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Surviving a Day at the Beach is no Picnic

One day, Tavae asks me if I want to go to “survivor’s beach.” Of course, I don’t understand what he’s talking about, because one: I don’t understand what he’s talking about, and two: I don’t watch TV, so I have no idea that they filmed a couple of “Survivor” shows in Samoa. Well, it turns out that the “Survivor” beach is over the mountain behind the village. You can get most of the way to it by car from the other direction, but from isolated Matafa’a, of course, it’s a rugged climb up steep, muddy jungle trails and then down to the beach.

It also turns out that “Survivor” beach is part of Matafa’a village; Tavae’s grandfather “owns” it—which means, at some point, the village chiefs allotted it to his family. Feeling pretty strong and adventurous, I say, “Let’s go,” and we make a plan to head off early the next morning—Saturday. At dawn, we are joined by Tuilagi and his brother-in-law—they say they are going to pick taro and breadfruit, but I think they just want to keep an extra eye on me.

Up the nearly vertical trail behind the village we go—the guys take off their sandals for better barefoot traction in the muck; my Vibram Five Finger booties are serving me well. Even as he sun is just rising, we are drenched in sweat. These guys have been clambering these trails since they were children and they don’t miss a step; I, on the other hand, occasionally slip or stumble, but am keeping up pretty well. (Let’s see them make the connection to the shuttle at 42nd Street at rush hour!)

Tavae, Mr. Peanut

Escorting me to the top of the mountain, passing wild mushrooms, jungle peanuts, a few big tropical hardwood trees (Tuilagi says, “Good for canoes, but too heavy”—we are all obsessed with canoes), he and his bro-in-law leave me and Tavae to continue to the beach alone. (Tuilagi says he is going to collect cocoa pods to make fresh roasted cocoa later. See blog about Koko Samoa: “Samoa Slow.”)

Over the crest and down the other side to one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. No wonder the “Survivor” people chose the location. There is even evidence, out on the reef, that there would be good surf if there were a swell. Considering it took two hours of difficult hiking to get here—it ain’t called “survivor” for nothing—I don’t know if I’d want to try carrying a surfboard, too. Needless to say, there isn’t another soul within 10 miles… hard miles.

We hang out for a while and swim in the crystal turquoise water, then start the long hike back. After a rinse and a quick lie-down, I am off to Tuilagi’s to learn how to make cocoa—the Samoa way: starting with the pods. Koko Samoa, it’s called.

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