American-Samoa - The 'other' Samoa

What nice day visit to American-Samoa, it was worth all the effort. Samoa and American-Samoa are different countries. Samoa is an own country whereas American-Samoa belongs to the US.

Didn't plan to come here but sometimes circumstances change quickly and I'm glad I used the chance for making a day trip from Samoa to American-Samoa.

Getting to American-Samoa is only possible from Hawaii or Samoa. At least when using a plane as transport. That makes it quite difficult to get there. The whole thing "American-Samoa" is made up of volcanic islands and is covered with tropical rainforest, so most of this US territory land is nature.

Things to see and areas to visit around Pago Pago

May 24 - Buying ticket to American-Samoa

I was walking through the streets in Samoa and was thinking about tomorrows options for my schedule. Should I go scuba diving or should I go visiting Savaii. A or B, A or B, A or B... I just couldn't decide.

This afternoon I passed by the Samoan Air office in downtown Nuku'alofa. It was 3pm and today is Friday. When I saw the logo of Samoan Air my brain switched memory and I realized back a few months ago I was intensively planning and trying to fit in a visit to American-Samoa, but I was hesitating. Back then the risk of missing a flight or facing a flight delay was just too large and honestly, I never thought I would even be here in Samoa by today - because I thought some flight delay will destroy my whole Oceania itinerary. But now I'm here in Samoa and stand in front of the Air Samoan office.

Out of curiosity, and as it was just a few steps and a few calories to burn to open the door, I went in to ask the lady at the desk for the schedule to American-Samoa. My question was simple and even easy enough to answer for a Samoan employee at 3pm on a Friday afternoon 30 minutes before closing time. When is the next flight to American-Samoa?

Hi Sir. Sorry we are soon closing. Can you please come back on monday?

What? Soon closing? It was 30 minutes before closing! And so tried my luck again. This time she was more productive:

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm... I seeeee... you want book a ticket to American-Samoa. Next flight is tomorrow. I will book it, is that Ok for you Sir?

Tomorrow morning?? Wow, that sounds great! My concentration turned to level "now get your shit together in your brain". Itinerary planning mode is activated. The woman must have been annoyed by all my questions, but it was necessary now. American-Samoa is only 30 minutes away from Samoa but is a different country. And also it's in a different time-zone. And then it is also on a different date. American-Samoa is one day behind Samoa even tho its just 30 minutes away. Things got confusing now. The woman showed me the itinerary and I wasn't sure if the lady is already in weekend mode and just printed something so have me gone, but the itinerary was like a time travel. And it actually is.

That means, within a 30 minutes flight I will travel back in time a full 24h day. The itinerary was like this:
Departure on 7am SATURDAY from Samoa.
Arrival on 8am FRIDAY in American-Samoa.

Return flight:
Departure at 16:30pm on FRIDAY in American-Samoa.
Arrival at 17pm on SATURDAY in Samoa.

After she printed the ticket, I went asking another employee in the office if this is really correct. Cause somehow I had the feeling the lady was already too much on weekend-mode and not sure if she maybe did a mistake. However, she confirmed all way correct, I paid the ticket and hoped it really will be correct tomorrow.

Another good thing now was that the decision between diving and a visit to Savaii was not necessary anymore.

May 25 – Arriving in American-Samoa

Was excited today morning, if this trip is really going to work as intended. The flights from Samoa to American-Samoa are departing from the airport right next to Apia, which is called the Fagali Airport.

The Samoan Air staff showed up 20 minutes before departure for doing the check-in and I was sure there will be a delay of some hours, but fortunately, there was no delay. The plane was tiny and no door to the cockpit. Was interesting to see a working cockpit with pilots doing their job. Last time I saw this on a passenger flight was about 25 years ago or so, back then when the cockpits were still accessible and by swiping a curtain to get to the pilots.

Flight from Samoa to American-Samoa
Plane without door to cockpitSmall plane is used from Fagali to PagoPlane arrives in American-Samoa

In total only there were about 9 people in the plane, whereas at the check-in have been waiting several dozen people. Strange.

Its a 30 minutes flight but totally confusing: Departure was this early Saturday morning. As American-Samoa is 24 behind in time, I arrived in American-Samoa on Friday morning but came back to Samoa on Saturday afternoon.

Great view from the airport over American-Samoa

McDonald's rents out scooter!

Arriving in Pago, the capital city of American-Samoa, I immediately asked around in the airport for rental cars. Unfortunately, they were a) all sold out or b) way too expensive. And I didn't want a huge US 4WD pickup truck just to cruise around American-Samoa.

One desk luckily helped me organizing a scooter. They called a number from an advertisement from "Rocketeer Motors" and 10 minutes later a staff from McDonald's showed up at the airport, wearing McDonald's clothes and introduced himself as the scooter owner.

Hey, how r ya? You look for renting a scooter? The rental station is next the McDonald's. I can take you there, I'm just little bit in a hurry...

He took me to the next McDonalds nearby, where the scooter was located. I quickly found out it was his own scooter and while he is working at McDonald's during the day, he rents off his scooter.

No contract, no signature was necessary and the price was fair with only 40 USD, especially as I didn't have another vehicle option.

Rocketeer Scooter rents them from McDonalds

Start driving the curvy roads

As I was already in the parking lot of a McDonalds, I enjoyed a great breakfast and a cappuccino before departing off to the American-Samoa cruise.

Visible everywhere

Navigating in American-Samoa is easy as there is only one main road through the country. From east to west. The roads are broad, almost like the mainland of the United States. Except for the streets, also everything else looks a bit Americanized but at least the Pacific island style not completely wiped out.

Island country house on the left, US American van on the right. US island citizen in the middle.

Green area in the capital

From starting the road trip with my scooter, I was about 7-8 hours before I had to be back in the airport. So I used the time and started driving all the way to the very far east of the island. Traffic tho is not such a big problem. From the airport Area to the capital Pago Pago is the busiest piece of road.

Is about 30 minutes ride from the airport

From capital Pago Pago to the very east

Pago Pago is small.
Small town with most shops and restaurants
Biggest church in PagoSurrounded by green vegatationEven when busy not so busy

They were having some kind of election rally today.
Attendeeds get free food
Listening to the election speechAmerican-Samoa senior citizen electionBig meals are served already in the morning

One way took me longer than I expected, but not because of the street conditions but because of the beauty everywhere. It's wonderful to drive a motorbike here.

The scenery with lush vegetation and steep hills & mountains along the coastal road, all along the way until the very end of the road in the far east of the island. It's just stunning, difficult to describe. There is constantly this presence of this “unique place” feeling.

Steep hills in American-Samoa
With some fishing boatsUsed to announce school lessonWith palms and great view on the steep mountains

A bit further after Pago Pago there is an intersection with a road to the left, that leads up to the steep mountain. From up there its possible to see the whole harbor of Pago Pago.

Viewpoint over Pago Pago harbor

The distance on google maps looks small, but the road has a lot of curves all along the way.
Dont drink and drive in American Samoa

Walking beside the local bus

Houses in American-Samoa are very similar to the ones in Samoa. Typical Polynesian architecture with these open houses. In Samoa, almost every house neighborhood has its own.

They are meant to have a power nap inside and during the hot days but with the advantage of constantly having wind coming through. In the evening they can put mosquito nets on the sides but still have the ocean breeze.

Open to let the wind in
Typical polynesiaon churchArchitecture is same as in SamoaEvery church looks different but totally uniqueAll forms and shapes can be foundProvide shade from the sun but wind from the oceanNeighborhood in American-SamoaAbove is living area and under the communal sitting areaAmerican-Samoa with steep hills and lush vegetationLooks like a gas station

American-Samoa is US territory exactly since the year 1900. So this painting along the road must have been from 2017.

It all started in 1900 when they became US territory

There are many bunkers from the second world war all along the coast. This particular one remembered me to character "Bender" from the series Futurama. Its no wonder that they don't produce any more episodes when the actors are relaxing somewhere in at the beach :) ...

Looks like Bender from Futurama

Driving couldn't be easier as its only one way and traffic is almost nonexistent up until the near area of Pago Pago. I'm glad having rented a motorbike instead of a car, driving these curves with a great view along the coast is definitely better to enjoy from a motorbike, than sitting behind a steering wheel.

All the roads are along the coast
Long coastal roads with beachesPhoto from east of American-SamoaAfter every curve there is a nother great view

The way to the end on the east side of American-Samoa comes with great views all along the road and with a nice lookout at the final stop before the road completely ends.

On the very east of American-Samoa is no more road

Big and happy people

One way to the end took me about 3 hours, then drove back and ate in a mall in Pago Pago. Now the real US American part of American-Samoa kicked in. Meals here are HEAVY. Even the normal small meal with rice and BBQ chicken for 8 USD comes with two huge pieces of BBQ chicken and a monster plate of rice. I was full after one chicken and I was really hungry before. They serve amount like this as a standard, for people who come for a quick lunch break. When I look on other guests plates, I saw the same and then next to the first plate even a second portion with fried chicken and fries and later the waiter brought them a bowl of ice cream. They ate EVERYTHING!
I was perplexed to see the huge amount of food that people can eat here. From what I have seen, people here are on average even more big & obese (no, I'm not saying fat!!!!) than the people in Samoa.

This explains a lot of what I heard about Samoa being the people with the most obese people on the planet. And no, it's not my judgment, but its the judgment of different researches which can be found on the internet. Bad for Samoa tho. Samoa is an own country and American-Samoa is not. This fact makes Samoa the country with the most obese people on earth. But they know it, they really do.

I talked with a few people in different countries in Oceania about these researches and they all knew by themselves. And all of them find it even funnier than I do, but also more dramatic and tragic. They all know but it seems they can't really change it, even with the help of the government.

The friendly-gene

But on the other side all these people from the Polynesian or Micronesian area, no matter if a bit bigger or not so big, they are all friendly. Really friendly. And relaxed and happy. They all have this friendliness-gene in them.

Smiling and waving hands from the bus after they saw me making photos.

Time-travel time, back to Samoa now...

At 3pm I brought the scooter back to McDonald's and enjoyed another large cappuccino in the airconditioned area. Minutes later I had to move to the airport and fly back to Samoa. It was Friday in American-Samoa and I arrived 30 minutes later in Samoa, whereas it was already Saturday afternoon.

I'm still confused about this, even now after returning back home.

Departure in American-Samoa on Friday 4:30pm

The airport in American-Samoa does have a normal waiting area with chairs but also has a big waiting area for departure and arrival inside the typical (American)-Samoan houses.

Entering the small plane again for having the 30 minutes flight back to Samoa and switching time zone by 24 hours. Boarding is fast with only 5 people, everything is quick and easy - didn't expect that at all.

Arrival in Samoa on Saturday 5pm

The view on descending back to Samoa's Nuku'alofa. Don't know whos residence this is but it looks like a freakin Manta from above.

Descending to the airport in Samoa

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