Saturday, March 10, 2007


Our usual trip to the beach on Saturdays takes a few hours. This one was an all day event, which was planned for at least a week.

We visited Aunu'u with our friends Mark and Ian. Aunu'u is a really small island right off of our larger (but still small) island of Tutuila. Aunu'u is the small island off to the bottom right of Tutuila:

Aunu'u is only about 3 square kilometers (1.9 square miles) in area. We covered every inch of the hiking trails shown on Aunu'u on the map above. And it wasn't as easy as the map key would have you believe.

Here's Aunu'u from the road near Nu'uuli, which is sort of close to where we live:

So to get there, we had to drive to the other end of Tutuila and take a boat. Here's Aunu'u from the boat dock. No, Jessi's not trying to sell you a cell phone.

And here's the boat. Really? Yeah, really. They called it "Herbie."

The first thing we noticed upon arriving in Aunu'u village was the lack of roads (or cars for that matter). This was (for the most part) an island of foot-transportation. Except for the occasional very out-of-place golf cart.

So off we went on our walking trek. We followed a path around the north side of the island that started off fairly well-defined.

There was the occasional beach view along the way.

Our first official stop was at Pala Lake, a sea of fiery red quicksand. According to our guidebook, if you wanted to swim without "being sucked down into sandy doom," you have to remain horizontal at all times and propel yourself only using your arms. We just decided to stay vertical on land, rather than any position in a quicksand lake (which was full of eels, by the way). You can bet that the trip was filled with all kinds of quotes from the "Princess Bride" movie, mostly coming from my wife ("the shrieking eels!!!", the "fire swamp!!!!", yadda yadda yadda...).

Our next stop was at the natural arch beach. It gets its name (which we gave it) from a natural rock arch that jets out over the water. We stopped and had lunch and a dip in the water.

Jaydn was dying to do some fishing, and our friend Ian brought along a fishing pole. So Ian helped Jaydn catch a fish. He was so excited! You can also see the natural arch (a little) in the picture.
At this point I almost thought about just turning around and going back. We'd gone to the beach. Had our fun, right? But no, we decided to hike through the center of the island.
About half way into our hike (the trail of which, by the way, appeared to be much less-traveled), it started to rain. And rain. And boy, did it ever rain! We took banana leaves to try to shield ourselves from all of the rain. No use. This is what you call a walk through the rainforest.

At the middle of our journey, after the rain had stopped, we were lucky enough to find a couch to sit on and relax. Huh? OK, that was completely random!
After the ugly couch, we made our way around Red Lake. Red Lake is in the middle of Fa'imulivai Marsh, which, in turn, lies in the middle of Aunu'u's volcanic crater. It is filled with eels and tilapia fish. We followed a muddy, wet path around the lake, which Jaydn did not enjoy.
We passed by Pisaga, an area where, supposedly, people are forbidden to call out or make loud noises lest they disturb the aitu (spirits) that inhabit the place. Samoans believe those who make noise may be answered by an irritable spirit. What's funny is that the Pisaga area is where we found a large assortment of three-legged chairs (one leg chopped off), buckets, tables, a rice cooker, a coffee maker, and a fridge that was locked. We assumed this was all set up to appease the spirits. I mean, they could just go right through the locked door of the fridge, so the lock would have to be to keep out humans. But there wasn't a nearby electricity outlet, so whatever food was left in the fridge for the aitu was probably not very good. Perhaps that's why the spirits were angry.
This was also the place where Jaydn decided he'd had enough of walking through muddy water in his Crocs. But despite the noise, we did not receive an answer from the spirits. I think they had probably had enough of this rediculous place and had just left. What do you think?

Our next stop was Ma'ama'a Cove. This was probably the wildest "cove" I'd ever seen. The wave action was so completely random that it could have, at any moment, splashed up and taken us out to sea. The water would enter into a cave and then jettison steam back out. It was amazing.

There was also a stream coming from Red Lake that was making huge ponds of red water near the cove. Jaydn saw that the fish in the ponds were laying their eggs in large circles of sand under the water; the fish had created these perfect circles and then laid their eggs in the center. It was pretty interesting.

The path was even more concealed on the other side of Red Lake. We passed through a virtual fruit bat feeding ground; there were bats flying all around us, eating the fruit in the trees. On the ground were small chestnut-like nuts that had been gnawed at and chewed and then spit out by the bats flying above.

At the end of our circle around Red Lake, I took a nice picture of the deadly lake that we stayed so far away from.

On our way along the south side of the island (back to the village) we passed by some wonderful beaches. We were so stinkin' dirty from our trek around Red Lake that we stopped for a dip. Then we were back on our way (you can see Tutuila in the background on this next picture):

As we passed back into semi-civilization, we passed by--of all things--an LDS church. On this teeny island of about 500 people, we only saw two churches-this nice LDS churchhouse and a huge Samoan church.

Finally, we were back to the harbor!!

By now you probably think I'm some sort of straggler; I mean, you see everyone in these pictures BUT me. I was thinking that myself, so I turned the camera around and took a picture. I didn't realize I'd look so weird. I took my lava lava and wrapped it around my head to keep from getting a sunburn through my hair--a problem I have had in Samoa. I don't always look this weird (I'm sure that some would disagree).

I was going for the pirate/Survivor look, of course. Swimming in the harbor was the best part of the trip. It was probably 20 feet deep, and the bottom was all sand, no rocks or coral. But there was a lot of huge fish, and the visibility from the top was perfect. It was an amazing place to snorkel and dive off the dock.

At the end of the day, we were pooped. Our faces tell it all as we crossed back over to Tutuila.

We were all pretty tired!!

Jaydn was content to look at the water.