Fri, August 23
I woke up early this morning, looking forward to our arrival in Pago Pago, interestingly pronounced Pango Pango! When I walked out on the promenade deck, it was magic. The sun was just rising and the ship was silently making her way into a beautiful sheltered harbour where jungle clad mountains rise abruptly out of the seas. The only sounds to be heard were the waves gently lapping against the sides of the ship and some crowing roosters announcing the start of another beautiful day.
American Samoa is made up of five volcanic islands, located halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, and when the seaward wall of a great volcano collapsed it created one of the best, most spectacular natural harbours in the South Pacific.
We had no plans for the day, other than to have a swim, so after breakfast we set off and immediately got caught up in the vast expanse of market stalls next to the ship. Promising ourselves that we would explore them later, we only had a 5 minute walk to the downtown area. After a brief check of the local shops, we continued on our way and were immediately picked up by one of the local buses (and I use the term “bus“ loosely) to be taken to the $2 Beach for a fare of $2!
Many of the island villages are situated on small, quiet bays and coves along the coast. There are many inviting beaches to be seen, but the lands belongs to the families and so are privately owned, which is why the beach we went to is called $2 Beach – that is how much it costs to use it. There was a bar next to the beach, so with a cold drink in hand we spent the next few hours swimming in the crystal clear waters and relaxing on deck chairs in the shade of palm trees. There are many dogs on the island and one slept in the shade nearby, whilst children played ball behind us or frolicked in the water.
Back up on the road again, another bus came along in a matter of minutes and for a fare of $5, took us halfway around the island and then back to the ship. There is nothing like riding on one of the local buses – timber bench seat and air conditioned – meaning no windows! The driver gave us an interesting trip, even stopping so that we could take photos, completely ignoring the double yellow lines by weaving back and forth on to the wrong side of the road so we had the best views of the coast. Hey, we were in laid-back Samoa – no problem!
Along the way, we noticed houses grouped together around a central open sided meeting place – the culture of the extended family is very strong here. There are no cemeteries – graves are placed in front yards, some under shelters with the washing hanging overhead, and I saw several graves that were situated on the front verandahs of some houses.
Back at the markets, there were many beautiful sarongs, clothing and a vast array of local crafts, such as woven baskets, bags and mats made from the leaves of the Pandanus tree. Also nicely carved wooden items and jewellery. Duty-free shopping was an added attraction.
My impression – you will find no five-star hotels or fancy name retail outlets here; but if you just want to give yourself up to the beauty of this island, you will not be disappointed. If we come back again we’d only change one thing. Next time we will go up-market, and instead of the $2 Beach, we will go the $5 Beach, where there is a restaurant as well as a bar!