Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Still life with mullet

A few weeks ago at the annual Pua'a festival, I stumbled across this. I have refrained from posting about the (abundant numbers of) mullets here in Samoa for some time, but this is such a good photo I couldn't hold back any longer.

Savaii - Olemoe waterfall

Tucked away in the southern interior of Savaii is Olemoe waterfall (I believe also known as Afu Aau). It's a couple of kilometres off the main road and really only accessible by foot or in a 4WD but it's well worth the visit. Careful navigation of a steep, muddy trail and rickety old ladder is necessary if you want to swim.

Some twenty or so metres high, the waterfall falls into a crystal clear freshwater pool. The pool is quite deep, reaching seven metres depth in some places, and is wonderfully refreshing to swim in. The rock walls of the ravine stretch up high into the sky, covered in rich, dense plantlife. Lichens and moss at the bottom give way to ferns, which in turn are replaced by trees and vines towards the top. On all sides the pool is surrounded by thick tropical jungle.

If you do swim in the pool you'll discover that you're not alone. Freshwater prawns and yabbies inhabit are abundant; sit still long enough on the water's edge and you'll feel them occasionally nip at your toes.

It's a truly beautiful place and so secluded you very quickly forget the rest of the world.

Savaii - Lava flows

The islands of Samoa are volcanic in origin; dormant and extinct volcanoes exist on each of the major islands that constitute the Samoa archipelago (Samoa and American Samoa further to the east). The presence of these volcanoes is no more evident than on Savaii, the second of the two large islands that constitute Samoa.

Large swathes of Savaii are covered in lava flows, the remnants of a slow eruption from two volcanic mountains that took place from 1905 until 1911. Driving along the eastern coastal road of Savaii reveals large tracts of land where the lava dominates the landscape. Dark black lava (andesite or basalt perhaps? Rock nerds let me know), showing the effects of its slow flow across the landscape, stretches across the horizon. Large sections are rippled, and long fractures streak through it all.

Most interesting of all are the places where the lava met, and consumed, areas of human habitation. In one area on the eastern coast, three churches were destroyed by the lava flow yet still stand. The London Missionary Service (LMS) church, pictured here, is amazing. The lava filled about half of the building, slowly pouring through its main entrance. Impressions remain where the corrugated iron roofing collapsed onto the lava.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Manuia le Aso Ausetalia

My apologies, I don't know how to say "Happy Invasion Day" in Samoan yet. Still have much to learn.

Regardless, a few of us kicked off the celebrations on what is, technically, a day early. We took the afternoon off work to head home and listen to Triple J's Hottest 100 broadcast over the Internet. We had sausages and onions on pieces of bread with sauce, Caramello Koalas, etc., and generally had a good time. Not too sure I agree with Bernard Fanning earning the No. 1 spot though. Rubbish.

Still, a good time was had by all and the best bit is, tomorrow we get to celebrate it all over again. All the Australians the High Commission has been able to hunt down have been invited to an official reception tomorrow (Jan 26th) evening. A friend and I will also be throwing an Australia Day bbq at work tomorrow too.

Sometimes living in the last place on earth has its advantages. ;)

What's in a name?

In Samoa, anything and everything. I've never come across a culture so ready to embrace the unusual, or more plainly the "other", when it comes to names. They truly take the idea of loan words to new heights. Some rippers that have come my way lately include:

Comeboy Michael
Ausetalia (Australia)
Census Johnson (a great Samoan rugby player)
Ofisa Ofisa
Komiti Komiti
Fa'afetai (thankyou)

Unfortunately I've misplaced the best/most astonishing name I've come across yet. I'll do my best to hunt it down and add it to this list.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Cops play pops

Every weekday morning, just before 8am, Beach Rd comes to a standstill as the Samoa Police band makes its way to the Government building for the raising of the national flag. On the way they perform several traditional marching band numbers as the cars idle slowly behind them. As the flag is raised they play the Samoan national anthem and all traffic comes to a standstill.

As a friend noted this morning, it's an interesting little piece of Colonial history that the Samoans embraced as their own. The officers wearing skirts does give it a decidedly Samoan character.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Tropical cyclones Tam & Urmil

The first cyclones of the season have formed not too far south-west of Samoa. Lucky for us (though perhaps not so lucky for those in Tonga, Niue and Wallis & Futuna) it looks like they should pass us by.

Over the last few days it's been easy to tell that something big has been brewing. It's been raining solidly for at least three days now, and the wind has been gusting harder and harder. This morning on the way to work I saw a couple of coconut trees that had snapped in half overnight. Low-lying areas have suffered some minor to moderate flooding too. At the end of the day though, we're suffering nothing more than rubbish weather. I'm sure Melbournians put up with this kind of thing all the time. ;)

The US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration posts visible and infrared spectrum satellite images of the region on their website. If you have Java, you can even look at some of their satellite image loops. The image above is cropped from the coloured infrared snapshot taken at 6.30pm UMT on the 13th. You can see the outline of Samoa's two islands just above and to the right of the centre of cyclone Urmil. The Fijian island chain is in the clear to the left. Tonga, rather unfortunately, is a small white speck in the main part of the cyclone. Tropical cyclone Tam is just off the bottom of the image.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sunset in Samoa

This is what sunset looks like in Samoa. I took this photo just outside of my house this afternoon.

Living like hermits (continued)

Say hello to the most domesticated pig in Samoa. A resident of Namu'a, she kept us company (or perhaps occasionally demanded it) during our stay. She particularly liked scratches under her chin and behind her ear.

Living like hermits

After a particularly long (but definitely enjoyable!) Christmas Day, I managed to get out of town for a couple of days with a couple of friends. We were able to escape to the comparative calm and quiet of Namu'a island, a small island off the south-east point of 'Upolu (the main island of Samoa, the other large island being Savaii). With just a single beach (really just a splash of sand) and a handful of fales sitting just behind it, Namu'a is tiny. It's the perfect place to go and hide from the rest of the world.

The waters around Namu'a are a popular feeding ground for sea turtles. On the boat over to the island we spotted a giant one, gliding effortlessly and gracefully through the crystal clear water. Very amazing.

Whilst there, I can safely say all I managed to do was go snorkeling, eat the occasional meal and sleep. Oh, that and meet the most domesticated pig I've encountered in Samoa.