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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

Matavanu Crater

SAMOA | Thursday, 27 October 2016 | Views [406]

Mt. Matavanu

Mt. Matavanu

The coast of Savai’i has its population sprinkled in small villages along the coast. Savai’i’s interior, however, is a vast, wild, and untamed wilderness akin to Southwest Tasmania or New Zealand’s Fiordland. In a lucky break I had an opportunity to strike out and visit Matavanu Crater. Though extremely isolated it’s one of the more accessible areas of the interior of the largest island in Polynesia. Yesterday I tried to hitchhike to the crater, and as I slipped in some loose gravel, a cattle rancher named Linu picked me up.

He looks more like he belongs in the tobacco fields of Cuba or in a small town in El Salvador but he recently moved back from American Samoa after his wife passed away. He brought me to his home and explained that his cattle ranch is very near the crater, and if I made it today to his home by 8:30 AM he’d drop me there. The early bird gets the worm, so I made sure I was up with the roosters. After coffee and pancakes for brekkie, Tausala gave me a lift to Sofotu. She’s the principal of the primary school there. Walking to Linu’s home, he and his mates were having their brekkie. I can never go anywhere in Samoa without being offered something to eat, though the Samoan heat makes me a lot more tired than hungry. In his old beat-up Jeep Cherokee, we drove slowly up the 8 km dirt road to his ranch. Linu was right when he said I wouldn’t get a lift in the afternoon and you definitely need a robust, sturdy vehicle (preferably 4WD) to get there. 20 minutes later I was at the fale of Seu, the "Crater Man." An interesting-looking man he is with a long beard and a thumbnail about 3 cm long. When I asked him about the latter he said it’s so he could easily play his guitar.

Linu gave me an extra bottle of water before dropping me. After chatting to the Seu and paying the 20 tala fee, I headed up the hill. It’s a hot and steamy walk so I was thankful for that extra bottle of water. A fair bit of cloud cover made the walk a little more bearable. Seu has made a series of wooden signs of notes written by his visitors from 128 countries.

Halfway into my walk I passed the second fale, and further along I came upon a third fale. Some barbed wire blocked off the dirt road further ahead and I wasn’t sure where to go. I looked near the fale in several places for a path, and then went under the barbed wire thinking it was further ahead. At the end of the road I ended up in a paddock with no discernible path to the crater. A sign next to the Seu’s fale shows the path and I’d be kicking myself for not taking a photo of it. After a sip of water and some thinking I felt I had no choice but to turn back. Why? I hate turning back when I fail! Only a few metres down the road, I did notice the trail! On my way to the crater I was, and before long I was face to face with this massive chasm called Matavanu Crater. Mt. Matavanu blew its top in 1905, and over six years it wiped out several villages. Plant growth is extremely dense and I could see surprisingly little volcanic rock. Whilst the crater itself was rather unimpressive, the real joy was a chance to penetrate Savai’i’s interior. I’ve thought of climbing Mt. Silisili but it’s a two- to three-day climb and you need a guide. I thanked Seu before carrying on to Linu’s ranch. A couple of Australian girls showed up in their car so I was thinking of waiting for them and hitching out, but Linu and his mates offered me a lift back down the hill. If you’re planning a visit to Matavanu Crater, do not underestimate the sheer isolation and do not attempt it in a standard rental car. I was exhausted by the time I was back in Sofotu

Yesterday I picked up by a bloke who is good friends with the general manager of the Tokelau office. It’s been more than two weeks since I’ve applied for my permit and he said he’d try to help streamline the process. When he called me today he said the general manager told him the boats have been full due to the holidays approaching. That was my biggest concern! And I made it a point to get to Samoa with enough time to organize the Tokelau journey, and now there’s a possibility of it not happening. My main objective for coming to Samoa is to go to Tokelau and if I fail, it would be crushing. If I have to wait another two weeks I may make a run for American Samoa but I really want to visit Tokelau first!

After the slog up to the crater I was worn out and stinky so I did what is best in the Samoan heat: a shower and a midday nap. Kids were out playing football and volleyball and I made it a point to get back to the shop before the start of sa, the evening prayer. At sunset every day, the prayer lasts for about 20 minutes and everyone must be indoors. The other evening I made the mistake of wandering outside during sa and was told off for it. Fa’a Samoa is the way of Samoan life, and I must respect Fa’a Samoa.

Tausala would do a lot of cooking tonight, making eggplant stew, fried pork, and breadfruit topped with coconut cream. The boys grated some coconut so I could make some more coconut bread.

Tonight was especially hard for me, as I’ve been having issues with a very dear friend over a boyfriend. I’ve lost a large number of friends as a direct result of boyfriends and it gets harder each time I lose a friend for that reason. I’m supposed to be happy because I’m staying with a lovely Samoan family and for reaching the crater today, but I’ve been feeling bittersweet. Many of my female friends have had a tendency to just dive head first into a relationship without thinking of the potential damage it could do to existing relationships, with both friends and family. My trust has been deeply violated.

Whilst I should be reminiscing on reaching the crater today, I’m melancholy over losing my best friend. I’m beyond devastated this evening with no way out of it...

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