Saturday, August 24, 2013

Island Tour - From Sandy Necklace to Vocanic Peaks

24 August 2013

We spent the day out touring the island and are exhausted – the island of Upolu is roughly 20 km wide x 100 km long, or 12 miles by 60 miles – we only toured the east and southern part, but that included swimming in crystal clear ocean, walking to four different waterfalls, checking out a sinkhole that connects to the ocean through underground caverns, and I don’t remember what else.  Past villages and fales and open meeting buildings of every color combination you could imagine.  And through what might have been a parade of Girl Guides, we aren’t too sure – definitely a parade of girls in some kind of green uniform.  With a few parents and boys thrown in for variety.

Just to start, here’s a poetic description of the island from the customs form we filled in upon arrival:

“Samoa is a postcard of natural beauty consisting of ten islands, each offering very distinct and different environments to explore.    
From the rainforest covered rugged volcanic mountain peaks of the two main islands to the vast valleys leading down to a coastline ringed with a necklace of white sandy beaches.”

(I know, the grammar leaves something to be desired, with that hanging sentence fragment.  As I said, it's more poetry than prose.  Descriptive versus narrative.  And maybe a literal translation of Samoan, which often sounds like singing.)

We headed out of Apia which is somewhat in the center of the north coast of the island, Upolu.  (Pronounced ooo-POE-loo.)  We headed east, and encounted the first waterfall, which is on a river heading to the ocean.  There was a wonderful house and fale in the background (the open-air thatched structure that people used to live in, and which most houses retain) across the river, and I was able to zoom in to get a decent photo of that as well.

Apia is the only "city" in Samoa - the rest are small villages.  Or, in my leftover from Liberia, they are small-small villages. 
Sometimes they are a collection of homes with one little shop selling tinned items and cold soda, and often a small primary school.  Students who are older attend a regional secondary school - but the small villages don't have enough students to justify a secondary school there.

The central hills or mountains (depends on your definition) are very craggy, but mostly covered with trees and bush creating the lush rainforest that blankets much of Upolu.  

People can buy land to farm, and so there are often coconut palms, banana trees, taro (eddoe), and manioc (cassava) growing halfway up the hills.  We also saw a few cacao bushes or trees - but no coffee.

The southeast corner of Upolu was hit pretty hard by the tsunami in 2009 (the one that originated in SE Asia) - we saw destroyed homes, schools, businesses.  About 200 people died here, both local residents and tourists.  Many people moved further inland, but the resorts rebuilt right along the coast, because the beaches here are so incredibly gorgeous.

We stopped for a while at Taufuo (pronounced tow as in towel, not tow as in towtruck - so tow-FU-oh).  Gorgeous gorgeous clear glorious water - the waves look like pale aqua glass coming at you when you're swimming in it!  The sand is golden and fairly coarse, which accounts for the rather steep slope of the beach.  (My dad advises me on these things.  Coarse sand makes a steep slope.  Fine sand makes a flatter slope.)  Anyway, the place was truly picture-postcard-perfect with a reef offshore creating a breakwater, and barely rippling waves continuing on to the beach - almost a swimming pool perfect lagoon, with enough reef in the middle for interesting snorkeling.

The resort rents out fales on the beach (pronounced FAH-lays - the "e" at the end becomes sort of an "ay" sound) - people rent them for the day, while enjoying the beach, or for the night, to sleep in.  We haven't tried this yet, but I'm sure we'll give the fales a shot.
We continued along the south shore to To Sua Ocean Trench.  (Toe  SUE-ah.  You've got the ocean trench part.)  This is the sinkhole that connects to the ocean via an underground cavern.  And at low tide, you can actually swim out to the ocean.  But at high tide, or if there's a rough current or high wind creating waves, well, don't swim out to the ocean, you'll get mashed up on the rocks.   

I hope the words line up with the photo.  Because you need to seriously look at the people swimming in the sinkhole, or trench.  We aren't in there.  Look at the ladder.  Look at the person ON the ladder.  That ladder, nearly vertical, is a good 30 ft tall if not taller.  The rungs are 2 x 4s on edge - as in, your wet foot steps on a 2" wide piece of wood.  For 30 or so feet.  Would YOU climb down to swim in a hole in the ground?  Knowing you'd have to climb back up?  Right.  We didn't either.  There's only so much adventure one can take after age 30.  Or 40.  Never mind after age 50 and 60.  We weren't about to climb down that ladder into the depths of the earth.

So we walked around and admired the fabulous view, and the clear water (you can even see the rocks and coral in these photos, that's how clear the water is!), and the beautiful gardens here.  With a few more fales for relaxing.  And a nice little restaurant with ST$10 fish and chips (that's just under $5 US for fried snapper and chips).  Delightful!

Continuing along the south shore, heading west, we came to another area where we could hike in - more beautiful flowers, a traditional drum with amazing carvings, and another wonderful waterfall.  There were two men swimming at different levels along the river - but by now we had been out for nearly the entire day, and were a bit too tired to climb over rocks into cold fresh water for a swim.

Last photo - I promise - we drove back through the center of the island (on the aptly named Cross Island Road), passing more small villages, farms (or plantations, as they are called here), and meeting houses.  There's a hierarchy of chiefs here, with each town or village having a High Chief as well as a variety of other chiefs, each in charge of something in the community.  The meeting houses are for meetings of these chiefs - and yes, women can be chiefs as well.  This meeting house was particularly nice, and I managed a photo.

So - it is now Sunday, 25 August.  We took the ferry to Savaii (sah-VIE-ee), the neighboring and less-populated island, and are staying in a little plywood and corregated fale in the bush.  Probably a good thing it isn't thatch, since it has been pouring (POURING!) rain for the last hour or so.  Yes, we have a lot of mosquito bites from our lunch - we ate tuna, the mosquitoes ate us.  But we have nets to sleep under.  And only a few drips.  We'll see how this adventure goes.  Right now, it seems adventurous and romantic.  By midnight, we may feel differently, LOL!  But hey, this is an authentic Samoan experience, and we're giving it one night at a time.  And yes, I'll try to get some photos in the morning.  When the rain is hopefully over!

No comments:

Post a Comment