After hearing numerous other cruisers opinions about filthy, disgusting American Samoa…we followed our usual tactic of ignoring what other cruisers said, and decided to go there. Thank goodness we did! We arrived with vision of an oil slicked bay with oil drums floating around and were greeted with a clean bay with visible coral reefs on the outer perimeters. Sure there is the Charlie the tuna factory at the head of the bay that, if the wind was just right, would belch out a stinky tuna stank every so often…but seriously, it was not that bad. The holding was shit…but eventually 2 anchors settled that problem. Hmmm, I am not making this out to be so great am I….
Okay, the best bits:
Since we had just spent 9 months in Tonga, where the food selection was lets just say “minimal” at best, the highlight of American Samoa was the shopping. Good cuts of meat that I recognized, sour cream and dairy products for days….not to mention wine and alcohol. This was our first meal. Not that we base our cruising around grocery stores…but this was a real treat and one we indulged in several times :-)
Transportation here is a cinch. There is really only a perimeter island road and a few inner island roads to get lost on. So pick a bus…most of them go the same direction…and head to where ever you want to go. The drivers are super nice, just let them know where you are going and they will stop…or a local Samoan who overheard your conversation will make sure that driver stops. The buses are built on F-250 frames with the back half constructed of plywood. They are lavishly decorated in Polynesian style, and like this one, the pelt of Sully. Music is pumped out of huge thumping speakers and is all a Polynesian version of any American song you can imagine. I loved the buses…and no matter where you went…one dollah!
There is a lot of history in American Samoa…you just have to search for it. There is a World Heritage Trail that leads up to several of the still standing gun turrets put in place during the battle of the Pacific. There was only one incident of enemy fire in American Samoa; a Japanese sub fired one missile that hit and destroyed one of the only Japanese homes and businesses on the island. Shortly after that, the US reinforced it troops and numerous gun turrets like this one were installed on the high peaks of the island. Many are still there to this day. Click here for more history on American Samoa’s role in the Battle of the Pacific.
As I said, American Samoa has some high mountains surrounding it. The trail systems are well maintained, yet steep. This one had a rope to guide you down the steepest bits. The trail meandered up and down and around the inner bay of Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango).
But the views were fantastic and well worth the hike. This is the inner harbor of Pago Pago. Tuna ships from all over the world use this port to unload their bounty to not only the famous Charlie Tuna, but two other factories that between them, employee 3/4 of the islanders. The other high employment here are the US Government jobs.
Unfortunately my light metering was off in this shot. But these are cable cars. In the 60’s the longest stretch of unsupported cable in the world was stretched across the bay from the 2nd highest peak down to the port of Pago Pago. During its heyday the cable cars would make several trips per day to the fabulous look out on the opposite peak. When cruise ships came in, locals would stop the car mid-span and throw baskets of flower petals down on the cruise ships as they arrived. Unfortunately in the 80’s a plane performing in the name day airshow crashed into the cable killing several people and it has never ran again…although there are rumors of rebuilding it. You can read up about the cable cars here.
We took another hike out to a bay where there is supposedly a big crater to snorkel around in. The views were amazing.
Unfortunately for us, that day the winds were high and the seas were blowing directly into the bay. We tried to swim out past the break only to be washed onto the shore once again…it doesn’t look like it here…but some of those sets were huge…damn cameras always making us look like wusses.
This little tiny puppy followed us all the way from the owner of this properties home out to the snorkeling beach. She promptly fell asleep in a pile of leaves and we had to carry her out.
American Samoa has an awesome National Park Office with great people ready to show you how and where to hike on their many trails. The maps are great and the staff tells you which bus to catch to get to the trail head. While CB was working on an engine issue :-o I decided to hike the cross island ropes and ladders trail which started on the north side of the island. There is only one bus every several hours, so I hitched a ride in the back of a truck. The trail starts at the back of a really cool village; you have to ask permission to go on through.
The upper right picture has the lady who gave me a ride in it :-) Thank you random Palangi lady!
The views from the trail were amazing. The northern shore is far more exposed with sea stacks and jagged rocks.
The trail went straight up from the village. Thank the gods the parks department installed ropes and ladders…Not so long ago, before the road, villagers on this side of the island had to take this footpath in order to get over to Pago Pago for trade…uffdah!
This is an embarrassing video of my out of shape ass huffing and puffing up the last ladder to the 1680 foot peak above Pago Pago. No, I am not having a heart attack…it is steep….and hotter than hell….leave me alone!
The views were worth every minute I lost off my life dragging my fat out of shape body to the top :-)
Palarran far below anchored n Pago Pago harbor…I tried calling CB on the radio….but he was at the McDonald’s rewarding himself after realigning the entire engine…yikes…glad I was up here!
More views of the very populated bay area.
The next night we went to Tisa’s Barefoot Bar &Resort, a very nice tourist trap, with our new British friends Paul & Liz…they are actually from Whales…apparently this is a distinguishing factor :-) We had beers overlooking the bay and were invited to the overpriced Umu feast that was being prepared for the US Coast Guard. An umu is the traditional form of cooking food underground and used throughout the Pacific islands. The price was well worth it though, as the food was spectacular…and the entertainment came in the form of over served Coasties.
Overall, American Samoa is phenomenally under rated. There is plenty to do and an amazing amount of history here…plus, you will never find a more friendly people. When we first got there we thought there was something wrong with us because people were stopping on the street to welcome us and telling us where to go to see sights and where the best shopping was…turns out, they are that friendly to everyone. Loved this place!