Okay, so, here's the scene.
Yesterday morning, I was feeling a little blue (just a tad) because tomorrow was Saturday and we had absolutely nothing planned. The Saturday before, Hannah and I had journeyed to the blowholes and beyond; the Saturday before that, we had been swimming at the lovely, starfish-studded beach behind the hotel. For this Saturday, nothing, just sleeping in and hanging around the house. It seemed like a waste, somehow, since my limited time in Samoa is running out, and there are still so many things we haven't explored yet.
So, when Pastor Jim, volunteered to take me and a friend of choice to the Canopy Tree Walk, I was definitely thinking about doing a bit of joy-jumping. Then the whole thing got even better when he added a scenic waterfall to the list of Saturday's sight-seeing saga. Joe had been telling me about this waterfall for weeks, saying that it was the prettiest thing on the island and that my trip wouldn't be complete until I'd been there. Pastor Jim didn't know where it was, so Joe was included in the group to act as our guide to this wonder. Hannah couldn't go, as she had school, laundry, and family to catch up on. Don't get me wrong, she was invited, but she voluntarily chose to stay behind; for some reason, she wanted to talk to her parents. :) So, out of the girls here, I chose Luisa to accompany us on this excursion. You've already 'met' Luisa, as I've posed with her in a few pictures that have found their way onto these pages, so I don't think I need to introduce her. It was a tough choice, but I picked Luisa because she's closest to my age, she speaks the best English, and because, as the oldest in her family, she has a ton of chores to do; she always seems tired. I hoped to be giving her a bit of a holiday.
This morning, therefore, we set out, as follows: Pastor Jim was driving, Joe was riding shotgun, and Luisa and I were in the backseat, plumeria flowers tucked behind our ears, ready for any sort of adventure that would come our way.
The first one was the Tree Canopy Walk. We pulled into a grassy field that served as the parking lot of the Falealupo Rainforest. There was a hut in front of us with a sign tacked up that designated it as the 'Information Center'. A middle-aged man in a lava-lava left his pool-playing buddies in another hut and sprinted over to (possibly) give us information and (definitely) take our money. There was a little bargaining that went on, as Pastor Jim explained who we were, and then the price was discounted to 10 taula for Luisa (since she was Samoan) and 20 taula for me (since I'm American). In the States, that wouldn't be tolerated an instant, but I just rolled with the proverbial punches, paid the money, and pushed off into the rainforest with Luisa. Pastor Jim and Joe stayed back in the car--Pastor had papers to grade, and Joe had a Bible exam to study for.
We walked a rocky trail, being careful not to twist our ankles on tree roots or slippery stones. Around us were all the trappings of a Hollywood jungle set--the banana trees, the coconut fronds, the giant ferns. And then we came upon the giant banyan tree, towering overhead, roots sprawled all over creation, vines and ferns growing up it's sides. Oh, and metal stairs that spiraled up. Luisa and I began to climb. And climb. And climb. We had to stop several times to rest. It was Luisa's first time too, and, unlike me, she was afraid of heights. It didn't prevent her from climbing, but she was unable to peer over the edge and take in the view as I was.
We reached a platform, and there, in front of us, hung a swinging bridge, made out of ladders, boards and rope. It looked rickety, but I started anyway. It swung, creaked, and groaned--boards shifted underfoot, and I had to grab the ropes several times for support. But I actually really enjoyed it. Luisa followed, her eyes fixed on my back, not daring to peer down at the jungle floor. When we reached the end of the rope bridge, we found (surprise, surprise!) more stairs, these ones of woods. They were the narrowest, steepest stairs I've ever encountered. I don't consider myself a big person, but they were only just a little wider than I am! I couldn't even fit my camera case up them--I had to sling it in front of me several times.
But at last we reached the top, a platform built high in the banyan tree--a boy's dream treehouse! The view was good, though not great, as the tree branches blocked some of the prospect, but it was amazing to look around at the rainforest, mountains and sea in opposite directions in the distance. Luisa and I took some pictures and then just stared off into the distance, admiring the scene. I took off my plumeria flower and dropped it over the edge, watching it twirl down, down, down, looking like a tiny parachute.
After a few more minutes, Luisa and I descended the stairs, taking each step slowly and carefully. Instead of taking the rope bridge, we went down a separate set of stairs, per Luisa's request. Then we took another short walk through the rainforest, and we were back at the car. It wasn't the greatest touristy thing I've done here, but it was neat, and, after all, how many 22-year-olds can say they've been on a tree canopy walk in remote Western Samoa?!
Pastor Jim revved up the car, and we drove away from Falaelupo, along the one road that takes you around the island. As usual, we passed the machete-carrying men, the wide-eyed children, the fruit-selling women. Luisa began to get a headache, and none of us had any aspirin (I really need to start carrying more stuff in my purse!). With the theory that it was a hunger headache, Pastor Jim stopped at the next store we came to--I bought a couple pies for us. They weren't the typical pies that we think of; it was a hand-held kind, with a cookie-ish, crumbly crust and pineapple filling. They were really, really good! They seemed to help Luisa's headache a tiny bit, as well.
We stopped one other time as well--to look at a beach down the side of one of the cliffs. There were broken concrete steps leading downward to a pristine, white-sanded beach, with no huts or beach houses of any kind. I made a mental vow that Hannah and I will be coming to this exact spot some time in the future!
We finally reached the waterfall. We drove a good ways down a bumpy turn-off that Joe helpfully pointed out (if he hadn't, we definitely wouldn't have found it--there wasn't a sign or anything), past several different houses, until we reached the grass-thatched hut where several men lay sprawled in the cool of the interior. The price to see the waterfall--5 taula each (about $2.50). We paid and pressed on. Finally, we reached the elusive waterfall. And what a sight it was! Ringed by towering cliffs and climbing vines was a perfect little lagoon (maybe it wasn't technically a lagoon, but it sounds like it should be), with crystal blue water and miniature waterfalls spewing down the sides of the pool. Unfortunately, there were people already there, a mix of palagis and Samoans, but most of them left within an hour, fueled by a desire for lunch. We stuck around. Joe climbed to the top of a rock high above the pool and then dived in, making a terrific splash--I was surprised that none of it got to me! It was a perfect ending to the outing.
On the way back, we stopped at the store again. I got more pies (they were really awesome!) and some snacky-munchy-cheesy things, along with water. We ate and talked the way home, pausing only twice more, once to take a picture of some cows for my sister Abby (I didn't forget!), and the second to buy some oranges from a roadside stand for Pastor Jim. I had one. They have seeds, and they aren't nearly as sweet as the ones in the States, but they're probably better for you. :)
So, that was my day! What do you think? Do you agree with me that the waterfall could be a movie set?
Stay tuned for more posts!