Friday, July 11, 2008

A probligo's perambulations in paradise - 2...

Day 5

Out and about. Went looking for one of the local volcanic craters ( Savai’i is “active” in the sense that the last eruption was less than 100 years back). Didn’t find that, but did find another “attraction” – The Dwarf Cave. Paid our T20 to the family at the bottom of the track, for which they provided a teenage guide and junior torchbearer. Quite interesting, if a fairly bog-standard lava-flow cave. Mrs Probligo stayed at the top while guide and I walked about 100m down the cave. The entrance is actually a wall collapse, and there are at least three separate flows evident within the tunnel itself. The major early flow created what is called “the dwarf’s table” – a long flat section of rock low in the cave (there is barely headroom for me). There are at least (to my inexpert eye) one other small separate flow before the tunnel was formed in the last eruption. We walked to the top of a waterfall that was about 2.5m high. It was suggested that a swim might be in order in the pool below. I asked whether it was possible to climb back out, having in mind the probligo’s 6 decades versus the guides 2 at the most. I later mentioned this to one of the staff at Tanu and got that quiet Samoan smile and “Yes, but it might have cost another T20 to get you out.”

Mrs P told me after, that once her eyes had adapted to the half light the young torchbearer drew her attention to the swiftlets flying in and out of the cave. We had seen many of these tiny birds (about 6 inch wingspan) hawking the beach at Manase. They are very fast, and very aerobatic fliers – a challenge to photograph that would rank alongside the piwakawaka (NZ fantail).

After once again trying to destroy the undercart of the probligo’s (rented) chariot on sundry rocks and coconuts (more about that later), a lengthy discussion of the attractions of professional rugby and the potential benefits of investing in our guides latest CD (as yet unrecorded) we got back to the bottom of the track.

As it was still comparatively early, we decided to take a look at the rest of the north coast and perhaps the “treetop ropewalk” out on the NW peninsula. After finding it, the latter looked a pretty dead duck in terms of “attraction”.

We “found” a beach, paid the T10 for the right to walk on it, and had a pleasant look around. Quite different from Manase, it was almost entirely volcanic rock outcrops. There was quite a bit of vitrified coral lying about.

Oh, not a piece of vitrified coral.

Oranges and the last of the keke for lunch and then wend our way home.

Following the sunset game of touch, dinner, and a good night’s sleep.

Oh, a quick word about some of the local wildlife. On the beach, and around the fale are holes in the ground that range from about 10mm or so up to about 30mm. The ones around the fale I found were made by a very shy dark grey crab – much the same size as the hole. I tried to photo one of them as it was doing a spot of housekeeping (just before sunrise) but missed.

The ones on the beach were a little easier to get, once you had spotted them.

Yep, somewhere almost exactly in the middle of there is a crab.

Ah, there he is. The camoflage is amazing. That one is about 25mm across.

Day 6.

Time to do the rest of the island.

We took a quick look at “the wetlands” and “swim with the turtles” just around the corner from Manase, the lava flows with the church and “virgin’s grave”. All of them are well documented as tourist attractions, seen the photos, so we didn’t pay the entrance fee.

I did take several close examinations of roadside vegetation. Frusemide has a lot to answer for in these circumstances. There is a weed, I have no idea what it is called, but it is choking the life out of the local forest. Trees of 10m or more completely smothered by this creeper with no chance of getting any light for food making.

We made our way around 3/4s of the circumference, to the Alofaaga blowholes. A T40 fee and a 1km walk took us to the best parts, including a single blowhole that regularly spouts up to 30m. The guides take a bunch of coconuts down there and toss them in the hole. With the right timing they can be blown up to 25 or 30m. Being on our own, we did not have a guide (that was another T100) and one member of the party gets very jittery when the probligo starts to move away from what is considered to be “terra firma”. However, that is life.

This of the largest of the blowholes shows up two defects; my very slow reaction time and the delay on a digital camera compared with film. Google "alofanga savai'i" for plenty more.

A smaller version here

The blowholes are through a lava shelf where the soft rock and sand has been eroded out from under. This is a similar structure, much higher, on the other side of the bay.

As always, some of the colours are amazing.

I was really glad that we walked, rather than try to drive the car down. Again, more on that later.

On the way back, and with three or four unsuccessful attempts to buy lunch from roadside stores, we stopped off at one of the other major attractions; a waterfall. Here the probligo did go for a swim, an event that thankfully has not been recorded for perpetuity or anyone else for that matter.

That water was absolutely delicious, beautifully cool and as clean as any I have ever tried. The Mrs probligo was very patient and waited.

One of the purposes of the trip was to make sure that we could find our way back to the ferry in two days’ time. We missed it twice before narrowing the turnoff down to a 1km stretch of road. By this time our poor little car was in bad need of its first feed since we had made friends with it and fortunately we found a gas station. We also found that it had ice-cream. Perfect treat for a hot humid afternoon. Never mind that the only flavour was banana and chocolate chip. So both the car and probligos were suitably replenished and comforted.

A comfortable drive back to Manase, another beautiful sunset and the boys playing touch in the lagoon.

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