Visitor falls in love with turtles... and coconut cream

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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CAPTAIN OF TE TAI TONGA 41 DEGREES PADDLE TEAM: Charmaine Matiaha, from Patea, New Zealand.

CAPTAIN OF TE TAI TONGA 41 DEGREES PADDLE TEAM: Charmaine Matiaha, from Patea, New Zealand. (Photo: Elizabeth Ah-Hi)

Samoa this week is the paddling capital of the Pacific.

Hosting the Vailima Alo Paopao Festival, many top paddlers are in the country for the competition and to check out the place. 

Among them is Charmaine Matiaha. She is the captain of the Tai Tonga 41 degrees Paddling team from Patea, New Zealand.

She is an experienced competitor having been to various paddling regattas in several countries. 

 “It’s my first time in Samoa,” she said. 

“I have been to regattas in Rarotonga, Tahiti, Hawaii and done a few world sprints but the location here has been great. The harbour I find is handy to get to. 

“We searched online for accommodation and where things are. Knowing that this is where the races are being held it’s nice and central, it’s close to the city. 

 “We’ve toured around the island seen all the other features but just finding that easy access to the banks, shops and buses have been good. The buses are fun!” 

Charmaine takes a laid back approach when visiting places that she’s not familiar with.

“I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t do a lot of homework before I came over,” she said. 

“I just thought, yeah Samoa has been there all my life but coming here we see that we do things differently back home but we have a rule, wherever we are - we just do as the locals and blend in as much as we can.”

Several things were standouts for Charmaine.

“We’ve had a good time. We went to the Info Centre and they gave out some good information which led us to a show that was going on over there so we spent some time over at the Samoa Cultural Village, weaving baskets and having a look at how Kava and Tapa cloth is made. Then we had a good feed after it!

“I love the food especially the taro, real coconut cream, I love the oka. I love fish, when I visit the islands I only eat fish because I think that’s all we should be eating here and … more coconut cream please!”

“I’ve had the coconut cream buns, it’s beautiful.”

Being in Samoa has allowed Charmaine to be in contact with her spiritual animal, the turtle and in the short time she has been here, she has made a trip back to Savai’i twice to swim with the turtles.

“We went over to Savai’i a couple of days after we got here and it’s beautiful. I went back again to Savai’i with another team and I have swum twice with the turtles now. I love turtles, I have a lot turtle totems that I have collected from different islands so now I can say I have Samoan turtle items!”

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