View from the top: Pago Pago Harbor, American Samoa
A lot can happen in a week, and a lot has happened in the past week, but I will try to relate events in a coherent, organized and interesting fashion, skipping over all the boring and trivial stuff only to report the most important and outstanding occurrences.
Perhaps not the most interesting, but by far the most important event (second to surfing which I will get to later) to happen is the fixing of our dinghy motor. Yayyy!! We have transportation again! You have no idea what a huge pain in the ass it was to row the dinghy into shore and back. People took pity on us and picked us up or gave us a tow, but it was pathetic. Not no more! The motor is now running better than ever thanks to my sister who sent us the part, thanks to the USPS who got it here to Pago Pago (a week late), and thanks to Mom and Dad who toiled all afternoon in the hot sun to put the motor back together while I went surfing.
Yes, I went surfing. It was gnarly. But also quite an experience. Lars and I headed toward the East end of the island yesterday morning, getting on the bus that would take us the farthest down the road. I was trying to concentrate on finding waves as we drove past many beaches and reef breaks, but there was a very intense Kung-Fu movie playing on the TV screen at the front of the very funky, homemade bus that I kept getting sucked into. We took the bus to the end of the line, stayed on the bus when it turned around and got off at a village where we saw a remotely friendly-looking wave.
The village of Tula is a "traditional village" according to the guide books, so Lars and I thought to ask the elders if it was ok for us to surf there. We went up to the fale where elderly, chiefly looking Samoan men were sitting around. Lars asked them for permission to surf and one man who I assume to be the chief of the village said, "Ahhh well, we have a funeral here today." Upon which the other men started laughing but Lars and I didn't know how to react. Lars said, "Oh ok, um, maybe we should go somewhere else then?" And the chief said, "Hmmmm, ahhhh, wellllll, I guess for you two it would be ok for you to surf here. But be careful not to get caught in the current because I won't come save you today." He was about 200 lbs.
We thanked him and headed to the beach. It was a nice sandy beach that turned into a live coral shelf where the water met the sand. I wanted to get in the water right away because the tide was dropping and you only surf in Samoa when the tide is high. Lars headed straight out and I followed him, tripping over coral heads and trying not to ding my board or myself. Kooky as it is, I wore booties because if I hadn't my feet would look like raw hamburger right now.
To make a long story short, I got washed around on the reef for about 30 minutes before I finally figured out that there was a channel just down the beach and I didn't have to walk in ankle deep water with waves crashing down on me... yep, I am a quick learner. I caught a few waves sitting in a little channel (break in the reef), sitting next to a coral head that would suck dry with every wave that came through. The waves here are gnarly, and I would rather catch a mushy, powerless wave then get smashed on dry reef. But I am working on that.
I have not been exploring exclusively for waves. A few days ago Mom, Dad and I hiked up to the peak that looks out over Pago Pago bay. Man, am I out of shape! It was about a 4 hour hike that we did 3 days ago, and I am still sore. That's what sitting on a boat will do to you. The hike felt really good in spite of the pain, and the view from the top was beautiful. I took lots of aerial shots of the bay as well as the stunning coast line on the north side of the island.
Today we took a tour of the island with my buddy Dimitri, who is also the security guard at the quay. Last night I was hanging out on the quay with him and his friends, when they pulled out their dinners to share. We had an impromptu Samoa feast. The food was, well, um... fatty. The laupipi is "turkey tail" cooked in taro leaves. I asked what turkey tail was and Dimitri laughed and said "turkey butt". I still don't know what it is but it was hard to eat. We also had lamb and cabbage as well as boiled green bananas with coconut milk. It was a very kind gesture and typical Samoan etiquette to share with me.
The tour Dimitri took us on was informative and interesting. He took us to spots along the coast with sheer lava cliffs that plunge down into blue green water, secluded beaches and other local spots. We went up a mountain to a village people call "Alaska" because it is a frigid 75 degrees there during the day. He also gave us all sorts of interesting insights into Samoan culture, telling us where the Samoan drug lord lives and how it is mostly the Western Samoans that fill the prison.
He seemed to be a bit biased, but Dimitri also told us that, "In American Samoa we eat good meat like ham and turkey and chicken. In Tonga they eat meat like dog and horse." I think we will be provisioning here.