My wife and I visited American Samoa to hike in the National Park there in mid March after visiting Maui and hiking in Haleakala NP there. Below is a report on the part of the trip to American Samoa. Hopefully the report will have a bit of information that may be useful to somebody.
Thursday, 3/15/2012 – Up around 6:30 for our departure from Kahului, Maui, to Pago Pago later that afternoon. We left at 2:00 PM and connected in Honolulu for the flight to Pago Pago, American Samoa, arriving there around 9:30 PM. Arrival was hectic to say the least. I think half the American Samoa population goes to the airport when the twice a week flights from Honolulu arrive. The airport is small even though it is an “international” airport. We flew in on a Boeing 767, a pretty large wide body plane, yet deplaned down a very high metal stairway into the heat and humidity that smacked you right in the face as you exited the airplane, even that late at night. No jetways here. I believe the only air-conditioned area in the airport is the daparture lounge, so, arriving, you suffer in the heat. Almost didn't get a ride to our hotel, Sadie's by the Sea, since the front office had told the shuttle driver that there was no one for him to pick up on this flight. Fortunately, he checked anyway and found us, very happy to see him after waiting about 30 minutes. Got to Sadie's and the office was closed but a security guy got us into our room, and we were in bed by 11:00 PM.
Friday, 3/16/2012 – Up fairly early on our first full day on Tutuila, only to find it pouring rain. Went to the hotel office where I picked up our rental car. Sadie's rents cars too. Then to the Goat Island Restaurant at the hotel for breakfast and watched the rain come down. We drove to the National Park visitors center where we talked to the ranger about hikes. The park service had just moved to a new visitors center and was still in the process of setting things up. We had planned to hike the Mt. Alava trail in the National Park this day, but the rain showed no signs of letting up so put that off until the next day hoping for better weather. As we left the visitors center, the rain did slow a bit so we drove around to the trail head for a short half-mile hike on the Lower Sauma Ridge trail. We carried umbrellas and only got sprinkled on a couple of times. Good views of the northeast coast line and Pola Island, a skinny bit of land just off the end of the northern most tip of the main island of Tutuila. Pola Island is a protected nesting site for seabirds. Saw lots of whitetailed Tropic birds with their long tails as well as fruit bats, called flying foxes, the only native mammals found in American Samoa. Unfortunately, they are certainly not the only mammals there now. There are tons of dogs, roaming around all over the island. Most appear to be uncared for and in bad shape. Obviously no effective spay/neuter program in place here. This, for my animal loving wife (and me too), was probably the biggest downer of the trip.
After this short hike, we drove on through the village of Vatia to the end of the road and a short trail called the Pola Island Trail. This trail led to that northern most tip of the island with views of the rocky beach and a peek around the corner to Pola Island. Walked back to the car and drove back to the hotel.
After checking e-mail using the surprisingly good WiFi signal, we went to The Sadie Thompson Inn for dinner. Sadie Thompson is a character in a Somerset Maughm short story called “Rain,” set in American Samoa. Whether she was a real person or not is a matter of conjecture but the hotel's website includes a telling of the legend of Sadie Thompson and, if you are interested, you can read it at the end of this blog entry. I had an excellent seared ahi tuna steak, and Anne had an ahi tuna salad. Tuna is big in American Samoa. The Starkist Tuna cannery, with a big statue of Charlie the Tuna outside it, is the largest employer on the island. The Inn also has rooms on the second floor and is the sister property of Sadie's by the Sea. It is probably the nicest restaurant on the island, at least from what we saw. It is air conditioned, many places are not, with a more upscale menu than some other spots. The Goat
Island Cafe at Sadie's by the Sea has very good food but is open air, and that can be uncomfortable if you aren't used to heat and high humidity. Back to the room for a relatively early night.
Saturday, 3/17/2012 – Awoke to the pleasant surprise of sunshine and scattered clouds this AM after pretty much constant rain and drizzle yesterday. Had a call last evening from the front desk saying that our breakfast would be on the house due to the mixup about our pickup at the airport when we arrived, so that was a nice gesture. Yesterday I had Samoan bangers (sausages) with scrambled eggs and potatoes which were very good (not quite the same as Bangers and Mash at the Irish Pub in Hendersonville but good). This AM decided on a seafood omelet and rice. Rice was plain, but there was a buttery sauce around the omelet which, when mixed in with the rice, was surprisingly good. Anne had an egg and toast yesterday and splurged this morning with french toast. All very good but weather was already hot and humid even at the early 8:00 AM hour. At least it wasn't raining.
Drove to the Mt. Alava trailhead at Fagasa Pass which is the high point on the road that crosses the middle of the island. Hiked the 3.5 mile trail, mostly up, to the summit of Mt Alava, elevation 1,610 feet, some 1,000 feet above the trail head at the pass. Mt. Alava is the highest point in the park and the third highest on the island. The highest is Matafao Peak, just west of Fagasa Pass, at 2142 feet. Looming over the western entrance to Pago Pago harbor is the second highest point, Pioa Mountain, also called Rainmaker Mountain, at 1718 feet. The Mt. Alava trail actually goes up and down a good bit, so while you gain 1,000 feet overall, you probably lose and regain another 500 to 600 feet on the way to the top, so it is a bit more strenuous than just a 1,000 foot elevation gain. The weather was hot and humid, and the trail was very wet from the previous days rain so, even with no rain, we got pretty hot, sweaty, and muddy by the time we finished the hike. The trail is a beautiful trek through the rainforest, passing through an abandoned banana and coconut plantation, with peek-a-boo views of the central part of Tutuila island's coast on the northeast and Pago Pago harbor to the south. Saw several flying fruit bats, tropic birds, and lots and lots of the white-rumped swifts (never did see a white rump on one though) zooming around and over the trail, eating mosquitoes (thankfully) and other flying insects. The summit has several TV and radio towers as well as the remains of an old platform for a cable car that ran from Pago Pago harbour to the summit. It was damaged and not restored in the mid 1990's when two airplanes flew into the cables and crashed, killing the pilots. About ¼ mile beyond the TV towers is a Fale built by the NP service with a hiker's log and a good spot to rest and enjoy the views. We did not tarry since, even though the weather had been good, it looked like a rain cloud was moving in. It never did rain but did cloud up a bit before clearing again. With the several ups and downs along the way, the 3.5 mile hike back down to the pass is not particularly easy but not as bad as the climb up. After returning to the car and cleaning up a bit, we drove back through Pago Pago to Blunts Point and the site of a WWII gun emplacement that guarded the harbour entrance from the south. There is another on the northeast side of the harbour called Breaker's Point, but we did not get to it. The trail to the gun emplacement at Blunts Point is a fairly easy 0.6 miles up and back. It is easy to see why the spot was picked as it commands the entrance to the harbor from the southwest with good views of the coast line and across the entrance to the east and Rainmaker Mountain. Drove back to the hotel for an e-mail fix, then to dinner at an air-conditioned bar & grill near the airport called Toa's. Just had sandwiches, but they were very good.
Sunday, 3/18/2012 – Our last day in American Samoa and again good weather (that means no rain). The island really does observe Sunday as a day of rest and time to go to church. I believe everyone attends church on Sunday at some point, even those who have to work at restaurants and hotels. The island has two McDonald's, one near the airport and one not far from Sadies, so that was breakfast for me. Anne wanted a parfait, but the person taking the order had no clue what I was asking for so Anne got nothing from Micky D's. I got an Egg McMufffin of some sort. Fortunately, Sadies was pretty much open and later that morning, we were able to rent a Kayak and paddle around Pago Pago harbor for a bit. That was the first time we had been kayaking, and I think I prefer a canoe. The position required in a kayak with legs extended and no back support was pretty uncomfortable after a short while. I ended up dangling my legs off the sides in the water most of the time. Also took a while to get used to the kayak paddles where the left blade of the paddle is oriented about 30 to 40 degrees off from the right blade. Once you are used to that kind of paddle, it works pretty well – but I think I still prefer the standard canoe paddle. The harbor itself is a natural deep water harbor and because of this, it was an important US Naval base in WWII, and there was a Naval station on the island until 1951. However the sides of the bay are pretty shallow, and we actually grounded the kayak in the shallow coral reef near shore a few times. Stayed out for a little over an hour in the kayak before arms and backs required long term rest, so we returned to the hotel, ate lunch consisting of splitting half of Anne's tuna melt sandwich from the previous evening. Very good. Then got in the car and drove all the way from Sadie's along the coastal highway #001 to the eastern end of the island and the village of Onenoa on the northeastern coast. Passed through about seven small named villages between Pago Pago and the end of the road and really got a flavor of village architecture and the coastal scenery. In most villages, people were either in, leaving from, or going to church. Each village had one or more open-air Fales or communal buildings used by families for gatherings of one kind or another. Passed the remains of an old shipwreck along the rocky coast at the end of the island. Had some good views of the small island of Aunu'u just off the eastern tip of Tutuila. It is the smallest inhabited island in American Samoa.
After completing our drive, we returned to the room and packed up for the last time for our return trip home. This return trip had a somewhat long and complicated itinerary consisting of a red eye flight from Pago Pago leaving at 11:30PM and arriving in Honolulu at 5:40 AM on Monday, then another red eye leaving Honolulu at 4:50 PM and arriving in Atlanta at 7:20 AM on Tuesday, then on to GSP by 10:20 AM. More about that trip later. After packing, I turned in the car, and we checked out of the hotel around 6:00 PM. The hotel shuttle to the airport didn't leave until 8:00 PM ,so we had time to eat dinner at Sadies Goat Island Cafe.
At the airport, preparing for departure was slightly more organized than the our arrival when we were trying to figure out how to get to the hotel amid the mob of Samoans greeting other arriving Samoans. Checked our bags and waited until around 9:00 when they opened the departure lounge, the only air-conditioned section of the terminal that we saw. Entering the departure area ,we passed through security and then waited for the plane to arrive. The Hawaiian Air flight goes from Honolulu to Pago Pago twice a week on Thursday and Sunday, returning after a turn around time of about an hour, for a five and a half hour overnight flight back to Honolulu. We left at 11:20 PM, arriving Honolulu around 5:40 AM on Monday. Since we had a long layover we caught a city bus to Hilo Hatties for last minute gifts then on to Waikiki Beach to walk around before returning to the airport for our second red-eye flight home.
NPHEdited: 28 April 2012, 20:17