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Many Adventures of a Nomadic Poet A young poet with Asperger's makes travel his passion, and away he goes...

One Samoa to the Other

AMERICAN SAMOA | Thursday, 17 November 2016 | Views [290]

My island-hopping spree continues and this morning I reached American Samoa. A boat ride from hell is the best way to describe the experience getting here. Last week someone on the Tokelau boat said I was lucky to be on the MV Mataliki and not the MV Lady Naomi, since I (was told I) couldn’t ask for anything worse than the Naomi. To get to Pago Pago I’d be on the Naomi and it’s every bit of bad as described. A vile combination of exhaust, paint, urine, and other smells travel through your nostrils every other second. Many of the seats are broken. The cabins have tiny beds and get very hot. There are three toilets in the men’s bathroom with two of them permanently locked and the only usable toilet leaking when you flush it. Laying my sleeping mat on the deck was a bit more comfortable than the cabins but if it rains you (and your stuff) will get soaked. A massive downpour occurred but fortunately I had already placed my mat and sleeping bag on a chair. Damn I couldn’t wait to get off that boat. I did have fun chatting to these LDS missionaries about various things. One of the first things I’d do if I were elected president is abolish the military. There are peaceful solutions to practically everything, and we discussed what a possible conversation between Adolf Hitler and Nelson Mandela would be like. Off the boat I was relieved. Interestingly, going from Samoa to American Samoa, you arrive a day earlier; vice-versa you arrive a day later. American Samoa is the only US territory with its own customs and immigration and even with a US passport you get an American Samoa stamp. The officials checked out things like my peanut butter and tea bags, wondering why I brought so much food with me. It's all part of being a budget traveller. Yellow school buses, right-hand driving, English measurements, and nickels, dimes, quarters, and the greenback are what stands out this half of Samoa to the other half. The power points (outlets) are the same as on the mainland US and toilets (restrooms) have just one flush option. My friend Ken lived and taught here for two years and describes it as a weird place, sort of an Indian reservation in the South Pacific and the “worst aspects of two cultures in one place.” Exhausted and bleary-eyed I opted for breakfast at the golden arches. I’ve eaten at McDonald’s more in the past couple of weeks than all of last year! Pago Pago, often just “Pago” (pronounced “pung-o”) is not attractive yet has an absolutely gorgeous setting. The harbour nearly slices Tutuila in half and jagged green peaks soar high above the sea. It’s almost like a fjord. A smell of tuna permeates the air as the Star Kist cannery is the predominant industry. With absolutely no plan whatever I strolled with my gear, unsure of what to do or where to stay. American Samoa has practically no tourist industry and there are no hostels or campgrounds and hardly any fales. The cheapest decent hotels are about $135 per night; the others are dodgy motels where I’d probably get a tap on the door from a prostitute at 2 AM. In saying that, I opted to hitchhike and see what happens. I was picked up by a girl and her young son in a ute and they drove the road to the northern end of Tutuila. This drive had me completely drop my jaw in awe because it’s so gorgeous and stunning! At the top you’re met with an award-winning view of the harbour! A young bloke named Tin-Tin walked up to me and asked what I was up to and I asked him if I knew of a place to stay or where I could pitch my tent. He said his father Rory (Roy) owns a cabin in the hills and that he could possibly rent it to me. I called him up and he said the cabin needs a bit of work but comes with a beautiful location. Roy said it’s a bit late to go to the cabin and that I could stay at his place for the night. Roy lives in a custom-built home in a rather isolated and beautiful area. He’s a landscape gardner originally from Oklahoma and has about 10 or 11 children sprinkled round the US and its territories: at least five here, one in Guam, another in Micronesia, another in Australia, another in Alaska, and at least a couple on the mainland.

American Samoa is the first US territory I’ve been to. It’s more difficult to visit all of the US territories than all 50 states because many of the territories are rather difficult to reach. There are only direct flights to American Samoa are from Hawaii and Samoa and the flight from Hawaii is very expensive due to a lack of competition. Only one US president, Lyndon B. Johnson, has ever visited American Samoa. The hospital is named after him, with locals referring to the hospital as “LBJ.” American Samoans are not considered citizens but “nationals.” Americans from the mainland can live and work here with virtually no restrictions but vice-versa it’s a bit more complicated. Many people here serve in the US military and are very loyal to the US.

At Roy's home tonight it was a nice atmosphere of swapping stories and loads of cooking. Tonight I probably ate more bacon than I ever have at any point in my life. If you think Samoa is bad when it comes to junk food, I've heard American Samoa is the undisputed champion as one of the world's fattest countries. Surprisingly there is wifi at Roy's home, even in the middle of a jungle so it allowed me to catch up on stuff tonight. They don't have an oven but if I'm here for a few days I'd love to cook my vegetable tomato soup; most of my signature recipes require an oven. For the next week I'll be in American Samoa: an untouched, unexplored destination with all manner of potential.

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