Day M104: This is Yesterday

Sun 08.01.12:

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.

Annnnnnnyways…

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.

Day M181: How The South Pacific Was Won

26.03.12:

The Pacific, south of the equator line, is now complete. Yes, there were a handful of territories – Niue, Tokelau, French Polynesia, Pitcairn & Easter Island – that I skipped, but if the purpose of this adventure is to have great stories to tell the grandkids, I need to finish this quest so I can work on spawning future generations of argumentative scouse dingbats to tell the aforementioned great stories to in the first place. Happily, I did get to visit the French territories of New Caledonia, Wallis and Futuna (both of them!) and the US territory of American Samoa, bringing my ‘territory tally’ up to 9.

Here’s a rough map I knocked together of the route I took, including ships and dates. Clicky for biggie.

How I Visited Every Country In The Pacific Without Flying

MASSIVE THANKS must go to the cargo kings of the Pacific Ocean – Swire, Neptune, PDL, PIL, Reef and the cruise queens – Carnival, Princess and P&O. Alex Pattison (Swire), Rowan Moss (PDL), Captain Hebden (Neptune) and David Jones (Carnival) in particular went that extra mile to help this raggedy stranger take a giant leap forwards in achieving his dream.

Finally, hats off to Captain Bernie Santos of the Papuan Chief, Captain Don McGill of the Southern Pearl, Captain Andrey Verkhovsky of the Southern Lily 2 and Captains Sireli Raloka and Bob Williams of the Scarlett Lucy. It was a real honour to sail with these guys.

All in all, a pretty successful five months! I only wish I had known (at the time) that the Scarlett Lucy came into Honiara on the way to Nauru. Had I know that, and had Neptune been happy to let me on board last October, I could have jumped off the Papuan Chief and jumped on the Lucy, cutting out the massive backtrack to Australia from New Zealand – saving myself at least a month’s worth of travel.

But then I wouldn’t have scored a free ride as a VIP on a cruise ship, so I’m really not complaining!!

As I keep saying, there’s no manual for this type of thing – it just goes to show that good information is priceless. Now, with Nauru out of the way, I must turn my attention north to Palau and Micronesia.


The Cap Serrat left in the wee small hours of the morning, and the only other ship that will get me to Taiwan (in time to make April’s one and only ship to Palau and Micronesia) leaves from Townsville, 1,300km north of here in just three days time, and I still haven’t got permission off the owner to board the vessel. This is cutting it tight and making a huge gamble – if I don’t get on the Mell Seringat on Thursday I’ll have lost another month.

After saying my goodbyes to Captain Bob, Rusi, Peni, Cookie, Douglas, Bese, Labe, Ricky, Meli, Patrick, Peter, Hendra, Daniel, Asi, Manasa, Martin and Chief Tarawa – I reluctantly disembarked the Scarlett Lucy, my home for the past 34 days. I set course for the Mission to Seafarers in order to take advantage of the courtesy bus that takes salty seadogs like meselfs to the nearest town, Wynnum. A train ride to Brisbane city’s south bank, a rather unfortunate looking set of nuclear bunkers that substitute for a cultural quarter. A good place to run to when the North Koreans attack, and also there’s free internet.

After trudging through my back-log of emails and correspondence, it became clear that I was no closer to being allowed on this ship than I was 24 hours ago when I was in the middle of the sea. Tomorrow I’d have to make the decision whether to head up to Townsville anyway, but today I could (kinda) relax. I met up with Crystal, a mate off the Pacific Pearl, and we settled in for an evening of pizza and beer before I crashed on the coach. The Pacific Ocean is magnificent, but dry land does have its bonuses.