Day 311, Year 1: Tour of the Eastern End of American Samoa
Date: Thursday, August 24, 2006
Weather: Sunny, Return of the Southeast Trade Winds
Location: Pago Pago Harbor, Tutuila Island, American Samoa

Whoa! I can hardly express the varied emotions I feel after our tour today. This island has been a US territory for 106 years and, therefore, it reflects much of the American way. Yet there is Fa’a Samoa-the Samoan Way. And it is very clearly reflected in the village life here. It is fascinating to see conflict in terms of ancient and modern civilizations. Today we saw the most dramatic and beautiful scenery that we have yet seen in the South Pacific. But when we returned to the harbor area, we saw neon signs and brand new black and white American-style police cars.

We drove our rental car across the mountains to visit villages where people today live as they have for hundreds of years, with the addition of Coke machines, homes made of concrete block instead of materials from the land, and schools that are very modern. In those same villages, you could see men out on the reef using seine nets to catch fish the way they did 100 years ago and woman walking in the reef waters with woven baskets collecting clams. We drove across the mountain toViatia, a village that is within the National Park boundaries, and saw nothing but beauty. We returned to the south side of the island, drove a little further east, and then back across the mountains. Here we saw trash all along the road down to a beautiful little village. The village was beautiful and trash-free. Again, another conflict. We continued on and drove all the way to the eastern end of the island where we found a pristine village living in another age.

On our trek home, we made a side trip on Cape Matatula at one of the five NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) stations in the world. There is one at the South Pole, then the one here in American Samoa, one in Hawaii, and one in Barrow, Alaska. Mark, the single employee at the one here, gave us a great tour. He sits on the top of a bluff overlooking an unbelievable expanse of ocean. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Western Samoa. It was a bit hazy today, so we could not see those islands that are more than 50 miles from here, but still the scenery was magnificent. I crawled my way to the top of the building to see one of the best views in all of American Samoa. I can’t climb mountains right now, but driving to the top to observe is certainly a second best.

Another stop on the way home was at Tisa’s Barefoot Beach Bar. We read about it in the Moon Handbook of the South Pacific. It sounded neat, but not nearly as neat as it is when you visit in person. It is a great little bar/restaurant sitting right on the ocean. Tisa is off island right now, but her husband, “Candyman,” who is always the bartender, is running the place in her absence. He is from New Zealand and Tisa is native Samoan. She ran for governor in 2000 and plans to run again in 2008. We learned much about the island from “Candyman” and definitely plan to return next Wednesday for their traditional Samoan dinner.

We ended our day at a local Chinese restaurant where one meal gives you enough food for at least three people. It was good and we will be eating left-overs for days.

There is so much more that needs to be said about today’s tour, but I will just have to incorporate parts in each day’s log. Tomorrow we head to the western end of the island. I don’t believe American Samoans understand what a beautiful island they have here. There are problems with trash, and problems with dealing with the largest tuna processing plant in the world, but the beauty that is here is absolutely overwhelming. We would rank American Samoa the most underrated place we have visited. It is stunningly beautiful.

060824 Day 311 American Samoa–Eastern Tutuila