Yesterday was Sunday 8 January 2012. Last night I went to bed and got I good night’s sleep. This morning I awoke to find it Sunday 8 January 2012 again. While I was sleeping the Southern Lily 2 left Apia, crossed the (newly redrawn) International Date Line and now it’s Sunday again. That’s not a typo. Welcome, friends, to American Samoa.
Divided countries, especially ones divided by Western Powers, always strike me as deeply unfair. Samoa and American Samoa share the same language, culture and religion. The only thing separating the two is the conceit of politicians thousands of miles away and more than a century ago. Britain, France, Germany and the US all wanted a slice of Samoa. After some kind of contest (presumably a pissing one), it was agreed that the Samoan islands of Savai’i and ’Upolu would be given to the Germans and the island of Tutuila and surrounds would be given to the Yanks. This seemed fair at the time, but then again, so did the death penalty. Thank God the civilised nations of the world have moved on from those dark days.
What? The state is still allowed to murder its own citizens in the USA? Blimey. How medieval. Next they’ll be trying to teach kids that the entire universe was created by some kind of big magic invisible space wizard with a beard who occasionally grants wishes. From space.
The international community took Samoa off the Germans after World War I (along with Togoland, Tanganyika, South West Africa, German New Guinea and a few other bits and bobs) for being ‘very naughty’. ‘Western’ Samoa was subsequently handed over to New Zealand. But this is before New Zealand got good at rugby and made Lord of the Rings, so Samoa pushed for independence. Meanwhile, American Samoa (shouldn’t that be The US Samoan Islands?), happy at the fact that the USA was pumping out blockbusters like Gone With The Wind and Battlefield Earth, elected to stay with their big bothersome brother, presumably to rule out the chance of being randomly invaded at the behest of a corrupt banjo-playing President of the future.
We arrived in the port of Pago Pago around 10am local time, and I am jolly glad I was awake for it. No natural harbour I have seen in the world so far compares to the beauty of Pago Pago. Surrounded on all sides by the greenest mountains imaginable (the highest is called ‘Rainmaker’, and it does it’s job very well – they have over 60 METRES of rain here every year) it is an experience to compare with sailing along the shoulder of PNG, between the storms of the Sepik and Manama, the mountain of fire.
Once ashore, Captain Andriy and I met with Nolani, the port agent. She took us on a tour of the island of Tutuila. First up, we headed west past the airport to the blowholes on the southern side of the island. “This is nothing – wait until you see Tonga” grinned the captain. Then we headed over to the east, to a town called Tula and the END OF THE ROAD.
I don’t capitalise lightly. For three years I have been travelling in an easterly direction: across the Atlantic, down through Africa from West to East, across to India, China, through PNG to Fiji. Now I’ve hit the most eastern part of The Odyssey Expedition: Tula, the most easterly point of Tutuila: the most easterly island I’ll be visiting, 10 degrees east of the International Date Line.
From here on in, I shall be heading west, west, WEST… back home to Liverpool, England. Back home without flying via Tonga, New Zealand, Nauru, Micronesia, Palau, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles and South Sudan. As I keep stressing, it ain’t going to be easy, but by God it’ll be fun.
After Tula, we headed over to Tisa’s Barefoot Café. A rustic wooden bar set out on the water: at last, the bar I’ve been looking for all this time, here at the end of the Earth. A boozer built by local people out of local materials, a place to chill out, meet the Fockers and one that is entirely at one with nature. Well, provided that nature, like I, likes to watch the last sunset of the Earth’s day over a big bottle of Vailima Export.
Ahh… My kinda place.