Friday, September 22, 2006

American Samoa to Western Samoa

Pago Pago, American Samoa (S14 16’ W 170 42) to Apia, Western Samoa (S13 50’ W171 46’)

It took about five days to get moving after checking out of Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango) as it was raining like crazy with a convergence zone parked over the islands, and being fair-weather sailors we didn’t want to get rained on for the 80nm passage. Despite the wait, the passage was still snotty with huge and confused seas and not enough wind to keep the sails from getting thrashed. We left at 9 PM as to make a daytime entrance into Apia harbor, which we did after mostly a motor boat ride of fourteen hours. Apia harbor is the main commercial port for Western Samoa, although it is still a pleasant anchorage in comparison to the super noisy and polluted Pago Pago harbor. There is a local fishing club on the bay which generously allows the use of their dinghy dock, showers and other facilities to visiting yachts, which was really nice. Weekly they also host a hot dog roast, and for three Talla (2.5 Talla equals a dollar) you can get a nice hot dog and get to know some of the local sport fishermen and your fellow yachtsmen. Apia, the capital of Western Samoa, is a small, friendly tourist-oriented town with lots to offer. The main attraction was a huge open market with local fruits, vegetables and crafts at amazing prices. Huge stalks of bananas for 10 Talla (4 USD), bags of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, cabbages, and on and on at ridiculously cheap prices. Crafts galore with every conceivable utilization of the readily available natural resources of wood, shells, coconuts and palm fronds possible. Julie purchased a beautiful Kava bowl (used to serve the traditional and ceremonial “kava drink”), coconut bowls, woven placemats and an assortment of jewelry.

One day we decided to jump on a bus for a two-hour ride to the south of the island and explore a beautiful beach. Finding the correct bus, we got on and found seats in the back. Striking up a conversation with one of the riders, we determined that no busses would return from our intended destination the same day, and we would either have to take a really expensive taxi ride or spend the night away from the boat. We opted to jump off the bus and explore renting a car on a future day to see the island. The car turned out to be a great treat and allowed us to take in some great sights, including numerous waterfalls and access to a fresh-water swimming cave, that you could swim into and then dive through an underwater passage and come out in an adjacent cave pool. This pool was quite a thrill and was uniquely located on a rocky seashore at sea level allowing you to look over the natural stone wall into the aqua blue sea.
Another fun outing was a several mile walk to the Robert Louis Stevenson mansion (author of Treasure Island and 30+ other novels), which has been recently restored and offers a great glimpse into the early European influence in the islands. Western Samoa is reported to have some world class surfing, and I was wanting for a surfboard during our stay and hope to get one in NZ. The weather was hot and muggy, and we spent many a day hanging out at an air-conditioned internet café called the “Traveler’s Lounge” that served ice cream cones for 2 Talla or a double scoop for 3 Talla, spending many an hour chatting with other travelers and yachties and very little time on the expensive internet.

One night we were invited over to a 52’ boat named “Long Tall Sally” to play cards, and going below we were treated to air conditioning. What a treat even if we had to listen to their diesel generator run to power the AC.

We went through the check-out procedure by visiting Immigration and Customs offices, filling out forms, paying fees, getting requisite stamps and clearance paperwork to leave the country. We then, much to our chagrin, proceeded to stay in the country for six more days waiting for the wind to blow so we could leave. The wind was amazingly absent due to some weird phenomena, and it made the heat and humidity even more oppressive without the ever-present trade wind breeze. We thoroughly enjoyed the additional days and will miss many of our new friends from the anchorage that are heading North for the cyclone season.

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