Our last day on American Samoa started out in an empty house. It was a Monday and our hosts had all gone to work. They told us the night before to help ourselves to breakfast. We were going to do that, but we couldn’t find the Cocoa Krispies from the day before. I should probably note that this is the first time that I have eaten Cocoa Krispies, I didn’t even realize that they were simply Rice Krispies with chocolate on them. We searched and searched for the cereal and were unable to find them. They weren’t in any of the cabinets, were they in the refrigerator? Ah yes, how could we forget to look there, we scarfed down some breakfast and then packed some day bags to head out to Mount Matafao, the tallest on the island.
We bussed to the National Park Visitor’s Center to ascertain the location of the trailhead and hopped on another bus to take us there. On the right was a trail that was well marked and easy to find, the trail to Mount Alava. This was the trail we were supposed to look for, because across the street from it would be our trail. If we didn’t know it was there we wouldn’t have found it. The beginning of the trail was a rusty staircase/ladder with overgrown brush covering nearly all of the steps.
The hike was hot and sweaty. He hiked up through the rainforest to the ridgeline that would lead us to Matafao. Everything is green. EVERYTHING. It’s incredible to hike through such a lush place.
Most of the hike was reasonable until we got close to the summit. When you weren’t crawling up the mountain on hands and feet you were holding onto a rope that was attached to a tree further up the mountain. It felt nearly vertical and there were drop offs on either side, luckily the masses of trees and vegetation would catch you before you fell too far.
There was one false summit, but we knew it was coming so were not surprised when we got to the top and found we still had several hundred feet to go. I scrambled to the top where there was a strange rusty structure that looked like a large chimney. The view from the top was 360 degrees and gave a view of Pago Pago Harbor, the airport and nearby bay; you could even see the far side of the island.
When Trevor arrived at the top he looked pale. We sat in the shade, drank some water and had a can of tuna as a snack. We sat inside the rusty chimney structure to avoid the sun beating down on us. As we sat there a gecko fell on the ground in front of us. He seemed a little stunned and walked around on our hands and legs for a little bit before hopping on the wall to climb free. We took some pictures and then made to descend. The steepness of the trail going down was far more treacherous, you had to grab the rope and then turn around backwards to make your way down, it was relatively easy and relatively nerve wracking, but we got it done.
We made it to the bottom, climbed down the rusty staircase and miraculously caught a bus about 1-minute after getting on the road. The nice thing about not having bus stops is that they will just stop for you whenever you flag them down. We stopped at the Visitor’s Center, tracked down the nearest place with Powerade and then sat in the air condition to write some letters to drop at the Post Office before bussing back to pick up our stuff and head to the airport.
There were lots of open seats, they told us we would likely make this flight, and we did. We didn’t make our first flight, but were rewarded with the opportunity to swim in a National Marine Sanctuary and climb to the tip of the tallest mountain on the island. It was only two days, but it was worth the sea to summit experience.