Dick opens a reluctant eye about 7:30AM and peeks outside to find green hills close by and moving! We are gliding into Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango) Harbor in American Samoa. The decks are wet and everything is a lush, dark green. It has obviously been raining and, in fact, a man on deck says it was pouring as we approached the island. The temperature is 82 with a predicted high of 84!
We are in no rush so we head for breakfast as the tours and the “I have to be first off” group crowd down the gangway. Before they are allowed off, however, two EMS ambulances pull up to the ship and two passengers are taken off and away. That must be a little spooky! We later learn the only air transportation off the island is Hawaiian Air and there are only two flights a week!!
After breakfast, we gather up our thermos style water bottles (praise the Lord for these), our cameras, money, cruise cards and passports and head ashore. Once we are through the secure area around the ship, Dick finds a lady selling an all day WiFi connection card for $10 and Carolyn finds Aloufa (Love) Tours. They are offering a two and a half hour drive out toward the East end of the island with two stops for $25pp. Sounds like a deal since the ship is charging $82pp for the same trip. It is usually better to not take a ships tour unless there is no alternative.
It is a family run operation with Dad selling the tickets, one daughter escorting customers to the bus where Mama, two other daughters and the bus are waiting. The bus driver is Mama’s brother-in-law. The bus is a short, school bus style that has been reworked with wooden benches and open windows. It is very rudimentary but functional. The mother was born in Hawaii but her family is from American Samoa. She is a teacher with a degree from the University of Hawaii and has lived in California. She is a handsome woman and fun to listen to as she tells of the local life and customs. One that will strike most people is that families own their own homes and property and your family is buried in your front yard. Yes, you do get a death certificate now but the deceased's family does the burial in the front yard of the family's house.
She and her daughters sing several Polynesian songs which we enjoy. We stop at Amouli Beach Fale for a look at the beach and surf as well as some refreshment. A fale is a beach hut. Dick has a local beer ($5) that comes from Apia, our stop in Samoa tomorrow. It is pretty good and goes down well. Dick does not usually buy T-Shirts but buys one here. It is nothing special but he says it called to him for only $12.
After the beach stop we drive another mile or so to a tiny harbor where we check out the boats, turn around and head back to town. This harbor is the connection to the small island of Aunu’u where about 20 families live and commute to the main island for work and school including our guide’s grandparents.
On the way back to town we pass Tica’s Barefoot Bar which was the only thing Carolyn had found to do, but the bus tour and stop at the Beach Fale has turned out to be a much better deal!
We ask to be dropped at the local market which is within walking distance of the ship. There we see fruits and vegetables for sale along with a gazillion colorful wraps, sarongs and such. The locals both men and women wear the colorful sarongs with shirts and tops as daily wear. School children wear white tops and long colored sarongs. (High school girls in red below) We walk back to the ship, stopping at a local church for a peek. These islands are very Christian and very religious with a church on almost every street corner.
We explore the wares of the stalls set up on the dock for the ship’s arrival and buy Jack a pin. Carolyn buys a sarong. Each cost $5.
Back to the ship, hot and sweaty but having enjoyed ourselves, Dick begins to figure out how to use the WiFi card he bought and Carolyn goes to the Lido for some pizza to tide us over until supper at 8:30PM; if we make it that long! It may be another Lido night since tonight’s menu doesn’t have much that appeals to us.
On a lark, Dick decides to check his phone service and places a call to our daughter, Dana. She answers promptly and it sounds as clear as if we were calling from Brenham.
We spend the rest of the afternoon catching the blog up with the good internet and working on our pictures of the island.
Tomorrow Samoa with a German twist. It was a German possession until they lost it after the First World War to the British, but according the tour talk the German influence is still seen.