Christmas in American Samoa – Part Two
Trip Dates: December 20th, 2018 – December 27th, 2018
Ofu Island/Vaoto Lodge: This ‘highlight’ could be an entire post in and of itself. And, alas, it is because I couldn’t briefly summarize this paradise into a paragraph or two for part one...
When I saw pictures of Ofu Beach, I knew I had to do whatever it took to get to Ofu – an island that’s part of the Manu'a Group of the Samoan Islands – 75 miles away from the main island of Tutuila. When I say I was willing to do whatever it took to get there, do know that it took a lot because flights from Pago Pago only go to Ofu once a week. So, we took a flight with Samoa Airways to Ta’U (yet another island) and then we hopped in the back of a pickup truck to go from the airstrip to the boat harbor and then took a boat across the islands IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN from Ta’U to Ofu. I…I was scared and I don’t think I had ever been happier to step on land before.
Fun Fact: There are two places to stay on Ofu – Vaoto Lodge and Asaga Inn. I had been in communication with Deborah at Vaoto Lodge since September and was really quite happy to see her and it was pretty special to see her reunite with her daughter, Taylor, who took the journey with us from Pago Pago to Ofu. From the boat dock we hopped in the back of yet another pickup truck to get to the lodge. All that being said… the journey was one of the highlights!
Another highlight, for better or worse, was getting absolutely soaked not more than an hour after we finally got to Ofu. Deb asked if we wanted to accompany her to drop something off on the other side of the island and of course we said yes – we wanted to see the island! We were enjoying the ride (yes, in the back of the pickup truck), when it started POURING rain. American Samoa is great in the fact it pours and pours and pours and then the sun comes right back out. Well, it was pouring, pouring, and the dog that was in the pickup with us added an extra pouring as he insisted on shaking out his fur all over us. So, so funny. That night, Christa and I joined Deb, Taylor, and two researchers staying at the lodge (I feel terrible I can’t remember their names…) at the annual Christmas performance at the local church. I hope I can post the video because it was glorious. A job well done.
We spent Christmas Day sitting in the ocean, in a National Park. I had finally visited the tranquil beach I saw in the photos. The photos that made me want to visit. I was there! I was sitting on the remote, unpopulated, quiet, perfect beach. But I still missed my family. Reading, snorkeling, and sunbathing were great and all but nothing really compares to the Christmas family traditions. Deb made a great Christmas dinner for us and in a shocking turn of events, Jeremy gifted us with a present! We watched the sunset in the South Pacific Ocean and I felt an immense sense of gratitude. It was a pretty memorable day.
Remember that fourth hike I was talking about? Well, we hiked the NPS-deemed “challenging” Tumu Mountain Trail the following day. I am still so thankful Ben, of Vaoto Lodge, let us use the pickup truck to get to the trailhead. Jeremy, Christa, Taylor, Weston and his parents, and myself started tackling the mountain early on 12/26. We started so early that when we finally got to the top, covered in sweat, the view was completely covered, blanketed with a massive cloud. The disappointment was indescribably overwhelming. So, we decided to wait. We waited and we waited and little by little, the view was revealed. An hour or so later, we witnessed the stunning views of all three Manu’a Islands and the ocean corals. The different shades of blue were magical. Of course, it rained while we were hiking down but it felt refreshing, too. After a refreshing shower, it was our last day on the island and I remembered there were still a couple more items I had to cross off the “Ofu Bucket List.” One of which was jumping off a bridge!!!
The islands of Ofu and Olosega are connected by a single-lane road bridge and visitors love to jump off into the crystal blue water. Ben was going to drop us off but we were able to convince him to stay “if we jumped quickly.” Now this was the motivation I needed to take the plunge. Would I risk losing my ride back to the lodge and have to walk three miles back? I might like hiking but I’m a fat kid at heart. I jumped the second I got to three! It was exhilarating… especially when I thought I was drowning and then realized there was a sandbar and I could just stand up instead of flailing about trying to swim. Good times.
Once we arrived back at the lodge (via pickup truck), it was time to borrow the bikes at the lodge. Christa and I peddled down the road and took a bunch of pictures. Believe it or not, it didn’t rain on us! The last item on the list – trying coconut crab. Deb and Ben served us some incredible meals while we were at the lodge and on our last night we were able to try coconut crab. Coconut crabs live on land and are normally hunted at night, that’s why we didn’t find any on our hike to Tumu Mountain. They have the ability to open coconuts to get at the soft meat inside. It’s considered a delicacy and delicious it was! I’m glossing over the fact I had to use a legitimate hammer to get to the meat… It was the perfect last day in paradise.