Monday, July 16, 2007

Sloshball and Maloata Bay

So the fourth of July was anticlimactic. I mostly stayed at home pouting and pretending it wasn’t the fourth. It’s my favorite holiday. All of us palangis had a bit of a downer about there not being any hoohaa over the fourth. If we were in say, Portugal, Vietnam or the Sudan it would make sense, but for the love of Pete we are in a U.S. Commonwealth! Where’s a little patriotic celebration about our freedom from the Red Coats? I think Samoans would love fireworks and it’s too bad that with the strong Chinese influence on the island that we couldn’t get some good imported Chinese big-bang fireworks. I think the Samoans enjoy their Flag Day and that’s that. We had a nice BBQ at a friends but as the next day was a work day, it was an early evening (haha, as if there's anything else with me and my deep love of sleep).

The weekend was much more fun!
Alas, sometimes living in the tropics with endless opportunities to snorkel, swim, paddle, and hike just isn’t enough and we expats are forced to come up with some way to spend our days. I had been wanting to participate in the renowned “Sloshball” created by some intrepid expatriates out in Lions Park (the government housing enclave).

“Sloshball” has as it’s main goal the drinking of the horrible, cheap beer we are forced to consume on the island. The current favorite, for it’s $17/case price, is San Miguel. I brought Corona-the only beer I can tolerate here (other than Markus’ microbrew). The drinking of beer is facilitated by wiffle ball. In order to pass 2nd base one has to retrieve and open a beer. The beer must be drunk completely and if by the time you get to 2nd base again your beer isn’t gone, you carry two. The buckets in the pictures are 2nd base. When the unwise choice is made to slide into 2nd, disaster can ensue.

Being the newest players, Markus and I got to be team captains. I think this is good-a little healthy rivalry in a relationship keeps thing interesting. Luckily for me, I’m not a superstar so getting past 2nd base only occurred twice. For others with more talent with a plastic bat, the frequent visits took it’s toll, and, as was bandied around the diamond, “San Mig is the great equalizer.” As the best players became a little sloppy on the field, we lesser players rose in the ranks. Though it must be said that many of the good players can knock them out of the park one handed and holding a beer. How the pitchers do it one handed I have no idea.

Einstein enjoyed himself and he also had a drink or two at second base. He also took a couple for the team when he was on the pitcher’s mound and a ball hit him and later when Aaron decided throwing bases was an awfully good idea. Aaron’s dad was in town and being a good sport took part in the game. He was a good hitter too, glad I’d picked him for my team!

Of course, my team pulled it out in the end, though it could have had something to do with Jeff telling Markus’ team they could have the inning over a disputed out, if every single one of them chugged their beers. As team captain, after the beers had been consumed, I promptly nixed this, not ever having been involved in the negotiation. It worked incredibly well in our favor!

Last weekend we also were invited to a family’s private beach in Maloata Bay-on a Sunday no less! The property is beautiful. Markus, Paul and Jay took a dive and saw an octopus among the coral. We brought our kayaks for some friends to borrow. They made they traveled around the coast into a couple of bays and found waterfalls tumbling into the ocean and they were able to paddle behind them and jump into the ocean from the waterfall. Next time we’ll have to kayak around and see them for ourselves.

The property owners have a flower business growing imported orchids and supplying local florists. We got a tour of the green houses. It was fabulous. There is only one wild orchid I’ve seen here in American Samoa and it is very tiny. Seeing so many beautiful flowers in one place was amazing.

The son of the property owner went out spear fishing later in the day and came back with the octopus that the boys had seen on their dive. It made me a little sad, but I knew he’d be eaten for dinner and the kids were fascinated with the chance to see a real (if not live) octopus.

Some times life on this island can be pretty marvelous-even if there isn’t a Fourth of July. As always there are a ton more photos on my flickr site.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Massacre Bay

Last weekend we ventured out on a hike to Massacre Bay with a group of friends. In this particular bay in 1787 the French encountered Samoans, one thing lead to another and there were a few deaths-on both sides. The French constructed a monument here and it is visited periodically by a French navel vessel I'm told.

The bay is very isolated. It is only accessible via a 1 ½ hour hike or a long boat ride from another village. There is a village there but it is only inhabited when the plantation there is being tended. For the most part it is abandoned. It's nice to know that after a long hike you are going to have a prestine beach all to yourself.

The bay is beautiful though the snorkeling isn’t good due to coral death. A few friends of mine had done this hike a couple of weeks prior and, leaving too late in the day, couldn’t find the path home and retreated to the beach to await rescue by their husbands. These are very capable and independent women so the ordeal was less terrifying and more mortifying. Read here for a his and hers version of the experience.

The trail was a bit difficult to find but once found was good though somewhat overgrown. I was glad we had brought our machete. We had come anticipating needing to mark the trail at the descending point.

We flagged the trail with plastic bags and Markus marked trees with the machete. Even with that we veered away from the trail a bit on our way back. It was easy to see how the last group had become disoriented.

The bay has large swaths of nice white sand, which is hard to find here on Tutuila. There is a lovely clean stream that empties out to the ocean as well. Lonely Planet discusses a waterfall but we didn’t venture out to find it this visit.

There are multiple abandoned fale and concrete pads from when there used to be a village here. The monument is easy to find, set back in the middle of the village.

The views along the way are really breathtaking. And there was a strong breeze that kept us cool. At the end of the trail there is a nice grassy hill to stretch out and rest and enjoy the view.

The photos in this blog are all borrowed as my memory card for my camera died. For a couple other friends reviews of the hike check out Weaver’s Blog and Aaron’s Blog.

Directions to Massacre Bay:

Drive on the main road (Road 1) heading West from Central Tutuila. Turn right at Pava'ia'i (Road 2) there are markets here on both sides of the road . Go all the way to the top of Mt Olotele to the village of A'oloaufou. There is a yellow store on the right hand side of the road. When we visited it was closed. This is the store where you should get permission to hike if it is open. A bit further down the road on the right is a white church with blue accent paint. It is set back from the road. There is a very nice concrete road to the left of the church. Turn right here. Follow the road all the way down until it becomes a dirt road and you pass a pasture on your left with cows (yes cows!). Park off the road on your right. It’s a good idea to get permission from the family that this property is adjacent too, though I’m not sure it is officially their land. Backtrack to the road, and follow it past a few houses. It will become a dirt track. You will come to a final shack and it looks like the trail dead ends. There will be the grassy hillock with a bench and a view down into the bay. To the left is an overgrown grassy area. As you approach the grassy area you should be able to see a path. This is the “trail head”. From this point the trail is obvious until you start to descend. During this descent watch for flags, marks on trees or leave your own trail markers. Be very conscious of your surroundings because it will all look the same on your return ascent. When you reach the beach, mark where you exited as the bush can miraculously close and the beach side trailhead become invisible. Leave with enough daylight to get back in time, bring enough water, etc. to stay the night if necessary, consider a flashlight and let people know where you are going and what time you expect to be back.