Dec 042014

Made it to the tiny Fagali’i Airport on Samoa about 65 minutes before my flight…and the flight was still not open for check-in! I guess that’s how it works when the entire airport is one little room! I did still have to pay for my return ticket, so took care of that while I waited. Why didn’t I just buy a roundtrip online? Well, see, Samoa and American Samoa sit on opposite sides of the International Date Line, despite only being 50 miles apart. I was departing Samoa at 12:30 pm one day, and arriving at 12:05 pm the PREVIOUS day…a full 24 hours and 25 minutes before I’d departed! I would be returning the day before I left…and you can’t buy a roundtrip ticket where the return date is earlier than the departure date. Crazy!

Eventually check-in opened, and through immigration and security in less than 2 minutes, and time to wait for the flight.

Polynesian Airlines flight 240
Fagali’i Airport, Samoa (FGI) to Pago Pago, American Samoa (PPG)
Depart 12:30, Arrive 12:05 Previous Day, Flight Time – 35 minutes
Dehavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter, Registration 5W-FAY, Manufactured 1980, Seat 2A

Old-school handwritten boarding pass:


Today’s flight was packed with all 15 or so seats taken, and soon we were off. Views of American Samoa on approach:



Just 30 minutes flight time (max) and we were on the ground. I snapped this picture of the inside of the plane as we left:



Talofa! Welcome!


Immigration took longer than it should have for 15 people, and I think they were mostly just curious what the hell I was doing there. I guess not many tourists show up from Samoa for the day “just to see it” – especially ones with US passports. CBP doesn’t run the show here so no Global Entry kiosks, so it was the full questioning. America, but felt like “not America” at the same time.

Outside the airport, my next task was to either rent a car or taxi for four hours. I didn’t know where I was going so thought a car would be a bad idea, so I started negotiating with the taxis. In the US mainland a taxi would ask hundreds for four hours, and the first guy I approached wanted $100. The second guy tried $75. The third asked for $60. I probably could have gone lower, but honestly for four hours of driving me around and playing tour guide I thought that a pretty fair price.

First stop, an ATM, since I had no US Dollars to my name to pay him…and look, it’s right next to a Ford dealership. We really are in America!


After the ATM I told the driver I just wanted to see the island, and needed a good lunch, so we set off. You can see the close ties between Hawaii and Samoa…


Most of the drive was right alongside the ocean, with terrible views:



Despite massive cutbacks in recent years, the economy of American Samoa is largely dependent on the tuna industry, and on StarKist in particular. You can smell the factory long before you get to it:


StarKist workers outside waiting for a bus:


For lunch, my driver took me to Tisa’s Bar & Grill:


Can I get a menu? No, we have fish today. Ok, I’ll have the fish! Delicious grilled fish marinated in coconut milk, citrus juice, butter, and spices. It was amazing. The thing on the right is a local sweet potato that grows straight up out of the ground:


View from Tisa’s deck:




After lunch I stuck around for a bit and chatted with Tisa and Chef Candyman who’d made my lunch. We talked about American Samoa, how things had changed, how Tisa had gone to LA for a few years and hated it, so came back to Pago Pago. After a large group of US National Park collecting tourists left (see, people collect things stranger than countries) it was nice to hear their perspective in life on the islands and why they’d chosen to live there.

Soon it was time for a bit more driving before heading back to the airport:


Most…exotically-furnished…bathrooms ever:


Check-in area. This is the BUSY day too with a flight to Honolulu:


I asked for seat 1A this time so I could watch the flight deck, and they had no trouble giving it to me. Unfortunately, at boarding, I got moved back to 3A for weight and balance reasons. Bummer. We were booked full again except for two seats.

Polynesian Airlines flight 269
Pago Pago, American Samoa (PPG) to¬†Fagali’i Airport, Samoa (FGI)
Depart 16:30, Arrive 18:00 Next Day, Flight Time – 350 minutes
Dehavilland DHC-6 Twin Otter, Registration 5W-FAY, Manufactured 1980, Seat 3A


Nice quick flight back to Samoa on the little plane held together by wires, and it was time to go pick up my bags at Aggie Grey’s, check out, and head to the airport for my flight back to Auckland.