December 08, 2018 – Pago, Pago, American Samoa
Talofa! December 8 again thanks to us crossing the International Date Line! This time we made it to Pago, Pago (pronounced Pango, Pango)! American Samoa, the only inhabited US territory south of the equator, is given the occasional nod for its love of American football and McDonald’s, but few people realize that these lush tropical islands hold geometrically cut mountains and blue waters that rival the beauty of Tahiti and Hawaii.
Samoan culture is so strong here that some claim it’s even more traditional than Independent Samoa next door. If you’re seeking a Polynesia that’s authentic, full of adventure opportunities and nearly devoid of tourists, American Samoa may be just the place.
Few travellers go to American Samoa so there’s relatively little tourism infrastructure. Most of the population and industry (primarily fishing and canneries) are found on the main island of Tutuila, in and around Pago Pago Harbor.
Pago Pago is stunningly beautiful. The town is located near the westernmost end of an L-shaped bay and is surrounded by lush, green mountains. Opposite Pago Pago on the eastern side of the bay is the mountain known as the Rainmaker, so-called because its top catches clouds that frequently douse the slopes below in rain. In fact, the entire island of Tutuila is beautiful, from the coral reefs offshore to the old-world rainforests and waterfalls lining the steep sides of its mountains.
Since the island is so beautiful and boasts a large National Park, we researched that there were several hiking trails in the park. Together with a few friends, we disembarked the ship and headed out to find a way to the National Park.
The National Park of American Samoa, America’s 50th National Park, is the only one south of the equator. This Park in the South Pacific is dedicated to preserving the Samoan/Polynesian culture and landscape. The islands neotropical forests, indopacific reefs, and 3,000 year old culture are unique in the National Park Service.
The Samoan archipelago includes the US Territory of American Samoa and the independent nation of Samoa (formerly Western Samoa). The islands are located 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii and 1,800 miles northwest of New Zealand, between Fiji and Tahiti. The Samoan chain stretches east to west for more than 300 miles between 13 and 15 degree south latitude (below the equator).
As we left the ship’s “safety zone” we were surrounded by many different tour and taxi drivers all vying for our business.
After some negotiation and back and forth with the driver, we settled on a guide named Junior and his “uncle” from the same village who drove this rather rustic Toyota conversion. Junior assured us that it would make it up the mountain! The cost for the 3 hours was $20USD per person.
Our first hike is the Lower Sauma Ridge Trail which was not terribly long or difficult. The path is cut out of the rainforest and has steps made of the natural rocks. The tree roots, the wet leaves and the sometimes steep decline make for a moderately difficult 20 minute hike to a lookout point where the tall and skinny Pola Island can be seen. It is a nesting area for seabirds.
Our second hike was the easy Pola Island trail which was a short flat trail that led to a rough and rocky beach with views of the coastline and again, Pola Island.
Luckily it did not rain on us as it was supposed to, although we maybe didn’t get the pictures we wanted. Junior our guide was a good guy but they did get some flak for taking us into the National Park as they aren’t “sanctioned” to take us there.
The ride home was nice with plenty of good views and a stop at a local store for a beer and some snacks. Then to a local market where I picked up a big papaya for $1. On the ship in time before it started raining.
We have several sea days ahead of us now before our last 2 ports of call, Oahu and Maui. After that we are only a few sailing days from ending our cruise.