Travel Through American Samoa on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

American Samoa on a Harley (22/8/08 - 28/8/08)
Distance 207 km (508887 km to 509094 km)

This is part of the fourteenth section of our around the world trip.
Background information and previous trips.

Coming from Samoa
22/8/08 The boat, "Lady Naomi", left on time. A short chugger she popped about crashing into a head sea vibrating and pitching. Most of the passengers had chosen deck seats, outside in the fresh air, or in the noisy television lounge but for a few extra dollars we were below on a vinyl mattress in one large air-conditioned cabin with bunk bays containing 30 bunks. Only half full it was a comfortable enough space other than the bobbing boat which had Kay sick and me not sleeping too well all night. Arriving in American Samoa at 8.30am, into the magnificent mountain surrounded harbour, the 150 passengers were slowly processed through customs and immigration. We waited till they were completed before obtaining the motorcycle. Customs initially advised us there would be a non refundable 10% tax for temporarily importing the motorcycle, but they relented to a $40 charge after we suggested we wouldn't bring the motorcycle ashore but would leave again with the same vessel, not sure how the price changed?Outside Pago Pago Airport They also allowed us to use the motorcycle, riding out of the port area, to obtain insurance and a registration permit. It was $20 insurance for our stay, and the Office of Motor Vehicles very kindly gave us a permit to ride on island for the week for free, so that by midday we were legally riding and collapsed at the cheapest hotel in town. I guess we were surprised at how this island, officially part of the USA, doesn't feel like America. Unlike Guam, or even Puerto Rico, this remote territory seems to have largely kept its own culture, runs its own customs and immigration, and apart from the large US vehicles, it still feels pleasantly more Samoan than American.

23/8/08 Rarely a day goes by without rain in this wettest harbour of the world, and sure enough it rained overnight and again this morning, but had cleared by lunch enabling us to venture out for a ride eastwards along the south coast. Small sandy beaches dot the coastline with almost every village having its own along with the compulsory fale, open air gathering place. Again like most Pacific nations these beaches are owned by locals who naturally charge for entry, but deter us from stopping for a short visit, and we only stopped on a headland to eat our canned lunch, and again at theBuses built from Toyota car chassis Barefoot Bar. Here a couple of westerners on boogie boards were being dragged out to sea on one of the many rips, holes in the reef where water flows back to the ocean. Both needed rescuing by the bar owner, a common occurrence he assured us. Relaxed locals were having beachside barbecues with large families, all shops closed from lunch Saturday till Monday morning, life here, without the tourists that Samoa gets, moving at a slow pace.

24/8/08 Ambulances fly past our hotel at regular intervals, we have been told taking diabetes patients to hospital, a common ailment with the large people and a western diet, and the people here are large indeed, some of the largest we have ever seen both individually and as a society. The supermarkets full of American produce, sugar and corn syrup, corn starch, an ingredient in all the processed foods we could find. Sunday nothing open so it was a slow walk along the quiet waterfront our big outing for the day. The beautiful harbour has a couple of dozen travelling yachts at anchor and a couple of days ago we met a few yachties. A South African family, two Canadians and two Americans, heading south towards New Zealand or north above the equator, away from the upcoming cycloneAt the western end of the island season.

25/8/08 Took the motorcycle for another ride, this time to the western end of the island, more lovely beaches, villages with fale and churches as meeting places, well manicured gardens of tropical plants and painted rocks and old tyres as garden borders. It is a tidy country but some areas are showing a downturn, perhaps from the slowing US economy, perhaps as more and more Samoans are now living in the US for longer, repatriated money is not coming "home" and ties are slowly being broken. We are surprised at the reasonable prices here, accommodation and food, restaurant or supermarket, is comparable to Samoa, and the quality is also good. We have been advised there are no taxes, and almost everyone, at least those with a job, works for the government, schools, hospital, police etc, seem to occupy all the non residential buildings.

26/8/08 Having mentally questioned the $US 40.00 charge for bringing our motorcycle into American Samoa, and as no receipt was issued to us, we discussedJust one of the many large village churches the matter with the head of customs this morning. Apparently the 10% import charge is usually not collected for short stays and for longer ones it is collected and refunded if there is any doubt the vehicle will be exported. He was concerned that firstly we had been charged the $40 and secondly that we had been allowed to ride the motorcycle before obtaining insurance and registration. The officer under discussion was identified and questioned along with his assistant, the money was returned to me, and I was informed his superior would need to file a report on the matter. Where isn't there corruption in the world, where can we get honest answers from those in authority who we are obligated to believe? This is now the third American territory where we have had problems with Customs officers, and we have only visited three, Puerto Rico, Guam and now American Samoa, not a very satisfactory record!

27/8/08 Out for another ride in late evening, the cool time, we rode over the mountain to the northern villages, two cross island roads. Again every village had its large, read large, church, well maintained in a dominating position andOur rolly boat in Pago Pago harbour many fale for group gatherings. 

28/8/08 The weather has been calmer, winds dropping and after loading the motorcycle for our voyage back to Apia, Samoa, and rejoining the same vessel at 3pm, it left the harbour an hour later, into a steady smooth swell, rolling slightly.

Move with us to Samoa



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