning air conditioning…which didn’t seem like it should be a problem given the low occupancy. The second room had a nice view of the gardens, looking out towards the ocean:


Beach right outside my room:


Headed to the hotel bar/restaurant to have a beer before dinner, and watch the sunset…which was stunning. After all the sunsets I’ve seen on this trip, the purples of this one were just stunning and unique:


Some pics of the room. It was nice-sized, but felt quite empty with lots of open space. Definitely met my “Three Cs” though – clean, cool, and comfortable. No complaints at all.



Nothing says “don’t drink the water” like endless bottles of bottled water left for you:


Woke up the next morning, and had a lazy start. Breakfast was included with the room, and there was quite a good spread, including eggs cooked to order. Nobody was going to go hungry! I had booked two dives for the day, and we weren’t going to head out until 10am, so it was nice to have a nice and relaxing start to the day.

Aqua Samoa was located clear across the resort, a 10-15 minute walk from my room. When I got there, I found out I was the only diver booked that day, so I’d have a private trip with just the boat driver, the divemaster, and myself. That was definitely a first for me! With just the two of us we were in absolutely no rush to get going, so took our time.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to recharge my camera so didn’t get any pictures from these dives. The most memorable parts were the really cool underwater geography. Both sites featured some really cool 40 meter high coral columns sticking up from the ocean floor, and there were pretty strong currents which allowed us to head down about 25-30 meters and just drift around the formations. We saw a couple of sharks in the distance, but nothing terribly close. The fish life was nothing special, but the dives were definitely unique due to the topography.

Finally made it back to my room just after 2pm, grabbed a quick snack, and relaxed on the beach for the remainder of the afternoon:



Samoa had an absolutely amazing sunset in store for us again. I think when this trip is over I’m going to need to put a post together with just the sunset pics:



My last day in Samoa I had planned a daytrip to American Samoa. The flights to Pago Pago leave from the domestic airport in Samoa, which is about a 45-50 minute drive from the international airport and the resort. Once a day, Aggie Grey’s runs a free shuttle into town for guests so they can explore the city. It worked out reasonably well for my departure time and would save a $30 or more taxi ride, so I headed into town with the hotel van. Chatted on the way with a nice couple from New Zealand who were originally from Fiji, and it was really interesting hearing their different perspective on the resort. I was a bit disappointed how quiet it was and how little there was to do, but they were thrilled with how quiet things were and how relaxing it was…while still having nice facilities.

Picture of Aggie Grey in the reception area:


After about 50 minutes we were in downtown Apia, and I had about an hour to walk around before I needed to grab a short 10 minute cab to the airport. Downtown church:


Apia harbour:


Samoan government building:


Clock tower roundabout:


After walking around for an hour and having some coffee, it was time to head to the airport for my daytrip to American Samoa!

Nov 302014

The plan today was to fly from Tonga to Samoa via Nadi, Fiji. There was a nice route with a 90 minute connection in Nadi, and I booked all of this before I ever learnt that Fiji Airways and I were soon to enter into an abusive relationship. The first week of this trip I’d received an email from Expedia. It seems  Fiji Airways had decided to “retime” the onward connection to Samoa, and I would now have a 5.5 hour connection in Nadi. Instead of leaving at approximately 530pm we would now leave at 11pm and arrive at 230am. Ugh, not desirable at all, but if that was the worst drama I’d have this trip I’m not going to complain.

Unfortunately, three days before the flight, just after I got out of the shower on the Emirates A380, I checked my phone and there was an email. From Fiji Airways. I figured it was something about my Tuvalu refund.

Oh no, not at all. They had “retimed” my flight once again, and it was now going to leave a further 14 hours later – the NEXT DAY. Meaning I’d get stranded overnight in Fiji. UGH. There goes my first day in Samoa. Ok, breathe deeply. Water under the bridge. This is Fiji Airways. At least you get a nice relaxing nice in Fiji now. At least you won’t land in Samoa at 230am. Try and stay positive.

So I did.

Got to the airport, and check-in for Tonga took nearly 45 minutes. The ground handling company was clearly moving on island time, and there was a reasonable breeze in the terminal, so it wasn’t too bad. I asked about the exit row. She disappeared for about 10 minutes to “see if it is possible.” She came back, and without a word gave me a non exit row seat. I asked again. “No, not possible.” That was it.

Based on the flights departure board you’d think they’d be bored and looking for something to do:


Your medium sized wood carvings are ok for carry on, but your wooden knives are not…no matter which way you point them!


Shot of the bustling Nuku’Alofa airport from the passenger dropoff area:


It was a walk to the plane gate, and notice all the friends and relatives waving goodbye to us:


Pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever boarded a plane through the rear. It was terrifying.


…but I still managed a smile.


Upon boarding, I asked the flight attendant if by chance the exit rows remained open, I could sit there when the door is closed. “Yes yes, of course.”

Fiji Airways flight 212
Nuku’alofa, Tonga (TBU) to Nadi, Fiji (NAN)
Depart 15:45, Arrive 17:15, Flight Time 1:30
Boeing 737-800, Registration DQ-FJG, Manufactured 1999, Seat 23D

I stalked the exit rows. I actually sat in 23D to deter people from getting the same idea. Nobody showed up. Score! Now really, how much work would it have been for the check-in agent to actually assign me this seat? Clearly too much. I had the entire row to myself!

In the approximately 10 days I’d been away, Fiji had also apparently gotten quite serious about Ebola:


Despite only being a 90  minute flight, Fiji Airways offered a small snack. Another scary sandwich slathered in mayo and mystery meat, and today there was a pasta salad as well. No thanks, not going to risk it. Fortunately it was biscuits and bitter to the rescue again!


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