Last July and August, World Nomads held a blogger competition. I was one of the lucky bloggers chosen to review an Urban Adventures product. I decided that I wanted to review a tour that was perhaps lesser known, or in a more “exotic” location. For me, that location ended up being Samoa.
Urban adventures is a subsidiary company of Intrepid. Urban Adventures was created to give travellers, with limited amounts of time, a way to easily get under the skin and really discover the destination, in a way in which a local would.
Urban adventures are not run by a large central tour operator, but instead it is run like a franchise. Your urban adventure is not only led by a local guide, but the program was entirely invented and put together by that guide.
That comes through so well with urban adventures in Apia. Run by a French Canadian/ Samoan family, they seek to provide through urban adventures, experiences that would be difficult for the average traveller to obtain.
I wanted to do a tour which was more “off the beaten track” than the others. Samoa is more than just beautiful beaches and great snorkelling. A lot of travellers completely overlook the entire centre, inland regions of Samoa. I chose the hike Mt Lanatoo option.
My guide was Javier, the eldest son of the two owners. He had recently returned to Samoa from studying in New Zealand. I was the only person on the tour that day, which gave Javier and I plenty of opportunity to talk about travel, New Zealand, Canada, Samoa, and what our future plans held.
The walk up the mountain was slippery. The clouds threatened rain the entire time, rain which would make the already muddy path almost impassable. As we climbed to higher elevations, the colour of the mud changed, from brown, to orange, to red. It was a good way to assess just how much further we had to go, like a map in the soil.
I of course, was wearing the most inadequate footwear possible. I didn’t want to pack my hiking boots for just one day out of the 6 weeks I would be on the Pacific Islands. But the only other comfortable, flat shoe that I owned were my Canadian moccasins. The gum sole makes these shoes some of the most comfortable walking shoes I own, but the smooth bottoms make them very, very slippery when walking on mud. And guess what I was walking on?
The hike up to Lake Lonatoo is extremely beautiful, and offers some great opportunities to spot wildlife. However, I always find, when hiking, I spend more time looking at my feet, trying not to fall over, than hunting for elusive wildlife anyway. Despite all my efforts, I still managed to land on my butt a few times.
When we reached the summit, the lake was shrouded in heavy fog. Javier was disappointed that the views were obscured, but I was happy just to have made it to the top at all! Lake Lonatoo is also known as Goldfish lake, but we didn’t see any goldfish on this day. It is also apparently a very eery place to have a swim, owing to the alternating hot and cold currents, but due to the looming weather, and my poor swimming ability, I decided to give it a miss.
Like my experience with Urban Adventures in Melbourne, my Samoan experience was also characterized by friendly laid back guides, off beat experiences, and a deeper understanding of the place than before.