Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Massacre Bay

Sunday was a lazy day. We've been watching Arrested Development, starting with season one, so we made some headway on that. We were otherwise pretty much unproductive.

To make up for it, on Monday afternoon, we embarked on one of the island's more difficult hikes. The trail spans from the top of the mountains (a village called A'olaufou) down to Massacre Bay on the northern coast. The bay is named after the brutal interaction between French explorers and Samoans that occurred on December 11, 1787. After the skirmish, the French retreated and remained petrified of the "barbaric" native Samoans for an entire century. A monument commemorates the 12 Frenchmen who died in the battle, but there is no memory of the 39 Samoans who perished. Someone told us that Napoleon Bonaparte had tried to get on the expedition to Samoa -- imagine how history could have changed.

But enough history lesson. The point is, wielding our newly purchased machetes, we parked at the Church in A'olaufou, and began descending the mountains. The machetes proved not that useful, as the trail was already pretty clear (despite some warnings we had received). After an hour and a half of steep downhill trekking, we passed through an abandoned village and out onto the beach at Massacre Bay. I feel like I’ve spewed out the “and then we exited the woods onto a beautiful secluded beach” line so many times this summer, but it applies here yet again. The only notable difference on this beach was the size of the hermit crabs – they were humongous!

After resting up and munching on some granola bars, we began searching for the famed French monument. We first looked around the recently abandoned house, the last remains of the village of A’asu, which has now relocated to the top of the mountain (which is accessible by road as opposed to hiking trail). We then tried wading up the freshwater river that flows into Massacre Bay. Here, my camera almost became the next massacred victim, as it plopped into the water. Though I was not able to take pictures for the rest of the hike, after a night drying out, the camera is incredibly almost 100 percent functional (I can’t seem to take videos anymore, though the photo function works perfectly).

We finally did find the French monument, tucked in the woods just behind the beach. Nothing impressive (it’s made of cement), but it was a good way to finalize our time at the bay before heading back up the mountain. As we raced against the sun (it was already late in the afternoon), we discovered that the trail seemed much steeper on the way up than it had on the way down. We stopped often and exhausted all of our water, but we did make it back to the car well before sunset.

On the way home, for the first time we experienced evening prayers (6pm every day). Young men, all dressed in matching lava lavas, lined the road to patrol and ensure that everyone from the village was inside praying. Three bells (actually old SCUBA tanks hanging on ropes) mark when people are supposed to go inside, the start of prayers, and the end of prayers. Since we pulled of the road to see if a Mexican restaurant was open (unfortunately, it wasn’t), one of the villagers asked us to turn off the car and wait 10 minutes for prayers to be over. Though a bit frustrating, on the bright side we did get to experience a new part of Samoan (or Christian, as the case may be) culture. Anyway, once we did get moving again, because the Mexican place was closed, we settled for Pizza Hut.

Yesterday (Tuesday) was not very eventful. We did some data entry work during the day, and at 4pm we headed down to the Yacht club for paddling (which we are now doing every Tuesday and Thursday). Today, we are following a similar schedule, but instead of paddling we are heading up toward the National Park to camp out with a big crew of Palagis at some beach fales.

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