After our whirlwind of a trip, it was finally time for us to head back home. We headed to the market to catch the bus for the wharf. We knew it would be crowded, but did not know what we were getting ourselves into. The bus had people literally out the window. The police had to come to control the scene. Even though the bus was full, there was still at least 50 of us waiting for the next bus. My friends decided no bus we would take would be completely safe, and we wanted to travel without getting sick, so we decided to opt for a taxi.
We probably should have guessed what the scene would be like when we got to the wharf, since we have all travelled on busy days….but even the busiest day did not compare to what we saw. There had to be at least 2,000 people waiting there. The line for cars went so far down the road that we could not see where it ended. It was much more crowded than when the ferry service was stopped for several days because of the hurricane. After being in the shove fest of a line for 30 minutes, I was able to buy our tickets, and we went into the second waiting room where the line to board the ferry was.
Picture a concert, and picture the front with the mosh pit. That was the scene. There was a faint sound of music, from someone travelling with a guitar in the first of the waiting rooms, but otherwise we had the heat and body odor of a concert without any of the perks.
There had to have been 2,000 of us in this little room (think the size of a double classroom in America) and more still in the first waiting room. When the door opened for the workers to accept tickets , everyone began shoving to try to make their way to the metal gate that formed the line. We were also scared as we saw mothers holding their babies being shoved into others. We feared for the worst when we saw small children. People were jumping over chairs and falling over people. It was complete chaos, with only one woman trying to control the entire crowd with her voice. She was getting nowhere. We were no way near the front when we saw the gate close.
We looked over to the boat and everyone was standing , they had run out of seats a long time ago. I looked at the front of the line and saw another PCV, Sam, being smushed against people and felt horrible for her. Me and my friends decided that it was not worth our health to wait on that line and were fortunate enough to find seats.
On the line, a man could not take the heat anymore, and I saw him begin throwing up from heat exhaustion. It was so crowded that it landed on others. He was stuck in there with no way out looking as sick as can be.
Another man had a big birthday cake and it had been smashed into him and was more on his shirt than in the box now.
They opened the gate a second time, and allowed people to boat on the car level, something that is usually forbidden, but with over 1,000 people still waiting to board a boat, they were running out of options.
Thankfully, they decided to send another boat for us, otherwise we all would have been stuck at the wharf over night. The Samoa Express, the smallest boat in the fleet, arrived around 530pm. Thankfully, we were in a good spot in line by this time since others had left their spot to grab something to eat. We headed up the stairs and sat on the box of lifejackets. Most people don’t think to go upstairs on this boat, which I really appreciated. There is no outside seating, and inside makes me so sick because there is absolutely no airflow. I didn’t see how crowded the car deck which had a majority of the people was until it was time to leave as I did not want to lose my seat.
Our boat ride was beautiful with such an amazing sunset. Then the stars came out with the nice cool air coming off the water. Being the smallest boat, we arrived well after 7pm, exhausted from travelling under those conditions. We had arrived at the bus depot at 1:30. We walked to the stairs, and saw about a thousand people on the car deck standing, waiting to unload. It was insane to watch them all as we are not used to crowds.
We felt impressed that we survived such an experience, as it was so rough. We tried to think of what to compare it to in our lives, and the best we could think of is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving for shopping in America. But I honestly think it was about ten times worse than that. We were all surprised we made it out in one piece, unlike some of the others on our boat.