Friday, June 10, 2011

Grand Samoan Adventure Grand Finale Part 3: New Heights

Welp, the taxi driver got his rainwater, put it in the engine, filled up his bottle again and we continued onward. Next stop was Falealupo Rainforest Preserve, a...get this...rainforest preserve (!) in the northeast corner of the island, rather close to the edge of the settled world.

From the 2003 version of the map that I had with me. Click if you need to see the vast majority of it for some reason.

The highlight of the preserve is a rainforest canopy walkway. It's a swinging metal bridge 40 meters (131 feet and some change, for those of you with good taste in measurements) above the ground. And it was still very wet and slippery that day. So of course, I had to try it.

The taxi driver elected to stay behind in the parking lot. I paid my $20T and followed the guide, who was about my age and spoke about 40% English, to my doom the metal tower that with the stairs that lead up to the bridge.

"Hey, uh, how high is this bridge?" I asked.

"Oh, very high." The guide responded casually.

"Um, has anyone ever fallen off of it?"

"Oh, yes." He replied casually.

"Really?! Did they die?"

"Yes." I couldn't tell if he understood me or was just answering everything in the affirmative because he didn't know what I was saying. But we were there now. I tried to tell myself that it was too late to chicken out now, and tried not think about how this would be a terrible place to die, and how far away the nearest hospital must be.

"We go up, then across then up, then up." said the guide, motioning an awful lot. I didn't understand. Were there two bridges? Was one much higher than the other? I pretended I understood, figuring that I wouldn't know what he just said if even he said it another dozen times.

I began my ascent. The metal tower at the beginning, constructed only about a year ago to replace a rotten banyan tree that previously held the steps leading up, was slippery but climbable. I held onto its one railing for dear life and tried not to look down.


We had reached to top, and now I was face-to-face with the bridge. It looked...incredibly safe. Giant nets on either side. No way you could fall off of that thing. I felt a lot safer.

The guide obviously felt very safe.

We posed for a bunch of pictures, then when we started walking across, I realized what kind of bridge I was walking on. The guide made me go first, which was totally not nervewracking or anything.

Ah yes, the classic "boards lying on top of ladders, suspended by cables."

It was wobbily but cool, as long as you watched your step and didn't have a foot go through one of those foot-sized gaps. I got to the other side without a problem, and the guide soon followed. It had actually been a lot of fun. We continued upward, this time up a long series of very steep wooden steps that wrapped around an enormous tree. We arrived at the top, and I do mean the top, to a view above the rainforest canopy.

It was a magnificent view, despite the cloudy weather. You could see miles of canopy in one direction, and the ocean in the other. And if you looked straight down, you could see how the canopy was so thick that the ground was barely even visible. I was glad to see that there wasn't a second bridge after all.

Check out how far above the bridge this platform was. If the bridge was 131.23 feet, and the platform was this much higher, then you should do the math if you just have to have an exact figure, because I don't.

In scientific circles, this is referred to as "really high up."

After a whole lot of pictures and laughing and carrying on, we headed back down. This time, we followed the steps around the tree all the way to the ground. And they were as steep and slippery as ever.

I was glad to be back on the ground. Very glad.
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