Dedicated hikers restore Robert Louis Stevenson grave

By Hyunsook Siutaia 30 November 2020, 12:00PM

A devoted group of early trekkers who climb Mt. Vaea, who have dubbed themselves the “5am-ers”, have given the gravesite of Robert Louis Stevenson a much-needed restoration. 

The group, which was formed earlier this year after constantly bumping into each other on early morning walks, gave the grave a fresh coat of paint and cleaned up the area surrounding it.  

One member of the 5am-mers, Nifo Onesemo, said the idea of a facelift for the grave came about after the group lamented the condition of the gravestone of the Scottish man of letters. 

"To paint the grave in time for Thanksgiving [is a way] to show our appreciation [for] the work done by [the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment] to maintain [the] track, that now [has become] a famous hiking spot for a lot of people," she said 

A member of the group first got in contact with the Ministry, which is responsible for maintaining the mountain track, and received approval for the idea. 

"We wrote an official letter to [the M.N.R.E.] Acting Chief Executive Officer outlining our plan to give [Robert Louis Stevenson’s] grave a facelift," Ms Onesemo said. 

"M.N.R.E. resounded favourably and gave us the go-ahead.

"M.N.R.E. cleaned the track as well as cleared the lawn, [performed] maintenance and weeding at the grave on Thursday ahead so the paint grave will stand out nicely."

Some of the members hiked on Friday evening just before the mountain track was closed for the day and brought cleaning utensils in preparation for Saturday morning’s restoration work.

Bad weather did not dampen the group’s spirits as they continued with their plans despite the heavy rain on Friday night and early Saturday morning. 

"Whoever of the team was available on Friday went up just before closure to take paint and other essential cleaning utensils," Ms Onesemo said.

"[They started] scraping off old paint and cleaning around the grave ready for painting on Saturday morning.

"Heavy rain on Friday night and early Saturday morning did not stop us from hiking as usual with the plan [] see if [painting would continue] when we [got] to the top.

"We were supposed to take the long track as usual for the Saturday morning hike since we already took paint and utensils up on Friday.

"But because of the rain, we changed our plans on Saturday morning [and hiked up the] short track.

"We thank God that when we got to the top the rain stopped and gave us the chance just before first light to commence painting.

"We used torches to start off until first light, and until the sun came up and we thank God for that." 

The group had a double celebration of the day as they had also celebrated the birthday of their eldest member atop Mt Vaea with cupcakes. 

Some other hikers on Friday and Saturday helped the 5am-mers perform the facelift. 

Earlier in October, the group commemorated PinkTober by hiking up the mountain wearing pink to draw attention to and honour cancer survivors. 

And then towards the end of October, they also took to the top of the mountain dressed in costumes. 

Ms. Onesemo noted that the group organised an event to support Pinktober but this week followed the event with a hike supporting the “Orange the World” campaign, devoted to stopping violence and against women and girls.  

The group's last event for the year will be an as yet to be planned Christmas activity But she says the group are already scheduled to meet at their "happy place" at the usual time. 

By Hyunsook Siutaia 30 November 2020, 12:00PM

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