Monday, October 26, 2009


Have you ever heard of Taro? No? well, its the potato of the Pacific. The leaves are often eaten and are deliciously prepared with coconut as a wrapping which is then baked to a steamy goodness. As it is called locally, palusami is about as good as it gets for local flavor.
Only a day after having some palusami during a traditional Sunday feast I went for a walk into the interior, alone on a walking track that happened to cut through what else, but large tracts of taro. Five km from the nearest village on my way down the hillside I wondered what these delicious taro leaves tasted like raw. As I took a small bite into the leaf of my choice it briefly crossed my mind that what i was doing might have not been the best idea. Right as I took a second bite I began having an incredible burning sensation in my throat. SHIT! I thought, as I began to panic slightly. The pain only got worse and I began the wheeze. I tried to focus, took my vitals as best as i could and slowly continued walking. I thought that I might have been having an anaphylactic reaction. There was nothing that I could do however other than continue walking and hope that if i passed out due to a lack of oxygen that someone would find me in time. The pain and swelling in my neck got progressively worse for about fifteen minutes before I ran into some local plantation farmers. I tried to tell them what I had done but there was a stout language barrier. They thought that I wanted to buy some taro, as I was going back and forth between pointing at the plans and at my mouth. Eventually they called over a friend who spoke english a bit better and shortly after he then cracked a young coconut which leaked juice that helped sooth my scorched throat. In the end I wasn't going into anaphylaxis, I had just burned my throat and esophagus with a highly toxic chemical. Samoan jungle = 1, Dumb white American = 0.

Samoa, or Sa'moa as the locals say it, is a developing country with immense natural beauty, another tropical paradise amung the many. The local economy is small and slow as most families lead lives with some level of subsistence. Though most residents are poor by worldly standards they seem to be living happily. They love pretty much all western countries due to the support they lend with the exception of France (nuclear testing never really goes over well anywhere I guess).

Whether walking down the street or on one of the pop blaring, sub-woofer dropping local buses it was impossible to avoid being questioned from anyone and everyone of where I was from, why I was there and what I thought of Samoa. The Second line of questioning extended to whether I was alone, where my wife was and whether I wanted a Samoan wife. With cannibalism present in the Pacific in the not so distant past on islands that were not too far away from where I stood, I cringed at the idea of the multitude of predicaments which a local woman could have brought me. Well, I guess I would have been the one bringing it on... anyway, I took a long step back.

On my last day on U'polu, the most populated Samoan island, I rented a car with a couple of other travelers to see the damage that the tsunami had done only three weeks prior. Of all of the times to have a dead battery for a camera this was a pretty good one. The southeast side of the island was completely flattened killing hundreds, the entire country shell shocked over the ordeal. Most were in disbelief and some with a complete lack of trust in their national government, went as far as to say that the wave may have been caused by a Chinese nuclear test that their government took a pay off for. On the up side, most of these people had very little to start with as far as infrastructure and possessions so I think that the western conception of devastation may vary from what is happening in reality and the actual recovery time for the area. This isn't really a big money making area for large corporate lenders, island time is far too slow for that.
I spent a lot of time on the beach, swimming, diving, meeting folks and getting from place to place. Samoa is a pretty cool spot overall and it is a whole lot different than anywhere else I have been.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Back to the Southern Alps

The good thing about having lousy weather during the winter in the Cook Islands is that it can mean that its snowing in New Zealand. Upon arriving at Olympus this year there was already a meter of settled snow on the ground which allowed us open a week early. Spring came in early August however providing a good amount of wet when the skiing is historically at its best. Over-all it was a good ski season with snow on the ground through October and the usual antics.

I was able to get in a bunch of flying and have successfully gained a bit of confidence without killing myself. Probably the most memorable moment in time of the season for me was watching my friend Markus, while first learning how to deal with the lines of the wing, accidentally take flight and clear the Access Tow. Nice job buddy, good work on that landing in the rocks there. Definitely one way to learn... whatever works i guess, hey.. little birds learn to fly by jumping out of their nests, right? whats to say a 90kg German cant do the same. Hilarius!