A Stunning Wonder of Nature


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Oceania » Samoa » Upolu
August 17th 2018
Published: August 17th 2018
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We set off along the main south coast road for today’s main destination, the To Sua Trench, which is about 50 kilometres east of the resort. The lack of sign posts trips us up as usual and we find ourselves at a dead end in the middle of a village in the pouring rain. Undaunted, we do a quick U-turn, wave vigorously to some bemused villagers whilst we look keenly at their houses in the vain hope that they’ll think that we came here on purpose, and head on our way again.

We’ve read that the trench is really two trenches, both of which are large holes in the lava, and they are connected to each other and to the sea by lava tubes. The larger of the two trenches, which is the one directly connected to the sea, is called To Sua, which apparently means “big swimming hole”, and the slightly smaller one, which is only very partly full of water, is called To Le Sua, or presumably something like “big swimming hole without too much water in it”.

We see To Le Sua first, and it is stunning. The vertical rock walls that form its sides are completely covered in dense green vegetation, and we can see some people way off in the distance below us in the water at the edge of its base. To Sua is even more stunning due mainly to its larger size and the dazzling colours of its crystal clear pool. We’re both a bit gobsmacked by the beauty of this place. If it was more well known outside of Samoa it would surely be regarded as one of the world’s great natural wonders. What could possibly go wrong in a place of such stunning beauty. Well plenty if what we’ve heard and read is anything to go by. The New Zealand couple that we swam with the turtles with yesterday said that their taxi driver warned them not to go anywhere near the ladder that leads down to the bottom of To Sua. He told them that is was very slippery and way too dangerous for them to attempt to negotiate. Someone else told us that the whole reserve was closed for several hours a week or so back because someone jumped into To Sua from the rim and broke their ankle, and it then took a very long time for rescue services to arrive and winch him out. The Trip Advisor reviews are also littered with warnings about the hazards of the ladder, and how difficult it would be to retrieve your mangled corpse if you fell off it and cracked your skull open on a rock.

Issy tells me that in light of all of this I am welcome to make the perilous journey down the ladder on my own. The ladder is nearly vertical, the rungs are very thin slippery pieces of timber that dig into the soles of my feet, and there are no handrails. If the OH&S inspectors back home in Oz got anywhere near this accident waiting to happen the whole place would be shut down in a heartbeat. Still, we’re not in Oz now, so I inch my way down the ladder whilst clinging on for dear life, and a few minutes later I find myself in the waters of the crystal clear pool, with limbs still in tact. It seems however that the danger is not over. Tu Sua is connected to the ocean via an underwater passage, and we’ve read that the ocean waves cause strong surges of current through the pool. They’ve installed ropes to hang onto so that you don’t get thrown into the rocks, or worse still sucked out to sea never to be seen again, and as I move away from the base of the ladder I cling onto one of these as if my life depends on it, which on the basis of what I’ve read it probably does. The current does surge back and forth a bit, but it’s not too bad, and I manage to swim and pull myself along through the cave that leads into the base of To Le Sua. Issy told me before I left on my perilous expedition that she would take pictures to prove my claims. Last time she took her camera on a tour the battery died. I hope it hasn’t died today. I make the equally hazardous return journey up the ladder eager to see Issy’s photos of my brave exploits, but instead I find her fast asleep in a fale. I’m not game to wake her to ask about the photos. I hope she’s good at Photoshop.

We wander through the colourful and well maintained gardens around the trenches and settle in for lunch at the only cafe here. We chat to a farming couple from New Zealand, and the conversation quickly turns to the scourge of "P", which is apparently Kiwi for methamphetamines. I read a novel recently which was set in the district they come from on the east coast of the North Island, and P was its central theme. I assumed that the author had a very vivid imagination, but it seems that this is a very real and significant problem in their neck of the woods. P is apparently readily made in homemade laboratories, but this is a dangerous process and the labs sometimes explode and can then destroy entire houses. They tell us that if you rent your house out now the estate agent will always screen it for P beforehand so if your beloved property explodes you can prove that it was the tenants' doing. They tell us that they rented out some of their heavy machinery recently, and when the drug inspectors came round after it was returned, they confiscated it because it was drowning in P residue. We were feeling quite good about the world before we started this conversation. They tell us that they live near a tiny settlement which has recently been put on the map by the construction of a rocket launching facility, and it is now known as the rocket capital of New Zealand. They say that if we can scrape together enough cash to buy our own satellite, we can get it launched from there. I wonder if a personalised satellite would improve internet reception at the resort.

We head for home, but as usual miss the unsigned turnoff and soon find ourselves on the wrong side the island and heading towards Apia. It is a very pretty drive through lush green valleys and then small traditional villages along the much less rugged north coast.

We stop at an art gallery/art school/cafe on the hill overlooking Apia. The owner is American. She tells us that she came to Samoa 35 years ago, married a local, and has been here ever since. Issy’s been on a few painting expeditions to Bali with fellow artists, and asks the lady whether she might be able to accommodate them here next time instead. I can feel a return trip coming on.

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