Upolu, Samoa

Stevenson's Treasure Island

Vila Vailima
The house that Robert Louis Stevenson built in Vailima with the help of many Samoans.
Photographs and clippings in one of Villa Vailima's rooms.
Lush coast of Upolu
View over the forested coastline of Upolu from the top of Mount Vaea.
Fireplace in the Tropics
Room at Robert Louis Stevenson's mansion in Vailima.
history lesson
Illustration shows Robert Louis Stevenson teaching his son Austin Strong history.
Samoano recovers from the climb to Mount Vaea, where Robert Louis Stevenson was buried.
Azulis Rooms
Room of Robert Louis Stevenson's mansion, in shades of the shallower sea of ​​the Pacific Ocean.
in communion
Robert Louis Stevenson's family in contact with Samoans, some who worked in Villa Vailima.
Return to Vailima
Corridor descends from the top of Mount Vaea, towards Vailima.
Under the Wide…
Text on the grave of Robert Louis Stevenson.
Art & Possession
Detail of one of the rooms of the Villa Vailima mansion.
Next stop: Vailima
Bus arrives at Vailima village.
Coast of Upolu
View of Upolu from the elevation on which R. Louis Stevenson was buried.
At age 30, the Scottish writer began looking for a place to save him from his cursed body. In Upolu and the Samoans, he found a welcoming refuge to which he gave his heart and soul.

Samoa's general elections had ended four days ago, but the process was far from over.

As we drive along the long Mulinu'u Road that runs along the city's isthmus to the homonymous tip, we come across a committee of delegates dressed in the rigor of the nation who recount the votes and meticulously fill in the results on large slate boards.

45 seats were qualified for the 15th term of the Fono, the Legislative Assembly and the Human Rights Protection Party won 36, in an unequivocal victory that, as is often the case on those sides, soon became embroiled in controversy.

Years have passed since the arrival of the first European discoverers, Samoa has become the first territory of the Pacific to conquer its independence and, since 1962, it has been solving problems that are its own.

The Courageous Solidarity of the Newcomer Robert Louis Stevenson

But more than a century earlier, around the 1890s, the natives had both unexpected and enthusiastic support from Robert Louis Stevenson, a writer fresh from a fascinating journey across the Pacific: Hawaii, Tahiti and the Society's Archipelago, Gilbert Islands, New Zealand and Samoa.

Historic photo by R Louis Stevenson with natives, Vailima village, Robert Louis Stevenson, Upolu, Samoa

Robert Louis Stevenson's family in contact with Samoans, some who worked in Villa Vailima.

Delighted by his generosity but also by the charisma of the Scotsman, they called him Tusitala or storyteller, in the Polynesian Samoan dialect.

"The Treasure Island" and "The Doctor and the Monster" ("Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde”) were some of the ones that he created and told the world and that made him world famous.

The influence it exerted on island politics and destinies quickly became defiant and provoked successive shock waves: during his stay, Stevenson found that the European officers appointed to govern the Samoans were incompetent.

After several unsuccessful attempts to solve the problems, he published “Footnote to History” a manifesto that resulted in the demobilization of two officers of the colonial powers and which the author feared would provoke their extradition.\

Vila Vailima: The Home of Robert Louis Stevenson in Samoa

These fears have not been proven. Stevenson has even become friends with powerful politicians and their families, notably that of US Commissioner Henry Clay Ide. At the same time, it deepened its roots on the island.

mansion, house, village vailima, Robert Louis Stevenson, Upolu, Samoa

The house that Robert Louis Stevenson built in Vailima with the help of many Samoans.

Villa Vailima, the wooden mansion he built on the property he acquired and housed most of his retreat, withstood the reaction of the then administration unscathed. And, to the relief of the Samoans, also the great earthquake that shook the archipelago in 2009, with an intensity of 8.1 on the Richter scale.

Today, Villa Vailima is one of the most respected and appreciated places in Upolu, a symbol of its exuberant multiculturalism that we are keen to visit.

View from the top of Mount Vaea and the tomb, Vailima village, Robert Louis Stevenson, Upolu, Samoa

View of the forested coastline of Upolu, from the top of Mount Vaea.

Margaret Silva. The Portuguese-Descendant Employee of the Vailima Museum

Upon arrival, our guide Anthony introduces us to the museum's hostess, named Margaret Silva. The color of her skin, the profile of her face and the nickname leave us intrigued, but since neither Anthony nor Margaret give us any clues, we are forced to inquire about the lady's origins. “Silva?

Your surname must be Portuguese or Spanish, no? And, don't take this the wrong way, but it doesn't look 100% Samoan.”

Anthony realizes what's going on and validates the suspicion. “Oh, sure. You are Portuguese! Margaret? You're half Portuguese too, right? Margaret confirms and adds some stunning historical information. “Yes, I'm half Portuguese.

I don't speak much of the language anymore but my grandmother learned from my grandfather and still speaks a little. What happened, in a nutshell, was that he was working on a New Zealand cruise ship that regularly stopped at Apia.

During a break, he met my grandmother in the city and no longer wanted to return to the ship.”

bus in Vailima, Vailima village, Robert Louis Stevenson, Upolu, Samoa

Bus arrives at Vailima village.

Thus began the saga of the Silvas in Samoa, a family that Anthony assures us is one of the wealthiest and most influential in the nation, owning several businesses including a construction company, grocery stores and gas stations. But the native guide explains more to us.

The presence of the now enormous Silva clan is for him and for the Samoans completely normal, to the point that few remember their origin and genetic difference.

And, remembering the nickname of the author of this text, he adds, for a general laugh: “It's not just the Silvas. Now that I think about it, we also have a big Pereira family. There must be almost as many as the Silvas.

Two of her daughters who live near my parents' village are beautiful. I really like it.”

The Samoan Work and Death of Robert Louis Stevenson

However, Margaret reminds us that the museum closes shortly and suggests that we begin our tour of the mansion. As we do so, it describes the most important or simply curious aspects of Robert Louis Stevenson's life in Upolu.

photos and memories, vailima village, Robert Louis Stevenson, Upolu, Samoa

Photographs and clippings in one of Villa Vailima's rooms.

During his stay, Stevenson wrote prolifically also about life in Samoa and other islands in the Pacific.

In 1894, he went through times of depression and inactivity to which he replied with “Weir of hermiston” with which he became enthusiastic to the point of being convinced that it was the best novel he had ever produced.

detail living room, Vailima Villa, Robert Louis Stevenson, Upolu, Samoa

Detail of one of the rooms of the Villa Vailima mansion.

But on the night of December 3rd of that year, after having worked hard on the novel, he was opening a bottle of wine when he fell down with his wife.

He was pronounced dead after a few hours, allegedly due to a brain hemorrhage. I was 44 years old.

The Elevated Sepulcher of Mount Vaea

The Samoans honored the funeral wishes of the respected Tusitala. They carried him on their shoulders to the summit of nearby Mount Vaea, where they buried him overlooking the sea.

View from top of Mount Vaea, Upolu coastline, Vailima village, Robert Louis Stevenson, Upolu, Samoa

Overview of Upolu from the elevation on which R. Louis Stevenson was buried.

His sepulcher is now the destination of a sporting pilgrimage for health that Stevenson never had.

As we climb the slope, dozens of Samoans from Apia and even expatriates from Apia pass us by. Upolu, delivered to a jogging strenuous and repetitive starting in the vicinity of Villa Vailima and ending at the top of the elevation.

down Mount Vaea, jogging, Vailima village, Robert Louis Stevenson, Upolu, Samoa

Corridor descends from the top of Mount Vaea, towards Vailima.

While we recover from our fatigue observing the tomb and reading the writer's conformed but elegant Requiem, we also leave our sweat there, generated by the heat and humidity that invigorate the lush landscape around us.

top of Mount Vaea and tomb, Vailima village, Robert Louis Stevenson, Upolu, Samoa

Samoano recovers from the climb to Mount Vaea, where Robert Louis Stevenson was buried.

And gone on the island that Robert Louis Stevenson loved so much.

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Winter White
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