I still contend that I have the most beautiful bus ride in the world, so I’m going to do my best to describe it so you can all enjoy the scenery without the bus experience. I’ll start from my village going to Apia, and, should you so choose, you can just reverse the order if you wish to picture the route from Apia back to my village. The lighting effects aren’t quite the same in the afternoon – I usually go to Apia in the morning, and the afternoon sun isn’t quite as nuanced as the sunrise sun. Instead, just try to picture yourself on a beautiful tropical island and that should be enough.
The important thing to note is that you see different things depending on which windows you’re looking out of. I personally divide them into the coastal side and the non-coastal side.
OK, for the first 20 minutes or so, I start out going through the neighboring villages. Nothing too exciting here because we just stop to pick up passengers and cargo (I’m still amazed by the delivery aspect of the bus. I kid you not – one time somebody handed the bus driver a bag, and we stopped 4 fales down to drop it off. The driver just threw the bag into the yard).
After we get out of the villages, the view changes for the next 15-20 minutes or so, until you come to the one turn on my entire bus ride. On the coastal side, there is not much to look at. There are occasional fales, and lots of palm trees, but it’s not particularly captivating. The view is much better here on the non-coastal side. You pass palm tree forests, the refrigerator graveyard (a section of field with literally a dozen refrigerators and other appliances sitting at odd angles in various stages of rust and decay) that is also populated by grazing cows. The refrigerator graveyard is probably my second favorite sight on my bus ride. We also pass two waterfalls, and while you can’t see the waterfalls, you do get a glimpse of narrow and deeply cut valleys.
Then we turn and we come to Lemafa pass, which is the “mountain” our bus has to cross. For Samoa, it is a legit mountain, but for Colorado, it’s your average hill. For the next 20 minutes or so, I think the non-coastal side also has the best view. We spend maybe 5 minutes going up the last part of Lemafa, then it’s all downhill from there. At the top of the mountain, there is the Lemafa scenic site (which I always read as the Lemafa science site, and I wonder what kind of science they do there – I guess geography or geology or some earthy science, then I remember it’s not actually a science site). Right after you pass the sign, the world opens up into a breathtaking valley (non-coastal side, although it's hard to miss). The horizon is bordered by two mountains, and you can see the ocean over the edge of the island. Depending on where you are in the daylight savings cycle, we either hit this part of the ride just before the sun is coming up, so the valley is dark, undefined, and clouded in fog, or just after the sun has come up, so it is gently illuminated and green. Another five minutes down the road (coastal side) and you come to my absolute favorite part of my bus ride – the construction graveyard. There are a few pieces of heavy machinery – a digger, a bulldozer, and something else – that are slowly being covered with leaves and vines. I don’t think they’ve been sitting there much more than a year because there weren’t many vines on them when I first moved to my village, but the jungle is fast encroaching.
Then we go downhill a little further and we come to the suburbs. I think I operate under the notion that I live in the smallest village in Samoa, but I’m sure that’s not the truth – it just feels like it. My other reasoning for why we come into the suburbs here is that my village is the end of the line on the main road. The two villages after me moved up the mountain after the 2009 tsunami, and there are only two villages before me. The whole section of my ride from the waterfalls and refrigerator graveyard, up and down Lemafa pass, down to the construction graveyard and beyond, is almost completely unpopulated. There’s a fale here and there, but I can probably count them on one hand. So it feels like I’m coming into the suburbs when I see fale after fale after fale. Anyway, the ride from here, maybe halfway to Apia, about 45 minutes out of town, doesn’t change very much. On the non-coastal side, you either get fale after fale after fale, or occasionally we come right up against some hills and there is no room for fales. On the coastal side, it alternates between ocean view and fales. This view also changes depending on where you are in the daylight savings time cycle. Sometimes we reach the ocean just as the sun is coming over the horizon, throwing fierce colors across the sky, clouds, and water. If we’re a little later and the sun has already inched away from the horizon, the sky, clouds and water are tinged in gentle shades of lavender and gray fading to blue.
About 10 minutes away from the bus stop, we hit the real suburbs of Apia. For some reason, it always reminds me of the suburbs in Virginia, where my grandma lives. The yards don’t look the same, the houses don’t look remotely similar to the ones in Virginia, but I always get the feeling that I’m in Virginia. Maybe it’s because Virginia is also humid and fairly green. Anyway, now you start to see factories, offices, and business buildings. Not particularly exciting.
Then, after a rushed and harried day of trying to do everything you need and want to do, never having the time good fortune to achieve everything you came into town intending to accomplish, you get back on the crowded bus and reverse the order.