Monday started the big adventure about 7:20am. We started walking toward Tafuna, and a school bus picked us up giving us a lift in to the plain. Asked him to drop us off at McDonald's to enjoy a coffee (me) and soda (Hannah). It was too early to pick up our rental car I had reserved on Friday from the car guy at the airport. Sat there and chatted, one of the things we do. We were very excited for our day with a vehicle so we could drive to all the parts of the island we had not made it to yet. Had a little itinerary set up but it was open to modification as the day progressed.
When I talked to the guy on Friday about the car he quoted me $80 for a day, but then when we arrived he dropped it to $60 as the A/C was not consistently working. No need for A/C when we have windows and are only driving 25mph. Save money? Yes, please :-)
Behind the wheel I went. First stop, Matai Restaurant II in Nu'uuli for breakfast - a short stack of pancakes and two giant cups of coffee. Same pancakes and really good coffee, but the set up of this one was different from the restaurant in town. More Asain feeling. Cute white tables with some maroon painted flowers on them. Great service, as well. Both are great options. This one happens to be much closer if we have no other errands to run in town.
Then, we made the ~25 minute drive into Utulei, where we made our way up behind Samoana High School to see the harbor and Rainmaker Mountain in the background. My friend Richard from church told us we should make a little stop up there to see the view. Definitely one spot I would never have thought of as I didn't even think about a village heading up back that way.
Picked up a few coconuts from the market and asked the lady to poke the holes in them for us. We saved them for a nice little spot, though, after driving a while. A friend had mentioned one of his work sites across from the Breaker's Point trail that had a nice view. We stopped there, and said "Cheers" to do our day of freedom island-style. Fatu ma Futi is in the background, and then we checked out the trail across the way quick.
Next item on the agenda was to head all the way to the end of the road on the East side of the island. Found some beautiful beaches after we had passed the farthest point we had ever been on the East side road beginning to wrap back around North.
Then, here was this sign saying only 10mph and no loud music as we pulled into the last village on the road. That is Pola Island toward the back and right. Beautiful spot in Vatia Bay, that I've been before and was on the agenda for Monday.
As we were making our way back to grab some East side lunch, I noticed this little spot and had to take a photo. It does a really good job of showing the beauty of this place I am with the reality of a litter problem.
All sorts of nice murals like this along the roads of Tutulia (the big island of American Samoa).
The pizzeria we intended on eating at for lunch looked closed as we passed it on our way out, but we had intentions of checking it at least again before heading 5 minutes back the other way for the famous East side burger place (where we have been a couple times). On our way that way (around the Fagaitua area) I noticed this cool looking church back in the forest and couldn't help but drive up to take a look. Very cool Catholic Church. I love photos of cool buildings and the Religious Studies minor in me was also highly intrigued.
Ended up eating at De Tama Lelei (the East side burger place) as we learned the pizzeria is closed for good. Thank goodness we made a stop there when we stayed with our friend that lives in Fagaitua about a month ago or we would have missed our chance. Sad to see it's not open anymore. Still, I enjoyed some delicious fries and a little macaroni salad at De Tama Lelei instead.
While we were sitting there this rather gross and sad-looking puppy was nearby. I took a photo as I have been meaning to grab some. One always reads about the dogs here when they research American Samoa. I've mentioned it in my blog a few times.
Next stop, a few very short hiking trails over the mountain among the villages of Afono and Vatia. I love National Parks. (Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt.) So, I had to take a few photos next to the sign. I mean it's in Samoan and everything. :-) Cloud 9..... driving up, down, around, and through the mountains - some in the National Park :-)
Headed down the Lower Sauma Trail and who do we run into? Pastor Scot (of the Baptist church I've been attending) and Pastor Christensen (the visiting pastor from California). What are the odds? Worked out so I could grab a photo for them, them one for me, and I had to take one with the two of them. This trail leads to a nice little view point of Pola Island, which is known for being a big nesting place for the seabirds, including frigate birds and red-footed boobies.
Since this little trail was only 0.4mi roundtrip, I knew my traveling companion could handle it even though she is not one for hiking. I also wore my dress that day as I was excited to have various photos around the island. Had to snap a photo on the hiking trail in my dress and flip-flops. So Samoa. Plus, it is sort of a remake photo of one I did for creative photography class last year.
I thought this little mural was super cool because: (1) It has a red-footed booby painted on it (Makes me think of the Galapagos and now this awesome place - two big things in my life); (2) It says "Have a nice day" in Samoan and English (I love language.); 3. It's in the National Park (I love National Parks!). Plus, I took this photo using my handy dandy tripod and self-timer.
Headed down into Vatia Bay to the end where a little and rather bumpy road led us to a very short trail to view Pola Island from the bottom - the Pola Island Trail. This is Hannah and I after our successful 0.1 mile hike. Wooo.... It was a doozy. hahaha. P.S. Note the red in my belt -that would be the key for the rental car. Handy little spot for it when I didn't want to carry my bag all day long. ;-)
Lots of cool things to do around Vatia. This was the third time I've been down that way but added a new adventure every time. Then, we started heading back West. Made a stop at the market for some string beans and a few more coconuts, which are currently sitting in my fridge. More on that in another post. We also pulled in to Samu's (famous for the homemade ice cream) and grabbed some slushies. Hit the spot as we made the 30 minute drive toward home.
Grabbed our laundry bags and hit the laundromat. We decided it would be "fun" and convenient to do it once without having to make the walk. Using that car up. Not that the walk is really that hard - only 5 minutes, but just a nice break. Plus, we had intentions of grabbing ice cream cookie sandwiches at the Internet cafe next door to enjoy while the washers ran. Unfortunately Cindy did not have any ice cream sandwiches that day, but I did pick up a little bag of her homemade chocolate chip cookies for something else (coming up). I still had a hankering for some ice cream, so we popped in the store across from our house to find 75 cent ice cream cones rather than the $1 we paid at the laundromat by our old place. I tried the pistachio ice cream for fun. Good stuff. Vanilla will always be my favorite, but I do branch out from time to time. After the wash was done we went to hang it all up at home before heading further west.
We were heading to watch THE LAST SUNSET from the village of Poloa (the farthest west you can get on the island). There is a village past that on the road, but it is as the road starts heading North again. Poloa is the absolute farthest west on the island. Why do I capitalize "the last sunset". Well, since American Samoa and Independent Samoa are separated by the International Dateline, Independent Samoa is a day ahead over there, so we can watch the last sunset from here. My friend from church made sure I knew that. The last sunset used to happen in Independent Samoa. Here is a news article about it if you are interested: http://www.samoanews.com/
We did not see the sun completely set over the horizon as there were a bunch of clouds. It rained most of our drive home from Samu's. I still got a few nice photos, though along the way.
We proceeded to drive along the road heading for the end. Oye, I did not realize how far back it went on the West side. So many curves back in forth. Also very foresty out that way. Fun drive for sure. Now seems like an appropriate time to point out that I drove from one end of my island to the other in less than a day plus some side trips. That should help put some perspective on how physically small the island where I currently live is. If I remember correctly, I think I read or heard somewhere that it takes about 4 hours to drive all the way from one end of the road to the other (at 25 mph). This island has so much dimension to it. There isn't just a nice Nascar oval road circling the whole thing. All the dimension thanks to the beautiful mountains. I really enjoyed driving them. Aaah.
Next, we were headed for Ili'ili to make a stop for some groceries. Made an extra stop at Pritchard's Bakery in Leone where I bought a whole loaf of wheat bread that hadn't even been sliced yet. Looked nice and homemade. Yes! I finally remembered that having a real freezer above a full-sized fridge now meant I could freeze some of the bread as I don't particularly eat it fast enough on my own. I had some wheat bread the day I was babysitting for the Daku's, which reminded me how much I enjoy wheat bread. Healthier for you too. Boy the luxury of having a freezer.
Still taking advantage of having that car. A few stores that have some extra things (or some savings) that aren't so convenient for us to get to based on where we live. Successful stop as I grabbed some banana bread, again with the intention of freezing it for later. Had to grab it while I saw it, plus a few other things.
Decided to grab some onion rings and enjoy some iced tea at Toa Bar and Grill in Nu'uuli around 8pm before our "late-night" stop for some tacos and burritos we had on the agenda. Good onion rings, that I found myself cutting with a knife and fork eating slowly bite by bite. Hannah is rubbing off on me. I found myself chuckling as I did it. Who cuts up onion rings and eats them super slow? haha Classy people :-) Then, went through the drive through at Carls Jr./Green Burrito. This was supposed to remind us of Taco Bell runs in college. haha Just for fun.
We were ready for bed when we made it home to enjoy our take-out quickly and then crashed. To use up the last few hours of our rental car, we agreed to wake up early and be ready to go by 5:15am. Made a stop in Nu'uuli at Zeek's Treats for some fresh donuts and cinnamon rolls. Yum. Glad I finally made the stop in here. Then, we headed toward up over a mountain to a point known as "Alaska" to attempt to watch the sunrise. Rained throughout the night, so still fairly cloudy in the morning. Still a nice viewpoint. Thought about how much I like the mountains again as I drove up and down this one that morning.
Next, we headed to Sliding Rock, a spot Hannah had not yet seen on the West side.
As I was turning around here, my photographer eye noticed how it looked like I'm about to back over a cliff as you look in the side-view mirror here. haha nothing to worry about. Just perspective :) Was an interesting experience for me to drive a rather small car that could turn on a dime unlike my old SUV.
Fianally remembered to take a photo of the driver in the rental car when we made a stop at Pritchard's Bakery for some hot cocoa Tuesday morning. Vroom vroom. haha
She could tell that Hannah and I looked pretty beat. I mean we did go 14 hours non-stop the day before, slept maybe 5 hours, and then were at it again. Squeezed in as much as we could in our day of freedom with a car. Totally worth it and another fantastic free-spirited adventure.
Definitely laid down on my bed and dozed off a bit I think before awaking to do a few things. So, the coconuts that had already been poked open that we drank the coconut water out of were in the fridge, and I was determined to crack them open on my own. Island experience, you know... Once I figured out I was hitting it on the wrong equator and turned it properly, I was successful with a little help from my cement step. Awesome! I may have been more excited than necessary, but how many people back in Nebraska can say they've split open their own fresh coconut after drinking the water followed by enjoying the raw fruit inside?
Skyped with one of my girls back home that afternoon, the lovely and awesome Sarah Eagen, before heading into Zumba class. I packed clothes with me to change into as I decided I would head to church that night. Yes, church on a Tuesday night. I was so exhausted, but as Pastor Christensen was only on the island for a few days I decided I wanted to go again. We had extra services this week with him being here, plus they dubbed it a "revival". Although I was a bit sweaty when the boys picked me up in the van, I am really glad I made it to church that night. Pastor Christensen delievered a great message about Ruth. Wow, do I connect well with Ruth. He talked all about how we should serve others and not worry about ourselves first. That is why I am here in American Samoa. I did not come to "find myself". I came to serve. I answered this call to serve here. Really great story from the book of Ruth in the Old Testament.
Made it home around 9pm, where I told Hannah we were still having a piece of the little ice cream cake I made before crashing. After having some ice cream cake at church on Sunday and being in my culinary experimenting mood this week, I had an idea for my own creation. Here she be... simple and delightful. From bottom to top: chocolate chip cookie crumbs, chocolate ice cream from New Zealand, crunchy peanut butter, vanilla ice cream from New Zealand, Butterfinger shavings.
Kept myself busy all day again on Tuesday going all the way from 5am to 9pm with just a little 30 minute doze late morning. Woke up Wednesday morning about 7am and decided to go ahead with my plan of a hike. I was very excited about this hike. I planned on going from Sliding Rock up toward the trail for Fagatele Bay then cutting down on another trail toward Fagalua Cove. The Fogama'a Crater Trail was the only National Park trail on the island of Tutuila I had not yet been on. Well, now I can officially say I have been hiking on all 10 National Park hiking trails on the island of Tutuila. Check! :-) A great hike.
I found myself looking at Fagatele Bay from a different angle for a little while. I had already hiked from Sliding Rock up to Fagatele Bay before with friends but went a little beyond this time.
Then, down to the cove I went. The trail I had not yet touched until Wednesday morning. Beautiful little spot and not that far in if you take a different road and start on the trail itself rather than adding int he extra one I did that morning.
Cool little story about the hike that day. Making my way to the top of the Le'ala Shoreline Trail, I ran into some guys doing some trail maintenance. Well, actually they were taking a break when I stumbled upon them. Charles introduced himself and his companions and chatted me up asking me if I was WorldTeach and what not. Nice guy. Plus, I was jealous of his NPS t-shirt.
As I proceeded along the trail, I could tell they had definitely been there. Really nice. So, then on my way back it was nice and clear. I did finally catch up with them at the bottom and told them how nice the trail was. The four of them smiled, one said you hike too fast", and one asked how my hike was. Working for the NPS. Cool jobs. Here's the nice clear trail. No having to duck under broken branches or crunch on leaves the whole way. haha I didn't really even think about it not really being clear on my way up, but I could tell the difference on the way down.
Sat and waited a little while for a bus to head back home. Was back home by 12:30pm, so I had a nice little 4.5 hour outting. Great exercise, too. Nice and sweaty. Ate a nice lunch including some of that whole wheat bread, a little peanut butter, some cantaloupe, a few slices of cucumber, and some of my raw coconut. Mmmm. Enjoyed the last few pieces of the ice cream I make an hour or so later with Hannah. (Yes, I made it so small there were only a total of four pieces.)
Then, I spent some time sending emails and making contacts working on lining up guest speakers for the rest of the semester and catching up on a few things. Tried working on my post again, but I ran out of time before I needed to head out the door in for Zumba. Lina caught me on the way in, so I didn't have to walk the whole way. They're always surprised that I will go walking out in this heat. Really not that hot. Had my clothes ready for church again, as it was Pastor Christensen's last night with us. We normally have a Wednesday night service anyway, but I haven't made it to that one in a few weeks. After singing hymns and Pastor's last message for us, we had a little fellowship time. Got to try another Samoan specialty - pani popo (cocnut bread). Absolutely delicious. I think the rolls were made with some coconut in them, and then a coconut milk sauce was there. Yum yum. Pastor Scot said they have the bread in Fiji but the sauce is what he thinks really makes it. This is his favorite food down here. I can see why. I got a nice little chat in with Pastor Christensen before heading home in the super packed van. One of the girls asked me if this is what it's like in the States. Not quite. haha I love the van, though :) Made it home around 10pm that night, listened to some music, and hit the hay.
Finally sat down and caught up on my blog Thursday morning for me. I am finishing it up around 10:15am. I woke up around 7:45 this morning. I have just a few little plans between now and school starting back up on Monday. Not the go, go, go I've been the past few days. Time to relax a little. Hope you all are having a nice week. Until next time... Manuia le aso. (If you were paying attention earlier you will know what that means.) :-)