Futuna and I got off to a rocky start. When we arrived in port, a low grey mist hung over the island. Within minutes of disembarking the boat, a thick sheet of rain was unleashed and refused to let up. Not wanting to waste any of our time on the island we continued exploring, but spent a prolonged amount of time at an (abandoned?) gas station trying to wait some of the worst of it out.
Lost (aka one of the most amazing television series of all time) was filmed in Hawaii, something that caused me to spend a fair amount of time geeking out when I visited Waimea Valley. While the show is most well known for the loveable characters and convoluted plot, I always found the dramatic landscape completed the package.
Thanks to this post, however, I’m convinced that Wallis is the “true” Island of Lost. Using all kinds of smarts, this poster has ascertained that Wallis is the place that makes the most sense as the actual crash site for Flight 815.
So I geeked out all over again.
As if Wallis didn’t already feel like enough of an exotic and remote location to have visited, I can now claim (sort of) that I’ve been to the Lost Island.
(Though I’ll admit I did not see any polar bears/smoke monsters/Dharma initiative buildings).
Michel, who works at “Wallis Radio” and helped to guide us to shore, came down to the ship and I was able to meet him in person! A kind and talkative man, he also presented me with a cherished gift, a beautiful picture book on the island of Wallis. Flipping through these stills always immediately takes me back. I can almost smell the fruit browning in the hot sun, swaying in the nets set up across the nooks of the ship, or feel the cooling breeze as we feasted on croque monsieurs under a fale.
Sailing into the island of Wallis, or Uvea as it is known locally, was no small feat. The island is surrounded by an imposing barrier reef, and although there are breaks that allow boats through passage is carefully planned.
Endless consultations with charts and tide timetables preceded our arrival. Of course, communicating with the locals was another key element. Once again Canada Kate was called upon to whip out my (fairly limited) French. I spoke with Michel from “Wallis Radio” who helped to guide us through. While the ship’s radio hissed and crackled, and my grammer was questionable, we ultimately understood each other and I like to think I played my role in safely guiding us in to Wallis, past the beautiful but treacherous reef.
While in Apia, we were determined to get to To Le Sua Ocean trench. I’d seen enough photos (one) to be completely transfixed and determined to go and take a little break from sailing/researching/cleaning to relax in a true tropical vacation kinda way. After visiting SPREP in the morning and feeling as though we had accomplished enough research for the day, we took the afternoon off and headed for the swim hole! We asked around and it seemed the best way was to taxi. Before we left, we had agreed upon a price. It worked out to be about 30 dollars Canadian for a round trip for each of us, which although not cheap, we decided was a worthwhile price as it was also kind of a chance to sightsee more of Upolu.
I definitely spent more time then the average traveler in Samoa getting overly excited about trash. In fact, our first morning in Apia I saw a truck collecting rubbish and immediately grabbed my camera and happily snapped away. Despite all signs pointing to me a Crazy Trash Lady, this was related to my research which focused on waste management, and so in my mind was totally justified and normal.
When I wasn’t taking tours of neato bathrooms or asking people what they do with food scraps, however, I acted like a normal traveler in Apia.
This city was incredibly entertaining. Bright, hot, and loud, it was great fun navigating the busy handicraft market or wandering through the stunning Immaculate Conception of Mary Cathedral. People in Samoa were friendly and accommodating, although it definitely pays off to respect some local customs, such as covering up at the beach and wearing a lava-lava. English is also widely spoken and understood.
Every adventure starts somewhere. For me, it was in Pago Pago.
I arrived in American Samoa late on a Friday night. A pick up truck that had somehow had the bed extended outwards and fashioned into a bus drove us from the airport to where the boat was docked. Painted a deep forest green, it creaked a little as we clambered aboard with all our gear. Despite significant travel exhaustion, I leaned out the paneless window, breathing in the warm, sweet air. It was too dark to catch much of a view, and so I arrived to the boat with little awareness of my surroundings. I was assigned my bunk and collapsed in a pile of luggage and sweat. When I awoke on Saturday morning I was thoroughly disoriented by the sound of waves lapping against the hull and the 30 degree heat. When I remembered where I was I quickly smiled and rushed up the stairs to catch my first look at Pago Pago in the light.
Like so many other university students, my first real foray into solo travel came in the form of a study abroad. I knew for years that I wanted to do a study abroad, but found it incredibly difficult to choose *where* when so many incredible options exist. Then I discovered Sea Education Association, a program through Boston University that offers you the opportunity to sail a tall ship while completing original research. While my sailing knowledge was limited to what I knew from watching Pirates of the Caribbean eleven times, I was obsessed with this idea. Suddenly I was signed up to traverse the Pacific Ocean, travelling from American Samoa to New Zealand. (Side note to anyone interested: they offer ah-mazing scholarships, which is what made it possible for me to participate!)
The program began with a month long session in Woods Hole, MA. We lived on campus and even had access to a private beach (that we frequented nearly each day after class). Being able to study by the ocean and wake up 10 minutes before class made this a pretty stellar component of the program. This time was spent preparing ourselves to be at sea, a preparation that took many forms. We prepared ourselves academically by attending classes and doing a lot of our preliminary research. We prepared ourselves socially, getting to know our soon-to-be-shipmates. We were even preparing ourselves nautically, by learning all about navigation, weather reporting, and how to put on an immersion suit (which is definitely harder then it looks).
Last year I was fortunate enough to spend six weeks in Chicoutimi, Quebec with the Explore Program. This provides Canadians with the chance to go learn French somewhere in Canada for free! The government pays for everything except your transportation. Not Canadian? You might still be able to snag a scholarship from your university or grants that support people looking to learn a new language.
While I spent the majority of my time in Chicoutimi stumbling over the subjonctif, I also managed to sneak in some sightseeing. Quebec is a large and scenic province, making it difficult to narrow down what to see (aside from the obvious stops in Montreal and Quebec City). If you’re venturing further north then the region of Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean has a lot to offer.