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Pago, Pago; Palm Trees, Tsunami and 2 Dollar Beach

Travels to Hawaii and South Pacific, part 10

By Armando F Sanchez, Contributing Writer
Published on LatinoLA: May 13, 2014

Pago, Pago; Palm Trees, Tsunami and 2 Dollar Beach

We landed in the harbor of the island named Pago Pago (pronounced Pango Pango). This is a unique island in that it is a territory of the US and has a deep harbor. Thus large ships can enter and dock here. The majority of the islands, in the Pacific, are typically surrounded with hard coral and only very small crafts have access.

It's an island with an approximate population of 10,000. The Samoans, on the island, are US citizens and its common for them to move to the Hawaiian islands and the mainland.

The morning we arrived, the harbor was full of commercial ships used for fishing and fueling. Samoa is strategically located in the South Pacific and it's harbor allows for cargo and shipments to be redistributed as it is shipped throughout the world. A large building that is prominent in the harbor is a tuna packing house. Apparently, it is a Chinese company that processes and ships tuna, in cans, to the US mainland. It is estimated that a third of the islands population works there.

We docked in the center of town. Upon walking into the town, one immediately sees a large number of city buses going back and forth on the only main street. They are quite unique in that they seem to be built by hand on top of small truck frames. A group of us contracted one of them to take us to a nice beach area. Sandy beaches are hard to find. The islands are made of volcanic rock and have mainly cliffs, rocky shores and corral dominate the area.

Once we got on our local "bus" I realized that it was made from many items you would find in a hardware store. The frame was wood and they used small household windows, electrical switches and home draperies to decorate it. It was cozy in our local transportation. The seats are just plain wood panels.

We took a short tour of the island. The roads had many potholes so no one drive past 20 miles an hour. Besides, there is only one main, two lane road so they take their time down the roads. It rains a great deal here so you can see that it's all lush and green.

As we started traveling through the town, we noticed several large building that were in major disrepair. We learned that they were destroyed by the 2009 tsunami that started just off their coast. It was sad to learn that 89 persons lost their lives that day. The tsunami also impacted and caused 18 hotels to close. It was due to the damage they received since they were on the coastline. Given the relatively small population of the island, one could see how difficult it would be for them to have the essential manpower to rebuild. It can also be costly since many building materials and equipment would have to come from Hawaii or Australia. From Samoa, Hawaii is 2,278 miles and Australia is 2,700 miles away.

As we leisured traveled down the road go to 2 Dollar Beach, which is a short ways further down the road from 5 Dollar Beach or Tisa's Beach. These are the actual names of the beaches here! The beaches are owned by local native groups and the names also informs you of what they charge to access the small sandy beach area.

It was fun to be there. Our small group shared the clear water lagoon area. We mainly sat in the shallow tide pool area and enjoyed talking and splashing about. The water was comfortably warm. One must make sure that one is wearing sun block. We are close to the equator and it does take long to get sunburned.

As we were returning into town, I realized there wasn't much to see on the island. We walked a few blocks and bought a few local craft items to take back home.

While I was walking around, I wondered how difficult it must be for the island residents. I am guessing that they would experience a high degree of migration and thus create a brain drain issue here. It would be very difficult to maintain a viable educational, financial, health and social infrastructure if the newly educated keep leaving the island. My research shows that this is an issue that is in fact being faced by the islander throughout this region. This social strain is also happening in other parts of the world. Last year, while traveling through Greece, I learned that they were also having this problem whereby their educated youth were moving to other parts of the world and deciding not to return. The elderly were sadden since they had to be left behind.

I can't say that this island was an area with spectacular oceanic scenery. In spite of it, many who were on the cruise were from areas that, were it was still snowing or currently experiencing freezing temperatures. Most of them were thrilled to be on the island rather than back in their homes.

As for me, I was glad to have visited US Samoa. I am hopeful that our spending, as tourists on the island, will help the local economy. I leave the island wondering how global warming will affect them. Tsunamis must be terrifying out here, but a raise in ocean levels may cause for these island cultures to vanish.

We set sail in the afternoon and in two days we will land in the city of Apia, which is the capital of Samoa (an independent country). I have a reservation for a rental car there and they drive on the opposite side of the road. That should be an experience for me to drive like the British.

About Armando F Sanchez, Contributing Writer:
Armando F Sanchez is an author and CEO of Armando F Sanchez Production. His organization produces global digital media programming.
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