Thursday, March 6
Yesterday we spent the morning and most of the afternoon exploring the volcanic nature of Samoa. The Samoan islands were created by volcanic activity and today still have several volcanoes that are considered to be active. The last major activity was between 1905 and 1911 with the eruption of Mt. Matavanu. The lava flows from that eruption are still very visible as you drive along the north coast between Samalae’ulu and Safa’i.
Our first stop was at the Peapea Cave. This is a lava tube that you can climb down into and walk through for about 100 yards. Other than the bats there is not much to see.
I’m not too sure about the geology of the tubes, but that they were created by the lava flows during eruptions. The tubes that reach the ocean create very dramatic blowholes that I am told have no equal anywhere in the world. As waves surge into the tubes pressure is created forcing the water to escape through vents in the top of the tubes creating a plume of water that can reach several hundred feet in the air.
To reach Mt. Matavanu you leave the coast road at Samauga and travel a dirt road to Paia. Paia is the site of an ancient fort and mound and is one of the few inland villages in the island. From Paia you travel on a dirt and cinder road for several miles through the village plantations. Eventually you start to climb the mountain and get to the point where the truck can take no more and you have to get out and walk. The crater is about 1320 feet high and took nearly two hours more on foot to reach it. The landscape changes from the lush plantations to rather sparse vegetation to thick rainforest as you ascend the summit. You get magnificent views of the ocean and lava fields as you climb. In the rain forest we came across many beautiful wild orchids and exotic plants. The crater is canyon like and covered in vegetation. The walls are very steep and given my fear of heights I didn’t venture too close to the edge to look down. With all the vegetation it is difficult to image that this is still classified as an active volcano.
Just as we reached the crater it started to rain and pretty soon we were soaked. I got moisture in my camera so the pictures of the crater were the last I got that day. It doesn’t appear that the camera was permanently affected so I should be able to post more pictures in the future.
After we worked our way down the mountain in the tropical rain shower we visited the lava flows. There is an area in the middle of the flow where a partially built Methodist church seems to have survived the lava flows while the Mormon and Catholic Church were destroyed. There is also a site of a grave that is referred to as the "Virgin’s Grave" that is supposed to contain the body of a novice Catholic nun from a nearby convent. The lava appears to have flowed around the grave leaving it untouched. Both of these are attributed to "miracles" but geologists believe steam vents in the lava protected the sites.
Lava rock is everywhere on the island and results in the beautiful black sand beaches and my sore feet. Even though I am careful to wear shoes or sandals I go to bed each night with sore feet from walking over the lava rocks.