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Kamikaze chickens, roaming pigs, daredevil domestic dogs and the occasional human spring from the overgrown roadsides, darting across the road without a sidewards glance.

It’s like Super Mario Cart without the point system. No wonder the Samoans stick to the 55kmph speed limit. Surprisingly, roadkill is rare – a swift toot is apparently enough to keep beasts at bay.

Even the hairy roads don’t stop me from taking in the scenery we pass.

Artists would have a field day painting the vibrant Samoan landscape – if they had the palette for it, that is.

While Apia provides Upolu island’s biggest spread of restaurants, bars and nightclubs, I find the real optical smorgasbord off the beaten track.

My retinas are overwhelmed by an onslaught of colour as Anthony steers his 4WD through backroads filled with vivid red and green tropical plants, fruit stalls and eye-poppingly bright clothing hanging on washing lines.

There’s pride in his voice as Anthony points out his home and, like all young Samoans, shows beloved devotion to both his parents. It’s enough to make a traveller feel guilty about not calling her own more often. 

There are 366 villages in Samoa, each with a chief and usually at least two churches. Religion is extremely important and, for this reason, the place shuts down on Sundays.

“If you ever have a one-day stop in Samoa make sure it’s not a Sunday!” Anthony chuckles.

Houses dot the landscape, each dwelling a unique work of art. Bright yellow roofs, orange bricks, blue windowpanes, pink verandas and green railings abound.

“We like colour,” Anthony says, stating the obvious. Elaborate gravestones sit in front of homes, shrine-like in their size and grandeur.

Family members buried a stone’s throw from the front door is both a sign of respect and a show of generations of property ownership.

The rainbow abodes are a spectacular sight. Our destination, however, is a more European affair. Robert Louis Stevenson’s towering white mansion is now a historic homage to the late Scottish author of Treasure Island.

The sickly writer and his family moved to the island so the climate would ease his tuberculosis symptoms. The Samoans fell in love with the good-natured white man – and he with them.

Anthony lures me up the neighbouring Mount Vaea, on top of which Stevenson was laid to rest. “How did the… village people drag... that coffin up here?” I gasp.

Pure willpower and adoration, it seems. But once we’re at the top, the urge to vomit from exhaustion is suppressed by the view – exotic plants and trees that stretch as far as the distant blue sea. No wonder Stevenson loved this joint so much.

Our next stop is on the far side of Upolu island’s south east coast, where expats Wendy and Chris Booth run the Seabreeze Resort (; double rooms from £166pn).

Like Stevenson, the pair fell head over heels with Samoa and set up their high-end lagoon-fronted resort in 2007.



Holiday on the beach islands of Samoa: Where the body art is as eye-popping as the scenery
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