There are two islands that Robert Louis Stevenson is best known for. The Treasure Island of his fiction, and the Samoan island of his reality.
"Robert Louis Stevenson put Samoa on the map," I'm told by Margaret, a local guide who specialises in the life of the Scottish-born author. Or, in other words, X marks the spot.
We're standing inside the voluminous house that he built here in 1891, a new home for his family, where they would reside until his death just a few years later. Outside is a large well-mowed lawn, and beyond is the palm-filled jungle that rolls down the hills, amongst villages and farms, to the coastal capital of Apia about six kilometres away.
The author fell in love with more than just the Samoan landscapes and you can feel his connection to the soul of the country here in the house, now known as the Robert Louis Stevenson Museum. As Margaret leads me through each of the rooms (and there are a lot of them), there are artefacts related to his literature - books and manuscripts, for example - but also to the new home he created here, where he became more interested in the country's politics and the global powers that were trying to exert their influence in the South Pacific.
Tusitala was the name the locals gave Stevenson, which means "Teller of Tales". But as well as telling his tales, he listened to theirs and incorporated them into his writings. Novels about his native Scotland were replaced with attempts to help the Samoans escape the threat he saw from colonialists.
"He was very young but he did a lot of things with his short time," Margaret explains. "Not only did he build this house, he wrote 13 books, and maintained good relationships with the locals. He had a huge impact here."
Elements of the museum reflect the period when Stevenson and his family lived here, with paintings, furniture, and even toy soldiers. A globe that once sat on his desk is particularly poignant, symbolising a worldly man whose expeditions and writings spanned the planet. But much of what's on display now has been collected from archives and depicts his whole life, not just the years he spent in the South Pacific.
The museum is now one of the main tourist attractions in Samoa, and my visit involves a little less swashbuckling than the plot of Treasure Island (okay, there's none at all), yet I still can't help but see parallels. Instead of a skeleton pointing the way, there's a big sign reading "Villa Vailima", the official title of the house named after the nearby village. And although there may be no one-legged pirates with parrots perched on shoulders, there are still some adversaries I need to face.
Not Margaret. She's doing an excellent job blending trivia about what's on display with stories about Stevenson's life. My antagonists are my preconceptions and my own biases: Why have I come to Samoa to spend a couple of hours learning about a man from Scotland? Is this just a new form of the colonialism that the author was so concerned about? Surely it would be better if the most famous person here was actually Samoan?
But Margaret eases my mind somewhat, explaining that Stevenson's story is intertwined with that of the country, and there's a lot of pride about what this museum really represents.
"He wasn't here to take anything away from the Samoan people and that's why he was popular," Margaret explains, "because that was very different to the other people here at the time."
Unfortunately, I only have a day in Samoa as part of a cruise aboard the Norwegian Spirit, which is based in Australia for the next few months. It's a nice taster of several South Pacific destinations, but already I can feel myself being drawn back for more, attracted by the same magnetism that kept Stevenson here.
Even with just a day, though, I'm able to explore more of Apia, from the Immaculate Conception Cathedral with its ornate timber ceiling and striking stained-glass windows, to the colourful Fugalei Market bursting with exotic fruits and other local produce. Our ship is docked just a short walk from the city's main streets, bustling with daily life, and the charming waterfront with its cooling sea breeze.
With a bit more time, you could head to the beaches. Or to some waterfalls. Or perhaps you could hike the steep hour-long track up to the summit of the mountain behind Robert Louis Stevenson's house. It was here, atop Mount Vaea, that he was buried in 1894, still wearing the boots that he had used to walk the island (as per his request). On his grave is inscribed an epitaph based on one of his poems, reading in part, "Here he lies where he longed to be / Home is the sailor home from the sea / And the hunter home from the hill".
Even today, Stevenson transports new generations around the world with books full of adventure and drama. But here at his final home in Samoa, it's a deeper journey that he leads us on, to see a country through the eyes of a man who took the time to listen and understand and, by doing this, found his own treasure island.