Quite a different view of Pago Pago than what we saw in April! We had walked around the town and had gotten some lovely photos of the bay, but the village was tiny and the buildings very industrial-looking. Today we took one of the private island tours in a small shuttle bus…only six people on the bus. We were docked in the middle of the island, and the bus took us on a 2-hour tour to the northeast corner of American Samoa, a breathtaking ride that certainly changed our mind about the island. It can hold its own with any of the Tahitian islands. Of the three main Samoan islands, it is the smallest. It is marked by the Starkist tuna processing plant, which we smelled before we passed by it. We found out that workers in the tuna plant make less than $5,000 annually. For being a small island, however, American Samoa is known as Football Island. If you are a young male in American Samoa, you are 56 times more likely to play in the NFL than a young male in the US. There are currently 30 players in the NFL from American Samoa.
The photos are from around the island. All the beaches are private, and owned by Samoan families. The most famous beach here is $2 Beach, which, interestingly, costs $5 today. As we walked down the stairs to $2 beach to take some photos, there was an old man directing us to the window to pay our fee. Since we had no plans to use the beach, we took photos from the stairs and saved our $5!
We were enchanted from the moment we docked in Pago Pago. We had the best seats in the house for breakfast, in the Terrace Cafe, out on the deck of the ship, as you can see in the first photo. It was warm, with a breeze blowing, and our view was Pago Pago Bay. It felt so decadent, so lovely…and we felt extremely lucky to be there, soaking it all in while eating breakfast. It was so refreshing that we also had our lunch out on the deck. Glorious.
In the third photo is a tiny island just off the coast, called a motu in Polynesia. The motus in American Samoa are interesting because they are covered in vegetation and trees, even. Those we saw in Tahiti tended to be lava-based, with no vegetation. The third photo from the end is fascinating. The guide pointed to the trees, and we all thought he was saying, “path.” No. We finally figured out that he was pointing out dozens of BATS in the tree on the left in the photo…those hanging blobs are bats that were moving around! Very unusual to have bats out in the sun. Bats are protected in American Samoa. There are three varieties, and they are the only native mammals. Until the 1980s, they were exported to other islands in the Pacific, particularly Guam, as they were considered a delicacy.
The last two photos are of our shuttle bus and Alex, our driver…$20 per person for a 2-hour tour (although it went 30 minutes longer, but who’s counting?). Alex wasn’t really a tour guide…more of just a driver. But he was very patient and let us stay at each stop as long as we wished. He didn’t speak much, just stopped at all the pretty places along our route so we could take photos. He had decorated his dashboard with fuzzy green cloth that looked like it came from a muppet, along with some green Christmas garland, strands of shells, and photos. He told us the outside of his bus, Vai o le Tama, meant View of the Water. When we looked it up later, the translation given was water boy. So, we are guessing it is different depending on context. There is a famous Samoan song with that title, as well.