Archive for July 16th, 2020

 

A Pretending Day

Linda Lou Burton posting about American Samoa from Little Rock, Arkansas – Let’s pretend. Pretend that I wake up this morning in Volcano House, after an entire day peering into volcanoes and wandering black-sand beaches on Hawaiian Time, meaning “no hurries, no worries, no schedules.” Pretend I have a leisurely breakfast, load up the Budget, and drive 42 miles to Hilo.

My Hawaiian Airlines flight 181 actually IS departing Hilo (ITO) at 10:10 AM and setting down in Honolulu (HNL) at 11. That’s what they notified me yesterday via email, as “inter-island travel” is now allowed by state mandate.

But that’s just half my story. I planned to lounge around the airport, no rush, till time to board my flight to Pago Pago, American Samoa. Getting to American Samoa is no easy task – back in February when I began planning my RTW, I discovered there aren’t many flights in, or out. A few from Honolulu to AS, and even fewer from AS to New Zealand, my next destination.

So why go there?

Reason 1: National Park of American Samoa. After Haleakala NP and Hawaii Volcanoes NP, a stop at our most far-flung US National Park just made sense, especially since I’d already be flying that direction on my way to New Zealand and Australia. Tick off my 35th NP!

Reason 2: Pago Pago. I’ve never been to a single one of our US Territories, so a stayover in Pago Pago, capital of American Samoa, seemed the natural next step. A whole new line of capital cities!

Reason 3: Who wouldn’t want to go to a place called “Pago Pago”? How sweet is that?

First lesson about this delightful place, our only US capital south of the equator: please don’t pronounce it “PAY-go-PAY-go.” The letter “g” in Samoan sounds like “ng,” so the correct pronunciation is “PAHNG-oh-PAHNG-oh .” Got it?

American Samoa is 2,600 miles from Honolulu and 2,900 miles from Auckland, New Zealand, a collection of five tiny islands in the South Pacific Ocean with a total land area of 76.8 square miles. (That’s just a wee bit larger than Washington, DC.) It is home to around 55,000 people, and of that, 89% are Samoan. Most American Samoans are bilingual and speak English and Samoan fluently.

I won’t get into a history lesson about HOW American Samoa came to be “American” and a US Territory, but here are a few things the tourism folks want you to know:

Rainforest-covered tropical islands. Emerald jewels in a vast blue expanse of ocean. An eco-tourism paradise. Eastern arm of the Samoan archipelago. Home to Polynesians proud of their strong Samoan culture and heritage. The friendliest people in the South Pacific.

I’m sold, right there, even without the draw of another national park and capital city. My reservation for tonight was at Sadie’s-By-The-Sea, right on the beach. Tomorrow I’ll tell more about this island paradise, and the park, where I intended to spend the day relaxing, and exploring, in equal measure.

As it is, COVID-19 intervened. Of the 56 US states and territories reporting to the CDC, American Samoa, week after week since this began, has stayed at 0. Zero. No cases. The only place. Perhaps its isolation had a hand in that.

A restriction was put in place in March that US Citizens coming to American Samoa had to quarantine 14 days in Hawaii, but that apparently has been lifted. My Hawaiian Airlines flight 465 from Honolulu (HNL) to Pago Pago (PPG) will depart at 4:35 and arrive at 9:20 tonight, according to yesterday’s email. Maybe it is filled with people who live in Hawaii? Or passed the quarantine test? Or some other test? I don’t know.

I tried to call Sadie’s-By-The-Sea today. Their website is down, and no one answered the phone. I should be sleeping in Pago Pago tonight, listening to those Pacific waters lapping gently against the shore, right outside my door.

Let’s pretend I am.