This morning, we woke up pretty early and got out of the house by 9:30 to head east and catch the ferry to Aunu'u (the small island off the coast of Tutuila). We arrived at the dock, and after a short wait, the ferry arrived. The small aluminum pontoon boat, powered by a 40 horespower engine, had two benches that comfortably fit the five of us. We hummed out to sea, bouncing up and down on the three- or four-foot waves and gripping the seat as they tossed the boat fro side to side. It was only about 15 minutes before we docked at Aunu'u and disembarked, paying the driver the $2-per-person fee.
There are no cars on the small island, but a few hundred people live there. According to our guidebook, there is a single path that snakes around the island in a figure-eight shape. As we began walking along the path toward the northern side of the island, we were welcomed by a Samoan woman sitting outside her home and her two puppies. She asked if it was our first time to the island, and warned us to be careful as we hiked around. We thanked her and were on our way.
As we walked out of the village and along the coastline, the sun beat down on us. There was very little shade along the first part of the path, but we soon made it to a small opening to the right that led to Pala lake, well known for the fact that it consists entirely of quicksand!! The lake is covered in red muddy splotches that look deceivingly stable (a quick toss of the rock onto one demonstrated otherwise). While I was satisfied staying on solid ground and taking pictures, Susanna and Gabe decided they would see if the stuff from the movies was really true. To make a long story short - yes, quicksand does exist. Once stuck, Gabe pointed out that as he tried to get out, he only sank deeper and deeper. Luckily for all parties involved, they both made it out unscathed (but very muddy). The smell of the swampy lake actually reminded me a lot of the Dead Sea, sort of a salty, sulfury, disgusting odor.
After their quicksand escapades, Gabe and Susanna walked straight over to the ocean to rinse off. We continued walking, and the path turned up toward the center of the island. When we arrived at the center of the figure-eight, we stopped to rest and eat some lunch (PB&J sandwiches and some cookies Katy picked up at the store near the dock) under a gigantic tree that would have been great for climbing had it not been home to a swarm of hornets.
We continued around the second part of the figure-eight until we arrived at Ma'ama'a Cove on the island's eastern side. The cove had towering cliffs on both sides with slanted strata that made it look as though part of the island had simply tipped over into the ocean. Crabs scurried accross the rocks as we set down our bags and began to walk around. The geology was absolutely beautiful (I took lots of pictures), and there was a colorful pool of water with some sizeable tropical fish and bright green algae. After copious exploring and picture-taking, we got back on the trail to finish our expedition around the island.
Just as we walked back into Aunu'u village, the sky (which had been sunny all day) became covered in clouds and began to rain. After a few hours of hiking in the heat, none of us minded, and after making it back to the dock, Katy, Gabe, and I decided that we would go for a swim on the beach despite the rain. The beach was beautifully sandy, and the bright blue water was nearly 4 feet deep with smooth stone covering the bottom. This was a wonderful change from many of the rockier beaches we have been to, and the three of us bobbed around in the waves as the rain picked up even more.
We exited the water only when we saw the ferry making its entrance into the Aunu'u harbor. While I was already wet and didn't mind getting rained on some more, Susanna and Kirstin made every attempt to stay dry and failed miserably. The rain poured down on us as the boat jumped over the waves to take us back to Tutuila.
Overall, a 100 percent fantastic day. Tomorrow we are getting down and dirty to do some actual reasearch work, since that is, after all, why Brown is paying us to be here.