This weekend we finally made it to the National Park of American Samoa!
During orientation we visited the visitor’s center for the National Park which is located downtown. After living next to Acadia National Park (on an island off the coast of Maine) for years, I was super excited to visit the only National Park south of the equator, and I was so disappointed to hear that we would only be checking out the visitor’s center during orientation. When I asked why, the answer was that we could explore the actual park on our own. While that’s true, it isn’t the easiest of parks to visit without a car, but we were lucky and had two friends who had already been there show me the way. That’s kind of the only way to do things around here. This is truly not an island for tourists.
Here we are during orientation, still bright eyed and bushy tailed:
From Utulei we caught an Aua bus to the start of the trail. Thank goodness a bus was heading in that direction. If you are not able to get a ride, be prepared for the hardest part of your day to be just getting to the start of the trail! It’s a 1.2 mile uphill climb from the main road just to get to the start of the trail!
Consider a cab if a bus isn’t heading up Fagasa Pass. Once at the trailhead its a 7 mile round trip hike. I brought a gallon of water and didn’t drink all of it, but might have if it had been hotter.
By the way, below is a picture of an Aiga bus. Aiga buses are privately owned and are our primary means of getting around the island.
The signage from the trail. You’ll see English next to Samoan. The Samoan language belongs to the Austronesian family and its alphabet has only fourteen letters: five vowels, a e i o u, and nine consonants, f g l m n p s t v. Learning the language has been difficult. We had two sessions on language and I picked up on only a few sayings. I am going to keep working on it during my time here. It is a very real barrier though. While many speak English, few speak English well. And when I try to talk to neighbors (or a taxi company), I am never quite sure anyone understands me. There is also a lot of nonverbal communication through facial expressions.
The hike up along the ridge is steep at times with only a few views. However it is nice to walk through the rain forest with a real trail (instead of scrambling over rocks as we do to go swimming at the waterfall).
We saw fruit bats and birds.
See where the houses become fewer and fewer tucked back in the mountains? That’s where the trail begins. Then we walked along the ridge. On the bottom right hand corner you can see my roommate beginning the trek back.
One more view from the top!3