When was the last time something beautiful took your breath away? And not just metaphorically, but literally? Papase’ea Sliding Rocks, located at the outskirts of Apia, had surely took mine. I had to deal with a fraction of a second of black-out.
I am not sure why but I have great preference for waterfalls over beaches. And my husband promised me a trip to this famous sliding rocks where you can enjoy the coolness of the fresh water from a thrill brought by its smooth flat rocks.
Oxygen is a colorless, odorless gas. You can find this chemical element on the periodic table with the atomic number 8. Oxygen is the third most abundant element in the universe that makes up over 20% of the earth’s atmosphere.
In the human body, oxygen is the single most abundant element. It makes up 65% of body mass. You breathe oxygen nearly every second of every day. This is to transport all the nutrients and gases necessary for the body to generate energy. – Global Healing Centre, LP
THE LEGEND OF THE PAPASE’EA FALLS
Located at Se’ese’e, a sub village of Lepea, Papase’ea literally means “Sliding Rocks”. Legend has it that “Le Papa o Tuli” is the pool of Telesa, the protector spirit of the pools who bathed herself here along with her birds. Ancestors, through word of mouth, told that the pools were a meeting place for Telesa and her friends, who were regarded as female spirits or Teine Sa. The pools also hosted male spirits (Manaia) known as “Taasaualii” whom were the girls’ boyfriends. When the spirits would gather to bathe they would make noises and sing songs, but there were never seen. To this day, Telesa is the title given to the leader of Lepea’s Women’s and Young Ladies Committee or Aualuma.
An important cultural significance of this attraction site is the birth of the Samoan proverbial expression used by the orators during discussions in chiefly gatherings:
“E tetele a Pesega, ae matta i le o o E temele a Pesega, ae tua i Nuu Lelei”
In Samoan, it relates to the insight that ‘whenever something bad happens good always comes out of it, even if we don’t see it at the time.” The saying is based on the noises that Telesā and her spirit friends made while singing and chattering but if you approach the pool to see who is making the noises, no one is there.
In the olden days, the pools were mainly used by the village for drinking water. Nowadays, the pools are open to anyone and people are welcome to swim in whichever pool they prefer.
WHAT’S SPECIAL HERE…
- Manutagi – the Crimson-crowned Fruit-dove (Ptilinopus porphyraceus) is found mostly in mature forest and has a distinctive call like a soft coo and harsh ko-koo with a stuttering beginning.
- Falaga – (Barringtonia Samoensis) is a medium-sized tree occasional in coastal and montane forests in Samoa. it is often common along streams, estuaries and in swamp forests from 5-600m elevation. It has beautiful and filamentous flowers providing a splash of colour in the otherwise predominantly green forest
- The Teuila – Red Ginger (Alpinia Purpurata) is the national flower for Samoa.
- Vasavasa – The Samoan Whistler (Pochycephala flavifrons) is mainly an insect eater but they also eat fruit. Their call is a musical series of quick whistlers and they can be found in a broad range of habitats from high to low forests, cleared areas, secondary bush and village gardens.
- Tava’e – White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaithon lectures). These sea birds are often seen overhead flying to their nests in large trees or hollows located inland, after feeding on fish from the ocean.
- Gogo – Brown Noddy (Anous stolidus), a common sea-bird.
- If you’re lucky you may spot a Pili late – Samoan Brown Skink, also known as the Pacific Robust Treeskink (Emoia samoensis). Like other reptiles they are cold-blooded so you will usually find them sitting in the sun warming their bodies. These lizards are special because they are endemic to Samoa and found nowhere else in the world.
THE EXACT LOCATION
AN INTERESTING GEOLOGICAL FEATURE
A geological feature called a dyke can be observed in the rocks here. A dyke is an intrusive body of rock from a later volcanic eruption that cuts through the existing country rock. A dyke or dykes can cut at any angle and there can be many in one place. At Papase’ea there are a few dykes that can be observed on the surrounding older rocks between the Children’s Falls and the Women’s Falls.
MY HEART-RAISING EXPERIENCE
Samoa’s weather drains you in a zap. It’s so hot that it’ll leave you thirsty, (exhausted most of the time), that it makes the sound of going to the ‘cool waterfalls’ miles and miles away worth pursuing. During our vacation earlier this year, the Papase’ea welcomed us with its pools filled deeper than usual because it was the rainy season. And that only means one thing, it’s perfect for sliding on its dykes. It’s fast for the water to rise during the rainy season so when it started to drizzle, we took no risk staying more than an hour.
The mountainous entrance is perimetered with Samoan fales, where you could assemble as a group, read about the precautionary reminders as you swim and ‘prehydrate’. One outstanding reminder is that you’re not allowed to eat or drink or smoke by the waterfalls. This is to prevent piles of garbage from building up. And so, you have to drink up before going down the pools.
Reading the legend of the Papase’ea Falls, the Telesa are considered supernatural beings that guide the earth. The so-called mortals, us, would never want to challenge their wrath if we leave the pools untidy or disrespected. Local stories go that its water is sacred too that the Telesa uses it to punish crazy tourists.
Where my dad is from, in the province of Romblon, Philippines, we have similar stories that we had to put garlic and ginger inside our pockets. Because of its strong aroma, the bad spirits will be kept away. And so, I grasped the idea of not being too unruly at Papase’ea.
THE THING I WAS PRIVILEGED TO FEEL
I went for my first slide, to the mini pool and my daughter, “Brave”, lived up to her name by wanting to follow. To my surprise, my little daredevil actually found it exciting. I admit, it ignited a surge of adventure like no other. My husband gave me the wave of the hand to go for the bigger one. He said, OK, you can swim anyways. Go for the bigger one.
I had to do it slowly but the dykes didn’t allow me to do that. It made me go shoot straight down. So fast that my smiling face was retained even underneath the water. It caught me off guard so the water surged up my nostrils making it so painful with the pressure. It filled up my nasal sinuses and it went on for good 5 seconds because the spot right under where the water forces its way downwards is so deep, it took time for me to rise up.
By the time my head reached the surface, I was crying because the pain had gone up my head because of altering pressures. But I was laughing while my husband and my sister-in-law asked me if I’m alright. I have never felt so alive once again. Follow me on instagram (@ivaluemylyf) to see how fast that slide was.
You see, my job leaves me catching for breath each time. The first time I danced for the parade for the whole 30 minutes made me smile secretly in the end because of the thought that I survived such intense physical engagement. The first time I felt that grasp for air was during my first game in basketball as a varsity player in 5th grade. My vision had gone bright white. My coach said it’s because of hypoxia. And the most recent was after that plunge in Papase’ea.
Remarkably, it leaves me in awe. That limitation of the body when it is deprived of whatever keeps it alive. Oxygen, food, safety. It’s the risk in between is what ‘living your life’ means I realised.
The moment we climbed up after an hour of enjoying the falls, I breathed deeply inhaling the beauty of the view. I thanked God for life. I looked back to the carpark, saw my family, my husband, the kids. My daughter had fun after such experience, and I whispered, this is the life.