Beach Side

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I’m clearly staying in the wrong place here. I did a trip around the whole island today (with a new taxi driver) and got a glimpse at the amazing beaches on the south east coast. They still haven’t fully recovered from the tsunami in 2009 which destroyed all of their beach-side homes – most of the locals have moved back up onto the mountain – but they’ve built a series of fales for tourists to stay in on the beaches themselves. Lalomanu, on the south west peak of the island, was the widest stretch of beach with four separate families setting up a series of beach fales there. That would definitely be an amazing place to stay if anyone is looking to take a trip to Samoa!

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Alternatively, further west along the southern coast you come to the Tosua Ocean Trench. This is a stunning natural hole in the ground where the sea seeps through the volcanic rock to create a pool. The locals who own the land made the most of this by setting up a place to stay around the top of the pool – it’s now become a ‘must-see’ on any tourist’s itinerary. In front of the hole are a number of little blow holes in the lava rock where the waves crash through. If I came back for longer I’d love to spend a day or two exploring the area of little islands and blow holes you see blow.

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Continuing along the ocean road we came to Sopoaga waterfall, where one entrepreneurial family converted their garden into a view point. There are a few of these dramatic, high waterfalls dotted around the island. Another is Papapapai-uta which is right in the middle of the island on the central road which cuts down the middle. Both are worth a visit if you’re passing by. The only downside is that you have to view from a distance as there’s no path down the steep cliff sides. For a swim in a fresh pool try Togitogiga. This area is a ‘natural reserve’ where people cannot built. You take a 10 minute walk into the thick green foliage and eventually turn out at a beautiful little set of falls which you can swim beneath. Perfect to rinse off the salty water of the ocean trench and Lalomanu beach!

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A couple of the resorts are very flashy and come with a suitable price tag, but the vast majority are simply family owned and consist of a series of open air fales like the one in which I’m staying currently. Maninoa was the best example of these two extremes side by side. There’s a small set of fales surrounded by two of the most expensive resorts on the island!

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Teuila - Samoa's National Flower

Teuila – Samoa’s National Flower

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Finally we looped around the tip and came to a large ocean pool adjacent to the sea. The taxi driver picked a couple of papayas and began chopping them into pieces and throwing them into the water. Within no time around 8 large sea turtles appeared! He explained to me that small turtles caught in fishing nets would be brought here to grow a little bigger before being released as they get eaten by the tiger sharks. The principle seems good but there were some very large turtles in the pool so I’m wondering whether they just decided to keep them like a sort of pet! Very cute and remarkably tame. You could feed them by hand and stroke their smooth heads!

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Love the flailing limbs in this one

Love the flailing limbs in this one

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Look at that series of expressions!

Look at that series of expressions!

This little one crawled right up to the shallows to try grab a piece of papaya that everyone else had missed.

This little one crawled right up to the shallows to try grab a piece of papaya that everyone else had missed.

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Born To Be Wild

A Brush With Authority

I had a brush with authority

Not only did it tell me

What to paint and when

But also which colours to use.

– Roger McGough

Unfortunately, so far I have been rather frustrated by the tourist industry in Costa Rica. The raw country itself is simply beautiful but is spoilt by the high price tags on activities/entrance into ‘natural’ areas, not forgetting the large numbers of tourists. In comparison to the rest of Central America it has the highest number of tourists and (undoubtedly as a result of this) it is by far the most expensive.

Another thing that greatly frustrates me is the ridiculous obsession with health and safety concerning any activities, for example rafting, rappelling, even walking! I personally get frustrated when I’m told what I can and can’t wear in my free time. They are my toes. If I want to run the risk of stubbing them (which I have already done) then I will bloody well do so. This stubbornness runs back to my childhood when I would refuse to wear a raincoat out, insisting that I had the right to risk getting cold if I wanted to!! Of course, though, they have to introduce these obligations to prevent people from suing them when they injure themselves – the whole system is just ridiculous.

Anyway, on arriving into La Fortuna I decided against any organised events and did not particularly relish the idea of paying to see a waterfall so I went out for a walk into the countryside where I stumbles across this magical little place:

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A large waterfall pool off the side of the road where the illusive locals were out enjoying themselves. The pool was incredibly deep, perfect for diving into and, what’s more, they had tied a rope swing onto one edge resulting in a terrifying but adrenaline pumping ‘Tarzan’ swing into the water.

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The bovine locals looking inquisitively at a sopping wet gringo heading back towards town with a smile on her face…

 

So Lonely Was The Ballard

It’s strange how much you can miss people that you’ve only known for a week. The others left in Wellington to carry on down to the south Island. I’m so frustrated that I’m not going to get a chance to see the south Island – If I was reorganising the trip I would have arranged to go down, but you can’t do everything, I guess! I’m now back in Taupo, alone again. I should really make an effort with the people in my hostel but I just can’t see the point; I’m leaving early in the morning. The ‘nomads’ hostel I’m staying at is slightly cheaper than the ‘base’ hostel from the last stay in Taupo but not quite as central which is irritating. I miss friends from home, I miss the family (who I haven’t spoken to in weeks now) and I miss my travelling companions of the past week. Taupo seems a little empty without them!

Instead of moping about I decided to do a three hour hike to ‘Haku’ waterfalls and I stopped off at the hot springs on the way back for a quick dip. The springs are also a pretty laid back way of meeting new people…I got chatting to a Dutch group and a raging hippy from Colorado took us to a more secluded hot waterfall just up the river.

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The blur is actually steam coming off the water! As hot as a sauna!

Maybe There’s A Road

“If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” – Audrey Hepburn

We (rather begrudgingly) trekked out to Taranaki falls this morning. I seem to have got off pretty lightly on the sunburn front – the group pretty much constitutes fifty shades of lobster. Three hours or so later we stumbled across the fall where they film the ‘fishing pool’ scene with Gollum in ‘The Return Of The King’! Looks pretty different though; Peter Jackson certainly didn’t hold back on the special effects.

Our base for the night is River Valley. Hilariously the ‘dorm’ amounts to one giant bed which thirty or so people are to share. Before we arrived, too many of us had put our names down for a space in the dorm so the driver randomly picked out one girl to pay extra for the ‘bunk room’. She was not happy in the slightest so I volunteered myself. Having arrived I am so grateful. It is bad enough putting up with a symphony of six people’s snores let alone a full orchestra of thirty.

There’s a little pulley contraption here which takes a couple of people over the river: It’s basically a small wooden platform that you sit on and pull yourself over to the other side. A few of us went over and climbed up the mountain. We’d been warned by the driver that it is strictly forbidden to go past a certain point as there is no official path. Somebody got lost for three days last time they tried. However, I’m with Audrey on this one. A few stopped there to drink their beer at the ‘Warning’ sign but I soldiered on and a couple of them ended up following. We eventually reached the top of the mountain. The view was definitely worth the hard work. We cooled down later by leaving the wooden platform suspended in the middle of the river, around 3 metres from the surface and diving in. The water is so incredibly deep that even diving straight down it’s impossible to reach the bottom! Freezing cold as you could imagine, though.

 

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