Despite his stories of swashbuckling adventure, Robert Louis Stevenson had been a sickly man and had contracted tuberculosis. It was while he was in his twenties someone suggested he find a South Pacific island to live on, where the warm climate would ease his poor health. Stevenson loved to travel, once saying, "I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move." But it was 10 years after that advice that he and his wife sailed to the Pacific and settled in Samoa.
TB-ridden Stevenson and his family lived in Samoa for the five years prior to his death. Known to the Samoans as Tusitala or Teller of Tales, the author of the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Treasure Island and Kidnapped was intensely involved in the lives of the local folk and their plight to reclaim their cultural identity.
The Stevenson homestead is now the home for the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. The informative forty-minute guided tour of the mansion and Tusitala’s many authentic personal belongings is highly recommended, especially of the library where he penned 14 tomes in just four years.
The beautiful Botanical Gardens at the base of Mt Vaea and surrounding the homestead make for an informative and stunning stroll.
You don’t have to be a literary groupie to enjoy the scenic walk through lush rainforest up to the top of Mt Vaea where the famous Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson rests in peace. Just outside of Apia, the panoramic views over the city and bay are will give another perspective of the capital of Samoa.
You have the choice of two routes to the top of the hill – a 45-minute track or, take the shorter but more strenuous half-hour trail. Whichever way you chose, go early in the morning or late afternoon, as the midday heat can be stifling, especially in the height of summer. This is the kind of place you won’t want to leave in a hurry, so pack a picnic and don’t forget your insect repellent and water bottle.
The words etched into Stevenson's grave read:
Under the wide and starry sky,
Dig the grave and let me lie.
Glad did I live and gladly die,
And I laid me down with a will.
This be the verse you grave for me:
Here he lies where he longed to be;
Home is the sailor, home from the sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.