Mount Vaea might be one of the most famous historical places around Apia, as it is well known as the burial place of Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson. Despite the place’s popularity, ranking it among the top three sights in Apia on the widely-used travel website TripAdvisor, a lot of Samoans have in fact never reached the summit of the mountain, where one can enjoy a beautiful view of Samoa’s capital.
But of course there are exceptions. A few Samoans use the track to climb up the mountain on a regular basis. They do it to keep in shape and stay healthy. One of Mount Vaea’s most regular visitors is without a doubt, Robert John Hellesoe. While others use their visit to the mountain’s peak as a comfortable walk, Robert has taken the challenge to visit Stevenson’s tomb to a whole new level: he runs up the mountain – everyday, and has done it for three years now.
“I do it once a day. I used to be overweight, but it all changed slowly when I started doing this kind of exercise. I know that a lot of Samoans have problems with their weight and at a certain point, I realized that I did not want to be like that anymore.
"I don’t want to be fat, I want to be fit.
"I also play soccer to keep myself in shape, but the running here at Mount Vaea is my everyday exercise,” Mr Hellesoe explained, next to the viewing platform at the mountain’s peak.
The rather critical situation of obesity in Samoa is something each and every one has to take the blame for on their own, as Robert Hellesoe explained.
“We have a lot of good and healthy food in our country. But people always take the easy way out. They eat their junk food without caring a lot about their way of nutrition. This adds up to the fact that most Samoans do hardly do any exercise at all.”
For the amateur athlete, who owns RnR Rental Cars in Apia, the step from just walking to eventually running up the place where Robert Louis Stevenson was laid to rest, was indeed a slow one at the start.
“In the beginning, it took me almost an hour to come up here, but now, I reach the summit after ten to fifteen minutes,” Mr Hellesoe said.
For people who would like to start exercising on Mount Vaea he had a simple but obvious advice.
“Just keep it simple. If you can’t run, just walk.”
With this mantra, that started his climb into a healthier life, Robert Hellesoe already has set his next goal, that he shared while descending the mountain at a remarkable pace.
“Maybe next time, I will make it to the peak in just five minutes,” he stated.