Published: February 15th 2012
February 15th 2012
Tuesday 14th February:
Valentines Day brought us to American Samoa and as I'm writing this blog late into the evening, I can share with you the fact that many of the people on board reckon this is paradise. It is such a lush island; the tropical rain forest is dense and comes right to the water's edge. Once there, the water is crystal clear and tumbles gently over the occasional coral reef on its way in shore. Much of Somoa was devasted by the tsunami a few years ago but because it is so steeply volcanic, there are no rolling plains for the water to rush across and wreak havoc on. The wave got bounced by the high sides of the extinct volcanoes and many people were able to climb the hillsides and avoid the danger. Only 33 people lost their lives here and most of the damage has already been removed and repaired.
If you had been a mariner 200 years ago and got washed up here, there's no way you would have starved as the jungle really is nature's larder. Bread fruit, papaya, bananas, cocoa all grow here; the sea is full of fish - especially big fat tuna - and the forest teems with bird life and wild pigs. Many of the islanders eat vegetarian one day and meat the next and the produce at the heart of all days is the coconut. This is an amazing tree here as the islanders eat it, build their houses from it, cook with it, make baskets and clothes from it and even weave their crockery from it. We ate food cooked in their fantastic hot stone, outdoor, underground ovens and although tuna cooked in coconut milk is not going to be on our menus at home, the long slow cooking was wonderful for the chicken and spinach and baked bananas. Sailing away from the island this evening, you could count the smoke from many of these outdoor ovens and they are a great way of keeping the cooking heat out of the houses. And when it is still 30 degrees at 6pm, you really don't need any extra heat in your home.
If you could design your perfect image of a tropical island, I think you would design Samoa. The people are so lovely and it is still devoid of the tourist developments that you find in so much of the world. No building exceeds 2 storeys, you can ride the whole island on a bus for 25 cents and everywhere you go people smile and wave at you and seem genuinely excited that you have come to visit them.
If it was nearer the UK, we'd come here again and again. But, of course, if we did that it wouldn't remain the tropical paradise that it still is so maybe, in the end, it's a good job it's so remote. That way it may well stay very special for a long time to come.