Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Pacific & Australia - part four

‘ … the whole extent of the South Seas is desert(ed) of ships …’ 

(In the South Seas  Robert Louis Stevenson) 

Having now sailed the Pacific five times, I agree. Little scenery to record but the sun's arrival and departure. A stock picture, but reality is better. On warm morning, first coffee to hand, I have the deck to myself. Much pleasure in watching the sun appear in a vastness devoid of any manmade object.

Five days from Hawaii, we arrive in Samoa to which Stevenson (seen here with a local) and his family moved shortly before his death. Although often ill, Stevenson's 1894 passing was unexpected and I have long hoped to visit his grave.

It rains - a typical tropical downpour - just before ...

... Michael's and my forty-five minute clamber up the 1,549 foot (472 metres) hillside on a steep, greasy trail made nastier with uncertain handholds, malevolent roots and treacherous, slippery rocks. 

Using flaming torches, hundreds of Samoans had carved the path to where Stevenson wanted to be buried. I assume it hadn't rained.

Then the coffin was somehow hauled to the top.

On a day I'm reasonably certain no one else attempts the climb, we are alone. 

His epitaph, difficult to now discern, has often been quoted, but, for those who have never read it, I offer the lines:

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 sea,
And the hunter home from the hill.

Curiously, the verse is often misquoted, including on the plaque. 

It incorrectly reads ‘home from the sea’.

As Michael stands by the grave, we hear an approaching deluge and soon are as wet as swimming fully clothed. No more pictures as we mudslide down the hill, fortunately not breaking any bones.

Back on Maasdam, American and Australian money dries out on my bed. I’m filthy, so shower and think about laundry. But we have had Stevenson and Fanny, his wife, to ourselves. I am so happy.