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The first time i beat ten boats in the nationals!

Saturday, 25 August 2012

And the Moral of the Story Is...

So we finished our stay in Savaii with a trip to the markets,

and me giving my bike away to Tala, who toured us through the Dwarf Caves back in Manase. He turned up on the bus (would have taken a few hours) and caught us on our way back from a spending frenzy. He was pretty stoked about the bike, and i was relieved not to have to lug it back to Oz!

Once in Apia, we spent the day at Apia Flea Market, lunch at Aggie Gray's, then a tour of the Robert Louise Stevenson memorial.
The memorial was surprisingly excellent, this gorgeous sprawling house in it's original condition (although mostly with replica's, because his wife sold all his things after he died). The little one was exhausted, but we dealt with it the usual way!
Unfortunately we couldn't contact the pre-school we rode for! We are not sure if the number was old or incorrect, but we never got to see them, which was very disappointing.

Finally, i know many of you think "wow, good on you guys, but i could never do that", and i thought i would share with you the four diverse women who completed this trip:
1) Me: obviously i am in my 30's, one baby, and fairly irrepressible. most people would consider me the exception to humankind - but that is a myth when you consider these three wonderful women...
2) Sally: she has 3 kids from around 12ys to 7yrs. Sally had never really ridden a bike (outside the occasional spin class) and she whooped us.
3) Jen: she has two teenage boys, had done a little riding, but trained her ass off. She carried our food for the entire 300km trip.
4) Diana: who is riddled with chronic pain caused by a variety reasons, and has never let it stop her. If Diana can ride 300km in that state, why couldn't you?!

I think it is okay not to do these things if you do not want to. However if the only thing stopping you is that you think you can't - then that is not good enough! We can all do anything we wish, we just may have to figure out how first. And that is what these girls have demonstrated in this trip.

The moral of the story is:
Wish it
Plan it
Do it
and don't hesitate long enough to let doubt (or as i like to call it, your inner chicken) slow you or stop you.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Oh My God My Lady-Garden is Wrecked

I know I have been harping on about the distances, but you have to feel sorry for us today, when we expected 45km, and got 55.7km. After yesterdays tired and grumpy ending, we started today with a fresh face, stayed together, even drafting eachother as need be, and crossed the finish line together. It was a fantastic achievement, and I think we are all absolutely knackered.

The day started plesently enough, however I slowed everyone down. I knew it was a long day, and had packed 4 litres of water, plus my computers (distrusting the taxi driver), plus the tools, first aid kit, Evie's paraphernalia, sunscreen and aeroguard, plus the 30kg that is Evie + pram. Needless to say, I was SLOW! Eventually Di and Jen stopped, and took about 10kg of stuff from me, and it made all the difference.

We stopped to see the Taga Blowholes, which were spectacular and scary. I thought to go stand under one, but was a little too freaked out. Once we got close I didn't dare go any closer (and Evie was freaking out anyway!!).


Sally was the next one to go down, and after 3hrs we were only half-way. I started to stress about getting to the Chalet's before our bags, because I didn't know what the driver would do if he arrived and we were not here. Would he take off with our bags? Would he wait and demand an exorbitant price? I ran out of money today so I was worried. A bit of revolting cordial fixed Sally right up, and we starting making better time.

The plan now was to grab some bread, cycle to the waterfall, and have lunch. We stopped at store after store, none of which had bread. We resolved to have biscuits for lunch, still at the waterfall

 The waterfall was a long time coming, and every local said it was 50 metres. Eventually we gave up,pulled over on the side of the road, and ate lunch in the gutter. Sally rode back to another town (50 metres!) and got bread and butter (a luxury!!).

The next challenge was finding the right street to turn down to get to our hotel. We found what we thought was the correct one, however it was a ghost street, and it was an anxious 5km until we turned a corner and found our blessed hotel!!
We turned in the driveway together, and it was with great euphoria that we ordered a room upgrade, and settled in for the afternoon. I am well and truly exhausted.

I am also very proud of these women!!

We Can Do Anything

Faleolupo was extremely isolated, with no running water, conservative use of the lights, and no other villages within 5km. The point was hit fairly hard by a cyclone (I think in 1992), and the road has still not been repaired, which cuts them off. We saw the “monsters footprint”, which is a huge footprint in the lava (as tall as I am). It was a quiet night, and strange being so far from everything.

Today finally went our way in terms of kilometres! Supposed to be 40-50km, we got here in 35km. Jen had a flat at the first few K, at around 8km we stopped and changed it. Thanks to Chris for the bike lessons!

It was tough going, with lots of hills, and Jen was ill fairly early on (I think dehydration and fatigue took it's toll). She showed amazing courage and pushed on (with copious amounts of gastrolyte and cordial) and got through an extremely tough day.

If you saw some of the hills we made it up, you would see we are amazing. Diana said "Clare can do everything", and i think the same is true for everyone here - it's just we have to learn how to do it first ;-)
Satuiatua is a top surfing spot in Samoa. There is a reef about 3 metres from my front door step, and once the sun goes down a bit I will get Evie out to play in the sand (we may even use her little reef shoes).

When we got to Satuiatua, i found a Labrador Dog book in their used book library. I showed Evie, and she said "dada" ("toby") and proceded to hug the dog book. I felt a bit bad, she was so excited to see a dog, she is obviously a bit tired and homesick. It was very cute nonetheless. and i am sure she is happy being a naked baby for a few weeks.

Tomorrow is our last day of riding. Everyone is tired, sore, and grumpy. I hope we can hold it together for one more day, and cross the line together.

Chardonnay in a Farl-laye

This “short, easy, 17km” was actually 17km, however our Australian friend who put the itinery together, neglected to mention 8km of steep uphill riding!! It was so steep that we had to ride sideways and zig-zag up, always thinking “that must be the top” before rounding a corner and seeing another section. Got to thank Jen for the concept "you're only doing circles with your feet”, which got me to the top.
In the end we negotiated about 2km of sand road, to come out at the remotest part of Samoa, the Faleolupo point. There is nothing but sand and palm trees for kilometres, and this random Fale business at the end of it. Luckily your accommodation includes dinner and breakfast.

Sally and I both have blocked ears, so we are crossing our fingers that they do not get infected. I am sure I didn't help things by hitting the reef with a snorkel, but hey, you only live once!

We have our last and hardest two days of riding ahead of us, then back to the main island to visit the preschool.

Manase to Vaisala

Today's ride was 40km, although we were not sure how accurate that distance was given the discrepancies of the previous days. We google mapped the villages, and it said 75km, but then we realised it was using another town (not the one we were in). The guestimate was 42-45km. We knew there was a hill, and I had in my mind something like the twisted road that goes through the Kangaroo Valley. I was psyched and sugared and banana'd up and I reckoned I would make it to the top.

15km we still had not really started climbing, and thought it must have been overrated.

I cannot tell you when the hills started, it was like a slow and steady ascent that creeped up on you. We stopped for coconuts at around 25km, convinced that was it. Then had an immediate climb into the next climb (even on the plateaus I was in my smallest cog at the front). At 30km, and after some fairly solid climbing, we took photos of ourselves as champions at the “top”. Even then it was another 5km or so before we em barked on what you could accurately describe as “downhill”. By then you have been climbing for 15km, and legs, lungs, and spirit is completely obliterated.

Only one more village until our hotel, and the ground jutted up for a steep and grueling final hill, just to wipe us out. I was pretty happy to have stayed on my bike the whole way, and towed Evie as well. We maintained a steady 15km/hr pace, which is a bit slower than our 20km/hr of previous days. Having said that, including breaks, our speed was about the same. We must have rested less!!

We had occasional bike trouble today, but one of the silver lining's to our bike mechanic pulling out (not very many of these), is that we have learned to take care of stuff on our own. We are even starting to look like we belong on a bike, with out set-up looking good, and our style too!!

Sally is officially our Queen of the Hills, and Di is Downhill Champion. And I have to thank Jen for drafting me the first 10-15km, I think I buggered her out though ;-)

Little bit of drama with our bags going to the wrong hotel, but that was all taken care of before we realised what happened!

We have our own hotel rooms, complete with shower and air conditioning (but curiously no hot water jug). There is a tropical reef only a few metres from shore, so I am bummed that my “underwater” camera has given up the ghost! Even sitting in the same today, there were little fluro fish darting about the place.

Still no-one mucking about in the wind. It is unbelievable, that a place with such consistent, and honking winds, has absolutely no boats!

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Four Women and a Baby

So we have had two "rest" days in Manase, a thriving town with 10 bus stops, 4 resorts, and one shop/petrol station/bank, which, incidentally, ran out of petrol today!

Yesterday we spent the morning lazing around the beach, before popping back onto our bikes to check out the women's craft market in another village. The market turned out to be one fala and one lady, weaving baskets and place mats. It was cool though, the only retail therapy available on the island so far. Jen bought a bag, we handed Evie off to another enormous Samoan lady, and we went to lunch satisfied.

We are starting to recognise people, and be recognised in turn, because i suppose we are rather remarkable! Certainly the chariot makes us stand out.

There is a reef right out the front of our Fala's, which has little blue fish and starfish, and is responsible for the demise of my camera (so photos here on in will be from the others!!). What is amazing to me is that a honking sea breaze comes in right on 11am everyday, and the water is completely empty. It would be rocking windsurfing. But there are no boats whatsoever!!

Today we were back on the bikes, to visit a lava cave about 5km west of here. We got there easily, but then had to hike up a 2km fire trail which was so steep the bikes got pushed. Once up there we entered a hole in the ground which opened up to this cavernous area which the locals belive is inhabited by Dwarfs. On the way there we ran into some men collecting coconuts. They obliged us in cutting a couple open for us to drink and then came along just for fun into the caves. They had this odd habit of pulling their shirts off
everytime a camera came out. Eventually they told us they were Kiwi's, over here for 3wks helping out their relatives. Chris would have had a field day bagging the all-blacks.

Anyway, we have been warned about the hills on tomorrow course. so it will be an early night.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Day 3 Lano to Manese, supposedly 28km.

So today was actually 32km.

The first 20km or so were really tough. It was undulating but mostly uphill, in the blazing sun. We stopped at a coconut stand that appeared out of nowhere. and when i stopped i almost passed out. it was a good wake up call!! the coconut juice is the perfect electrolyte, and the lovely Samoan lady cut them as well so we got to eat the inside.

A highlight today was the lava fields – we saw
where volcano lava had spilt through a church, and miraculously gone around a young virgin's grave (she was the daughter of the village chief, who died at 18yrs old of an illness).

We swam with Turtles, but that was a bit of an anticlimax. It was a turtle pond that you are invited to swim in – but no-one does. It is a bit dirty.

Again, our accomodation is in absolute beachfront fale's. We are here for 3 nights. I started Evie on antibiotics today because she has a nagging cough and is clutching her right ear. So I think the flight might have exacerbated her symptoms (she had a cold before we left).

Riding today was really tough, and I have to thank the girls for sticking with me. Faulty gears meant I couldn't go fast downhill or uphill, and they kept checking on me the whole way, which made me feel like part of the crew. This is shaping up to be a fabulous trip.

Day 2 – Luisa's to Lano 17km

Well, so we thought, we made it to Lano in about 23km – but more on that later!!
The sights for this day were the markets and the John Williams memorial. We somehow missed the markets. But we got to John's memorial! JH was a missionary who brought Christianity to Samoa, so all the Jesus Loves Us is his fault ;-)
More interesting was the volume and spectacle of churches. i took photos of every single one until i realised that they are all magnificent and there is one on every corner.

Remarkable things happend -at the memorial, my derailer (the thing that changes your gears) fell completely to pieces. We had to search the road for the bits, happily found them, then spent the next hour or so figuring out how to put it back together.

We had the assistance of a few locals.

The Samoan's love babies. Everywhere we go Evie is coddled and cared for. For the most part she is happy to oblige. We spent the last 6km asking every person on the side of the road where Lano was, which entailed some slight anxiety but we made it in the end.

Our accommodation in Lano was Lauiula's Beach Fale's. Complete beachfront Fales with authentic dinner and breakie provided. We got to help cook it, but were a bit disspointed when the pig ran away and we had curry instead.

My bike held together ok, however I can no longer change gears with ease.

Samoa trip day 1

Today we cycled 3km from the Airport Lodge to the Ferry, then 1km from the Ferry to Luisa's Lagoon Chalets. It seems pretty piddly, but when you consider we breakfasted at 8am (5am Sydney time) and rode our bikes completely loaded up with ALL our gear, it was actually quite an accomplishment! It is super humid too – but I think everyone is enjoying that considering what we left.

We have settled in for the afternoon at Luisa's, having enjoyed a complimentary coconut, and a dip in the rock pool (which was a little chilly). I think everyone is enjoying an afternoon nap, well deserved.
Evie is absolutely delightful. Relaxed and cheerful, I hope it lasts.

It has come over cloudy now, with a rocking wind. I hope if it storms it does so tonight while we can watch it, then clears up for tomorrow. Although I cannot quite figure what I would prefer – riding in the rain, or riding in the blistering sun...

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Pre Samoan Jitters

So for the next couple of weeks this blog will take the form of a diary, as me and three other women cycle 290km around the Samoan island of Savaii to raise money for a little pre-school in Apia.

At first it was to be a family trip, but due to our renovations (yay, new gym!!) Chris has been forced to stay behind, leaving me to tow our 10kg 11mth-old behind my bike. The trip has gone from being a pleasant, achievable, ride, to something a little scary!!

Chris and i discussed leaving the baby behind with him, as we have completed other sporting trips and invariably i get tired, emotional, and start to crack towards the end. However i am going to take her, just because it's scary, and because i will crack, and because that it what makes a trip like this an achievement. You crack, but you also finish!

Stay tuned for pictures and more of our adventures!

If you want to donate money to the school also, go to and use the contact page to get in touch with the Chief!!