Today we traveled to the swampy area of the island called Teumanga for the third hydro observation. This area is within a reasonable hike from the island and was once home to most of the dalo crops. The farmers have since let it go and weeds and pulaka plants dominate the landscape. There was a recent exhortation from the elders to encourage the youth to weed it and clear out the water channels to make it suitable once again for dalo planting.
So on this trip Lau Pula, one of the chief’s sons, went with us to do just that. Papa had a laundry list of alternative tasks as well. The mouth of the swamps is a thick Mangrove forest and is most easily accessible during hide tide. We traveled a quarter mile in the fibre through the forest and disembarked for another half-mile hike through the water to the main area of the base of the swamps. Here Papa showed me the headwaters of the swamp drainage point and the flow was minimal but impressive considering the lack of proper drainage channels and dry weather we’ve had for some time. The problems with this source were the head and water clarity. There is a ton of mud and measures would have to be added to the system to filter it before using for hydro or drinking purposes. It is close to the island, though, and if the farmers get serious about clearing the area it may turn into a viable site.
We left Lau Pula to his dalo planting and headed back to the fibre for a trip to Vaimoana. The agriculture councilor, Tavita, has his block here and it is the home to the islands only waterfall. I use waterfall liberally as it is really just a large rapid, but beautiful nonetheless.
Vaimona is the exit point for the Sakea River and it is the largest open fresh water source on the island. A half-mile trip in the fibre through a mangrove forest got us to the boat landing. Papa wasn’t very familiar with the area so it took quite a bit of hacking our way through chest high weeds to find a path. When we reached the falls I was impressed at the flow but disappointed with the head. It is also very far from the village making transmission a problem. David advised Papa there was another fall further up the creek so we made our way into the interior. The going was quite rough as it had rained that morning and we never really found a trail. We stopped for a breather and caught a glimpse of two large birds resembling parrots. I have heard the island is known for its bird population and houses some rare species. I’m not much of a bird guy, other than for consumption, so I haven’t really done the research to know.
After the break we walked on and made our way further into the bush. We never found the other fall and the water levels quickly dropped the further we increased in elevation. We had a quick lunch and headed back to the boat. At this point I was pretty zonked and wasn’t really paying attention to my surroundings. This all changed quickly when I felt a sharp sting on my knee.
I looked down and noticed a yellow hornet, then another, then another… It wasn’t looking good. Unfortunately I yelled a few explicatives, and threw my cane knife as I wildly tried to kill the flying demons. Papa calmly told me to stop moving as I cringed from the three stings on my legs and one on my forehead. As soon as I stopped moving they left and returned to their hive nearby. Papa whacked it a few times with his knife and we slowly walked away. I had been stung by a couple of months ago so I wasn’t worried that much about swelling. He said if I had froze after the first bite they would have left me alone. Apparently they only attack in groups if the victim acts like a circus clown on speed. Well, he didn’t quite say that but I know he was thinking it. I thanked him for the tip, although a little ill timed.
We made the remainder of the hike loosing the trail a few times and finally reached the boat soaked in sweat and rain. Although the survey didn’t turn up much hopeful information it was nonetheless a productive trip. I’m always amazed about how much I learn from a trip in the bush with islanders and a machete.