Mountain Climbing and Cliff Jumping

Sunday August 15th

Yesterday was by far one of the most exhausting days we have had during our 2.5 months in American Samoa, but was easily one of my favorite days yet. Friday after school Rudy, who is working for the Department of Marine and Wildlife Resources here on Ta’u, offered to take us hiking up Mt. Lata. We all jumped on the chance to go to the highest point in American Samoa. We got up early despite it being Saturday and piled into the back of Rudy’s truck at 7am and started the journey. The trail head is just off the main road in Fitiuta, the village on the northeast end of the island. A typical island downpour came out of nowhere on the ride there, but the 3 girls were able to stay dry by sitting in the back of the truck bed right against the cab. The guys got soaked.

By the time we arrived at the trail head the rain had stopped and the sun was just starting to come back through the clouds. Rudy, Joe, Chris, Matt, Jason, Diana, Sasha, and I spent the next 3 hours hiking to the summit through the rainforest with Rudy as our guide to keep us heading in the right direction. There is a trail marked by ribbons tied to trees here and there, but since so few people actually complete this hike it isn’t always obvious which direction to choose. The trail is extremely muddy and at one point requires hiking for a good distance up slippery moss covered rocks. Hot, sweaty, and covered in mud we finally reached the summit, 3159 feet, where it’s a lot cooler and there is a strong breeze. We took advantage of the cool temperatures by relaxing in the clouds for a bit and eating lunch. We also signed the visitor’s log- a sheet of notebook paper and a pencil in a peanut butter jar tied to a tree. There aren’t many names in the log, but we were able to add 8 more which seems to have doubled the list. We then started the journey back down the mountain. That means getting back down the muddy slopes and slippery rocks. At many points we simply sat down and did a crab walk like maneuver to get down the rocks and practiced our skiing to slide down the muddy slopes. The entire trip from the trail head up the mountain and back down took about 7 hours.

Once we reached flat ground again Joe, who is originally from Manu’a and just moved back to be the SPED teacher at the high school, cracked open a few coconuts for us to drink. He then had us all pile back in Rudy’s truck and showed us to the beach his family frequents. It’s more of a rocky cliff shoreline than a beach but way more fun. We followed Joe out on the edge of the cliffs where there is a small alcove that goes into the shore. The opening to the alcove is probably 15 feet across. When the waves crash into the cliffs they send water surging into the alcove. We watched a few times and before we knew it Joe and one of our students went jumping into the mouth of the alcove just as a large wave crashed in. They then signaled for us to follow their lead as soon as the next wave crashed. Adrenaline kicked in, a wave crashed, and we leaped into it. It was easily one of the most fun things I have done. We proceeded to climb our way back onto the rock from the frothy water and jump several more times before heading back to the truck.

Rudy had invited us all over to his place for a spaghetti dinner. He took us all home to shower and out on some clean clothes and we headed over to his place. He made an awesome spaghetti sauce with the typical canned sauce, corn, garlic, onion, and chicken. We enjoyed the food, chatted a bit, and played a few rounds of Banana Grams. Rudy was nice enough to drive us back home at the end of the night. He is leaving soon to complete some projects in Asia and Europe, but will be back in AmSam Next Year. He is a great guy who I can add to the list of people I am lucky to have crossed paths with.

I’m writing this from bed on Sunday. Sasha and I are both a little sore and very tired, and I’m thinking everyone else probably is as well. We got up this morning and went to church. I just finished hand washing a load of laundry and hanging it to dry and am now back in bed blogging and writing the tests that my students will be taking this week. Cat and Wes shared their Samoan music collection with is last week so I have a few awesome Samoan remixes playing to keep me awake.

In other news I have been teaching for a month. I can’t believe how fast the time is going. The days tend to feel long but the weeks and months are flying by. Manu’a High school has a boys basketball team and girls volleyball team this year, which is great for the kids. Not only do they get a chance to play sports but it is really pushing the kids to keep their grades up so they can keep their positions on the teams. Starting tomorrow I will be spending Monday and Tuesdays after school working with a group of kids in Achieve3000, which is an online reading program. All of the students work on the program Monday during English class and Fridays during history class, but the students who are 3+ years behind grade level in reading are also assigned to after school classes to get some extra time working on their reading skills. Manu’a HS will be going through reaccreditation next year so we have formed teams to get the paper work and reports done. On top of it all is the usual lesson planning, staff meeting, PTA meetings, etc. Things are getting busy on this tiny rock in the middle of the sea!

Looking into the crater about halfway up the mountain
Mt. Lata 6

Almost at the top!
Mt. Lata 2

The trail near the peak
Mt. Lata 4

View from the summit of Mt. Lata – standing in the clouds
Mt. Lata 3

Group photo at the summit
Mt. Lata

Visitors Log
visitors 1

View of the coast as we descended
Mt. Lata 5

Climbing back down the mountain

Visitor’s Log
visitors 1

Joe’s Beach
beach 6

Watching a wave crash into the cove

beach 2


5 thoughts on “Mountain Climbing and Cliff Jumping

  1. Holy smokes Jackie!! You are in a league with Indiana Jones — a beloved teacher and wild world adventure seeker. But, you are real not fiction :)
    Love you kiddo.

  2. From reading your blogs, I feel like I’m there with you! How fun and so glad you are having a blast! (P.S. Your mom and dad sold the house and their on the way out to you!)

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