After five full days at sea, we were excited for our very first port day at Pago, Pago, American Samoa. It was our very first island in the South Pacific, south of Hawaii. (Although secretly Elliott and I agree we’d be happy on a cruise with no port days whatsoever!) We got off the ship and headed straight to the table with the sign, “National Park of American Samoa.” I was so excited when I learned that one of our US National Parks was all the way here in the South Pacific, and knew it would be the most treasured stamp in my National Park Passport Book. A ranger was already giving another man directions to a hike, and not far behind was yet another passenger who wanted to hike, so the four of us headed to the bus station together.
After waiting for a while for a bus, Elliott asked a taxi what they would charge, and the four of us decided it was worth splitting the fare. We got a young guy for a taxi driver who was very excited to tell us about his island. He dropped us off at the Fagasa Pass and we started hiking up through the gorgeous rain forest.
Eventually a family of four from the ship caught up with us, and we all started hiking together. The hike was beautiful, hot and amazing. When it finally rained on us, we were all thrilled! The rain dried up quickly and we were back in the heat, but at least it got cooler as we got higher in elevation. We hiked up and along a mountain ridge, to the top of Mount Alava, the highest point on the island. There were a couple of radio towers and many amazing views of the harbor, our ship, and the other small mountains. I was so drippy with sweat that I looked like I had just gone for a swim!
After a break and lots of photos we all started to hike down another trail to the town of Vatia. This second trail was much steeper, and had many built in ladders with ropes. The ladder rungs were made of recycled material strung together by two cables and were dug into the ground. Sometimes the rungs and/or cables were loose so the ladders were “swinging” a bit. It was a lot of fun.
That morning I had actually debated bringing our bathing suits just in case there was a waterfall or beach at the end of our hike, but knowing nothing about the hikes in the park ahead of time, I figured it was wishful thinking and decided against bringing the suits. Well wouldn’t you know it – at the bottom of our trail, there was a beautiful, empty beach with blue, blue water! There were a few scattered houses in a small village, and then this amazing beach. It even had some shade!
We sat and had our picnic lunch of cruise ship sandwiches in the perfect lunch spot. Elliott noticed all the “shells” and “rocks” on the beach were actually pieces of coral. We went swimming in our clothes with the kids, and carefully avoided all the coral and the reef everywhere around us. Someone found a coconut which made a good ocean toy. When Elliott got out he found a really pretty little pink shell for me. 11-year-old Emily and I found a couple of shells and pieces of coral we liked and decided to keep.
Eventually it was time for the bus. We loved riding the little local bus, super colorful on the outside like the busses in Tanzania and Kenya, but with nice real wooden seats on the inside. It had a booming sound system that Elliott liked, that would never fly back in the States. The ride back into town was wonderful, with view after view as we headed down to sea level. Once in town we walked to the National Park Visitor Center to get my park stamp for my park passport book. We had to rush back to the ship – we actually thought we were the last ones on at 5:32 – but it turned out a tour was running late. So hooray!