Lake Lanoto’o, Samoa
Lake Lanoto’o is on the to do list today and I was out of the hostel by 9am (to ensure I’d have enough time to return my rental vehicle by 1pm).
Things did not go to plan. Firstly, I got lost in Apia (didn’t think it was possible), driving around for 45 minutes, before I got onto the Island Crossover Rd. The map showed only 1 possible road to turn off on to get to the lake. The map was was wrong. Lost again! So far, I’d been lost in a city no bigger than a suburb and driven a Samoan lady home (who’s house was not near the Lake as she’d advised).
Back on the main road, I try yet another turn off. This time, I flagged down a passing car to ask a local, if this was the way to the Lake. He said, “yes, you’re on the right road to the lake but don’t go there! The road is bad. Potholes and bumpy”. Challenge accepted my Samoan friend.
Beginning my 4×4 adventure, I looked down at my fuel gauge Empty. ****. In fear of becoming stranded, I temporarily abandoned the Lake trip and turned around for fuel. Rolling back down the hills, in neutral, on empty, with Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you” on the radio. All I could think was, “If this vehicle breaks down, please don’t let it be to this song”. A few minutes later, a beacon of roadside hope appears.. A petrol station. It’s 11am and there’s no way I can resume Lake hunting and return my rental vehicle by 1pm… So it’s back to Apia, to hire the car for another day.
Cut to I’m back up in the hills and it’s all systems go as I take the correct, unsigned, turn off to the lake. It doesn’t take long for me to realise why the local guy had said not to go on this road… This 2 door Rav 4 was four wheel driving under duress… It was not enjoying the terrain. Having no idea how long this road went for, I pressed on, until I saw a sign. An actual sign, indicating that I was in the right place! I got out of the car, swapped my thongs for hiking shoes, and started walking.
The track starts next to a grassy, overgrown, cow paddock and leads into a lush, tree fern strewn forest. The rich red clay is slippery underfoot and quickly cakes my hiking shoes. Humidity is high and the rain drizzle, constant, and welcome.
I’d gone from sunshine down in Apia, to doom n gloom with a heavy layer of cloud up in these hills. The weather in Samoa varies from village to village. It could be all sunshine and lollipops on one side of the island and a sh*t storm on the other. The same goes for the mountains.
After the difficulty of finding this place, I could understand why I was alone on this trail… It was a real private expedition… until I ran into some men slashing the overgrown path and doing general “path maintenance”. Some 500 meters later, another group.. only this time, a woman stopped me, to gather feedback on the trail. Both she, and the men, are from the Department of Environment, working in conjunction with the Department of Tourism, doing mapping and trail maintenance etc. She asked if she could take a picture with me and one of the workers (to show that people still came here). I sweatily obliged and suggested they install road signage and an actual road! (I’m told the road is actually on private land, so that’s something they have to negotiate with the owner).
Walking along in the rain, on the muddy track, I scramble up a short, sharp, incline, before finding myself in a grassy clearing, over looking lake Lanoto’o. The trail continued a short distance longer, leading down to the water. Finally, I’d reached my destination!
A crew of workers had caught up to me at the lakes edge. We chatted about the lake and upon request, I provided more feedback/ suggestions for the trail. (If you ever visit lake Lanoto’o and find they’ve constructed a landing out onto the lake, that was my idea, you’re welcome).
I’d began the trail to Lake Lanoto’o alone but I was returning to my vehicle in a Samoan Environmental Convoy Conga Line… It was like being escorted from the trail… In a good way.
The weather remained tropically rainy, so I spent the remainder of the day driving around, taking pictures and being a tourist. With my legs still muddy from my Lake Lanoto’o adventure and the car, also muddy (I hope the hire place don’t charge me extra for that on return), it was time to return to base camp (Apia).
Back in Apia, sitting at the traffic lights, two lanes over from me, there’s a vehicle, with the lady driver frantically grinding away at her gearbox with the vehicle ceasing to move. Her traffic light was green, but she was going no where…. I parked around the corner and approached the two ladies sitting in their stationary vehicle on the busy multi lane road. The driver, an elderly lady named Vassu said, “I’m sorry, the car won’t move”. “I know” I said, and offered to give them a push. Her passenger, Parnelia said she’d help me however Vassu was not comfortable to steer across traffic… In the time this event was unfolding, traffic was piling up and at least 6 utilities, their trays filled with stocky Samoan labourers, drove around us, not bothering to offer help! Chivalry is dead. Long story short, Parnelia steered, Vassu waited on the sidewalk and Samoan traffic watched on, as I pushed the vehicle over 2 lanes of traffic and around the corner to obstruct a footpath, instead of a road. Vassu thanked me, gave me a hug and kiss, and I disappeared… like Batman, or Mother Theresa. Today, was the day of good deeds for me. Sisters helping sisters. #sistersaredoingitforthemselves or #cheloenaisdoingitforthem Time to hit the showers.