Flying solo on Manono

The first time I found myself flying solo overseas was in Barcelona. That first afternoon I found myself overwhelmed and lonely, but by that night I found that travelling solo was pretty much the best thing ever. Since then I’ve enjoyed France, Italy and NYC by myself (well, with the friends I made along the way). When I had the odd museum visit, walk in a park or train ride totally alone, I really enjoyed it. Taking time, taking everything in, doing as I pleased.

When I was in Samoa I had a day to fill when Sarah and Nick were at work, so I decided to head to a tiny island called Manono. Unlike the main land, Manono is free of cars and dogs, a tranquil paradise in paradise.

Before heading off to where the boat leaves for the island I grabbed vital fuel at a cafe:

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Delicious homemade crumpets. I then wound along the coastline through villages, stopping every so often to take in the ridiculous views:

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How is this even real?!

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After stopping for endless photo opportunities I eventually got to where the boat leaves, a smiley man wandered over as if he had been expecting me for weeks. We got on the boat and headed for Manono (which deceptively, doesn’t look that far away in the photo below) with a young boy and his multiple bags of bread.

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About 40 minutes later we were approaching the island and the young boy, who had barely uttered a word to me leant in conspiratorially and said “welcome to paradise”.

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I had read in the Lonely Planet guide that visitors to Monono took ‘an obligatory walk’ around the perimeter of the island. I quickly learnt what that meant when my plans to set up on a beach with a book were kiboshed by a local who insisted I take the walk. “How long will it take?” I asked. “An hour… Maybe two, it depends how fast you walk…”. So off I set down the winding, well-worn path.

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The path opened up around the bend at the first village and I was presented with this.

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A beautiful little beach and not a single soul in sight. After the noise of the boat engine the silence was a welcome relief. I set my camera up in a tree and snapped a photo of myself in the crystal clear water (travelling solo also made me a pro at using the self timer function).

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Every so often the path would divert inland for a bit, but then I’d see snippets of the blue ocean again.

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I eventually saw another human being. This cheeky little guy darted onto the path in front of me before disappearing down a secret short-cut and reappearing again later, giggling. This game went on for a while before he found something better to do, or was called for lunch.

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I was surprised by how underpopulated Samoa is, only 200,000 people all together. I was also surprised by just how many churches there were. It was so quiet, the silence was only broken a couple of times by pop music ringing out from tinny radio speakers.

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Eventually I made it back to the beginning, rather thirsty and a bit sunburnt. My old friend was amazed by how quick I’d been, I honestly had no idea how long I’d been gone for.

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I went for a dip right next to where the boat was docked to cool off before lunch. It was such a relief to get into the water.

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Interesting ‘Samoan’ cuisine… After lunch I asked a local if I could pay to use the next village’s beach, the first one I happened upon during my walk. Five tala ($2.50) later I had a slice of paradise all to myself.

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I read until it got too hot and then swam until I got too wrinkled.

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Before long it was time to head back to the boat. I was sad to leave the tiny beach I had called my own for a couple of hours, so naturally I took a thousand photos.

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I sipped on a coconut as I watched Monono get smaller and smaller.

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I reached the mainland and was politely asked by one of the locals for a lift back to Apia, so I obliged and heard his life story, mostly about shipping, as we drove along (Mum and Dad pretend you didn’t read that). I regretted my decision to pick up a hitch hiker only for a moment when Backstreets Back came on the radio and I couldn’t sing along loudly.

We got back to the city and he thanked me and told me to dine with his family next time I was on Manono. I met up with Sarah and Nick and went home to prep for a big night on the town.

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