It’s likely that we never would have considered taking the right turn off the main road in the direction of Lake Lanoto’o had we heard the stories in advance. It wasn’t so much my Mother-in-Law’s description of the thick fog, the quicksand, the wild animals and the cave people (we were pretty sure those warnings could be written off as being merely another example of Samoan humor). It was more cousin Trisha’s insistence that we needed a local guide for the uphill hike that would take at least an hour and require us to go barefoot during the more slippery and steep portions of the trek. Yes, there was swimming and goldfish and a deep volcanic crater lake at the end of the described hike, but we could also expect to be covered in mud and leeches.
Yet, we knew none of that as the road turned from pavement to gravel to grass to rocks, mud and deep puddles. We four-wheeled it (much to the chagrin of our relatives at Budget) for nearly a mile past the point where any signs of a road ended.
The last time I did any four wheeling I was in my teens, in my own truck, on my own property, with my own friend and traveling alongside my youthful and carefree, take no prisoners attitude (in other words, my anti-anxiety medication dosage level was only slightly above average), so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that my skills had diminished by the time I made that right turn. Only my sense of panic was sharper as my wife and I convinced ourselves, over and over, that in a few more yards we’d likely see the shores of our desired location.
In reality, we were nowhere even close.
We passed the last fales on the side of the road. A few locals peaked out to see who the crazy people were who would dare to drive this non-road during the rainy season. After we drove by the last abandoned tin shack, it was just us and the long weeds and ominous rocks and deep mud rings that dotted our virgin lane through the deep grass.
click photo for better version
Finally we arrived at a sign covered by overgrown weeds that told us we were near the car park. Only later did we realize that we had only managed to get to the point where the hiking was to begin. Luckily for us, the rains came as we reached that point in our journey and something between fear and common sense (the cornerstones of my own heritage) dictated that we make a slippery u-turn and head back to the early evening buffet at our hotel where we ate like we had just returned from a decade stranded on the set of the show Lost.
The cool, refreshing swim in the lake (and the quicksand and cave people) will have to wait until next time.