Depending on your family’s land, you could be walking for several miles uphill to get to your plantation. Plantations can be as far as 8 miles inland. Occasionally there is a road, but not fit for vehicle use. As a bird flies, we live ½ mile inland; by the road it is closer to a mile. Our plantation lies right in our backyard so getting there doesn’t take terribly long, but it is still an adventure.
The plantation is a place for veggies only. Some are more diversified than others, but in general they have coconut, taro, bananas, coco-beans, and many volunteer plants. The less common, but still in great abundance, are pineapple, orange, mango, lime, cucumber, roma tomato, lychee, breadfruit, vi, and passion fruit. For those of you who have not experienced a vi, it has a spiky inner core that is not eaten, the skin is not eaten either. The flesh has the crispness of an apple, but tastes pineappley and coconutty. We do not care for it raw, but it some dishes it is very nice. When it comes to meat, there is no real hunting going on here anymore. All of the animals live either in the yard or in a fenced in area. If you want to kill a cow, a small pistol does the job. Just make sure you walk the cow to a place that you can get a car to first, as they can be quite heavy, before you shoot it in the head. We have heard of two animals being pursued, but only when the random opportunity presents itself. These are bark grubs, which are eaten when about the size of my thumb, and bats. The bats here are the size of hawks back home in NY. Both are barbequed, and said to be quite nice. We have not tried bat yet, but it will be on the menu soon. The only other oddity is a small group of people who eat dog. We do not live in that village, but plan to visit there and see how it ranks for ourselves.
Back to the plantations… Because they can be and usually are in remote areas families build small houses or fales up there for a place to rest, and spend the night if necessary. In the picture, you can see Pio standing in front of a bamboo plant, which is steadily taking over the house. I believe that this is only one plant. We have two kinds of bamboo in our plantation, green and yellow. I think the yellow one is Tonkin bamboo, but I could be wrong. The yellow one grows to be extremely tall and thick. Using both hands, I cannot touch my fingers together when wrapped around the shoots. For all of you who like chocolate milk, and hot chocolate, or ANYTHING chocolate, this is where it all starts.
Our biggest surprise early on was how tough the people are here. This trek through the plantation is done in shorts, flip-flops or barefoot, and shirts are not required. Sun block and mosquito repellant are not used. People carry their “naifi” machete and that is it. Baskets and branches are cut and woven in the plantation if needed. There are no poisonous plants here like poison ivy or oak, but there are a great number if itchy plants. On this expedition, we walked through some that took a minute or so to start itching. I took a shower immediately once I returned home. I still wear my keens into the plantation. I have wandered out two or three times without them only to make a hasty return to put them on. To finish off, Samoan people are tough. But they are wimpy when it comes to spicy food and cold water. Since we can handle the cold and spice, I tell them that we have “Palagi Power!”