Apia from the ship (Note the white building on the left, The Cathedral)
Samoa is a Pacific country made up of 2 large islands, Upolu and Savai’i, with 4 smaller islands in the immediate vicinity and a number of others further away. We visited the capital Apia for a day and went on an Excursion, organised through the ship, to the Island home of the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson (RLS). He had lived in Scotland for most of his life but, after visiting various places with his wife, he chose the Island of Upolu to settle and build a beautiful home. Sadly, he never lived in it for any length of time and died at the age of 44 after a long time of illness.
Home of RL Stevenson
We had been told that the tour guides were usually students but ours was a very young lady just out of school and it was her first time to guide a group. She was very nervous. On the way to RLS’ home she told us all about the Fish Market as great attraction and definitely worth a visit. When she had finished her introduction and encouragement to visit the market she then said, “… but we can’t go and see it as today is a Public Holiday, Children’s Day, in Samoa and so the Market is closed.”
We passed an absolutely beautiful building on the road a little distance before the Fish Market which she told us that it was the Cathedral of The Immaculate Conception of Mary. We didn’t stop at it though and battled to take photos through the vehicle windows.
Entrance to the Cathedral
We passed a number of interesting looking buildings as we continued along the main road through the town but she didn’t tell us anything about these or any other attractions. We had to ask her what these were and very often she was not sure. Occasionally she did know and then gave us a clearly learned and practised description. Some of us felt sorry for her but it was also annoying that we had paid a quite a price for this excursion and we would have been a lot happier with a guide who, at least, knew the basics.
We saw at least 7 laundromats
We knew that this was the NZ Embassy as it had a sign on it. Our guide did not know.
A local clinic
We passed many homes of different economic level with the lowest economic in town and those further from town becoming more upmarket. It was interesting to see a family building a new home next door to where their original home still stands. Good material from the first home is removed to be used in the new one. They are demolished and rebuilt room by room and the family makes a gradual move. If there are to be extra rooms these are added at the end.
The house on the left is the new one being built
We knew when we had arrived at the RLS House Museum as it had a grand entrance with a long drive bedecked on either side with Bromeliads, Crotons, Agapanthus and other tropical plants. There is a very large front lawn up to the house itself where visitors are dropped off. All vehicles then park at the back of the house.
The driveway up to the RLS House Museum
A small portion of the front garden of the RLS House Museum
Before entering the house we had to either remove our shoes or wear plastic overshoes and instructed not to stand on any mats or rugs as most are originals and so are fragile. As he was not a healthy man one of the rooms was dedicated to caring for him and his wife, Fanny, as needed. Downstairs in the living room was a safe which always stood open. RLS told his servants and any Samoan visitors that evil spirits lived in there and so he never had to close it.
The open safe in in the living room
The house itself is double-storey with fairly steep stairs between the 2 floors. He and Fanny had adjoining rooms on the upper floor with a window between so that they could talk to each other if he took a break from writing. He had a bed and a desk in a corner of the living room so that he could write late into the night if he wished.
Like Samoan homes the kitchen was a separate outside building at the back of the house.
Kitchen to the house
The floors and stairs were made of Ilifele Wood, indigenous to the Islands. The gardens all around the house are immaculate and very peaceful. Leading away from the front garden to the side of the property is a path which one can walk up the mountain to where the graves of both RLS and Fanny are to be found as he had requested. It is a steep climb so not everyone can do it. Some of our group did climb up and said that the views from the top were magnificent.
Mountain on which RLS and Fanny are buried
To end our visit to the House we were entertained by a group of local dancers and singers. Their movements were very slow and gentle.
Singing and dancing for us
Once they had finished one of the leaders told us about the ‘Ava Ceremony. Other Polynesian peoples call it the Kava Ceremony but in the S’moan language the K is dropped and the word is said with a guttural sound at the start. A few people at the front of the hall were chosen to take part in this very important manner of making visitors feel welcome. I think a couple of them found it a little difficult to keep their expressions polite when they tasted it.
The ‘Ava Ceremony
On our way back into the city there was a McDonald’s and one of the men on the bus (a 12 seater) asked to be taken through the Drive-thru. Whether he had asked in jest or not I am not sure but it turned out that the driver had never done this before and entered from the wrong direction. As we came around the building he got hemmed in and was rather bemused but he very successfully reversed back out.
We asked if the driver could please stop at the Cathedral for us to get a couple of reasonable photos and he surprised us by going into the grounds and our guide told us we could have 15mins to see the inside of the building. What a fabulous opportunity to see a truly amazing place. As with the floors in the RLS House the floors and ceiling here were Ilifele Wood.
Dome above the Sanctuary
Nave of the Cathedral – the ceiling and pews are made Ilifele Wood
Statue of Jesus in front of the Cathedral
A fitting end to a wonderful day in a beautiful part of the world.
A petrol station with owner’s home behind