Our next port was Pago Pago (pronounced pongo pongo) in American Samoa where our ship entered what is recognized as one of the most beautiful harbors in the South Pacific. It was a hot sunny day in Pago Pago, and it looked like a great day for us to explore this strange new territory. As soon as we disembarked, the bright colors of the island were on display in a makeshift souvenir market. (American Samoa does not get many visitors, so the arrival of a cruise ship is a big deal!) The dense and poignant jungle vegetation covering the hills of the island were a testament that American Samoa was a true island paradise out here in the Pacific.
Outside the market, taxi cab drivers were lined up hoping to be selected to chauffeur tourists around the island. We chose a smiling older woman named Lau, and after conversing with her for several minutes, we decided that she would be our guide for the day; it was a bit of a crap shoot, but after negotiating with her for the terms of the tour, we hopped into her slightly beat-up Toyota taxi cab driven by Lau’s boyfriend, Sandale (pronounced: Sandelli). Sandale was a giant of a young man, sporting a colorful Hawaiian-like shirt, and the physique of Sumo Wrestler. He seemed to have limited English language skills, but at the same time, he displayed an “island gentleness” that made us comfortable (somewhat) around him.
|Beautiful American Samoa|
This island of Tutuila, largest one in the country, is a lush paradise with gorgeous views and tempting beaches. Pago Pago also has a booming (and smelly) Starkist Cannery, and that worldwide symbol of American culture: a MacDonald’s fast food restaurant (surrounded by palm trees).
|The infamous Star Mound|
American Samoa is an American territory and even the neglected star mounds had some vestiges of typical American tourist signage even though they were deteriorated and hard to read. The island has many U.S. government buildings -- Lau proudly pointed out the building where “you get your food stamps”.
With that dose of island culture, we headed for the beach! A gorgeous little strip of sand called $2 Beach (the price of admission) beckoned. This beach was a perfect little slice of the South Pacific dream. We donned our snorkels and swam out to ogle the colorful fish hanging out at the nearby reef.
|The priceless $2 Beach|
|Snorkeling at $2 Beach|
|Idyllic coastline of American Samoa|
|Turbulent ocean in an area feared |
by superstitious locals