Freetown, Baby!


Ornithological observations (2) by jc2010sl
October 14, 2010, 10:13 am
Filed under: nature - wildlife, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

One of my favourite books out here is my copy of Birds of West Africa. I’ve always liked birds, and being able to identify and categorise them sates my geeky side. Here is a selection of some of my favourite sightings!

Some of the birds are familiar from the UK, like this curlew, seen at Sussex beach…

…or the Kestrel that perches in my garden, seemingly to enjoy the view.

Others are a little more exotic, like the ubiquitous yellow weaver. In towns across the peninsula you can hear the deafening chatter of thousands of weavers, and spot the unmistakable round nests high in the foliage.

A regular visitor to the gardens of Kande Bureh apartments are the sunbirds. Brightly coloured, hummingbird-like, they flit around drinking nectar…

…and only rarely perch in full view.

Not bad for an amateur.

NS

Advertisements


Jungle Style by mabrajeux
September 29, 2010, 9:00 am
Filed under: nature - wildlife, photos, society | Tags: , ,

A popular joke in Salone goes thus: “What side of the road do people drive on in Freetown? The best one”. This should give you an idea of the style of driving in the capital city here in Sierra Leone, and which generally extends to the rest of the country too…

Another variant is ‘jungle style’ driving, as we encountered on Saturday. We were driving down the peninsula on our way to the beach when we noticed a long line of cars on the side of what is normally a fairly deserted dirt track / road. We stopped and enquired what was going on before noticing the Caterpillar Digger on the flimsy one lane bridge further down the road. Turns out, as our new friend Lemuel explained, that a truck had nearly driven off said bridge the night before and was now stuck with a couple wheels hanging off and unable to pull back. Which is where the digger comes in, as the workmen currently fixing the beach road were summoned to help, in the form of pulling the truck up, or back, or somehow onto and off the bridge. This was somewhat complicated by the fact that the truck was full of sand and its owner understandably tetchy about attempts to ‘lighten the load’…

So what is “jungle style” driving exactly? Well, according to Lemuel, it refers to the truck driver’s situation the night before: driving in the dark, along a single lane dirt road / track, with no lights and no brakes…

m-a



Charlotte Falls by jc2010sl
September 8, 2010, 9:21 pm
Filed under: nature - wildlife, photos, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , ,

The rains seem to rumble on interminably. We’ve scarcely had a day without some kind of deluge for the last 2 months. I guess that shouldn’t be too surprising given that Salone gets almost double the annual rainfall of London in the month of August alone.

The rain though does have its advantages: it’s not quite as oppressively hot; the Saharan dust brought in by the Harmattan winds has been taken out of the air; and the streams of the Western Peninsula are in full flow. Nowhere is this more impressive than at Charlotte Falls, a little waterfall tucked behind Freetown in the Regent saddle.

To get to the falls is a short drive out of town followed be a walk through Charlotte village and up along the river. Despite being only 30 minutes from the bustle of the capital, it’s a window onto what the early Krio villages must have been like. Houses are scattered along the river and up the hillside; dirt tracks run though the village and there isn’t a paved road in sight.

The houses are the same as they would have been 60 years ago, except that where once corrugated zinc would have been used for the rooves only, the walls are zinc too now. A slim sign of material progress since zinc is more durable than wooden boarding because it’s not susceptible to termites.

Walking out of the village to the falls themselves we came across an abandoned house. Apparently it was deserted because thieves from the neighbouring village made a habit of robbing the house while the owner was selling his wares in Freetown. The rooms inside were tiny, and the wooden walls on the inside were decorated with repeated stencil paintings of butterflies and tigers. Finally we made it up to the Falls themselves – a picturesque sight nestled in the hillside.

Although not quite at their highest, they were still impressive, and the plunge pool was deep enough to have a chilly dip in. Apparently the mossy stones can serve as a water slide, but I wasn’t feeling in adventurous mood.

As headed back into Freetown I wondered what the inhabitants of the village thought of where they lived. Was it the beautiful idyll that it had seemed to me – an escape from the traffic and noise of Freetown? Or a rural backwater they longed to escape for the bright lights of the town?

NS



A walk up the hill… by mabrajeux
August 27, 2010, 7:25 pm
Filed under: nature - wildlife, photos, travels | Tags: ,

Last week-end, we went for a walk up Leicester Peak, the hill/mountain/promontory/massive antenna overlooking Freetown. You can drive up to the top or, as we did, park up next to the US embassy and head up the winding road to the top. The road itself doesn’t present much interest but as you go in and out of clouds, you can get the most magnificent views of the hills around Freetown and over the harbour of the Sierra Leone river.

In the top right hand corner, you can spot Bunce Island, an island that was used as an outpost in the slave trade centuries ago. We haven’t visited it yet but fully intend to, so watch this space…

The most amazing thing about the view from Leicester Peak though, is the two visions of Sierra Leone it offers.
On one side, the (almost) cosmopolitan city of Freetown, with its bustling streets and its million inhabitants

And on the other, the quaint Krio villages without electricity or water, seemingly a world away…



Lovely weather, isn’t it? by mabrajeux
August 22, 2010, 7:36 pm
Filed under: nature - wildlife, photos | Tags: , , , ,

True to that eternal British cliché, people here in Freetown have been talking of little else than the weather and the rain. Or lack thereof…

The rainy season in Sierra Leone hits its yearly peak in August before moving to more sporadic showers in September, yet yesterday was spent on the beach sunning ourselves between two dips in the ocean with nothing but a light drizzle to disturb us when it should by rights have been pouring down. Although last year’s August record was a whopping 2 week uninterrupted downpour, so far we’ve only managed maybe one and half days… It will probably still eventually hit us and local people have predicted that September will probably be much worse.

In the meantime, when it does come, the rain remains fairly spectacular, especially in the hilly geography of the Freetown peninsula. A 10 minute walk can take you from foggy rain to sunny delights just by going up or downhill and some areas of the town have been flooded for a few days after a particularly heavy day of rain. And if you are caught in one of the downpours, well, let’s just say my trusty wellies have come in extremely handy, especially as I try to negotiate leaving my flat:

m-a



Monkey business by mabrajeux
July 13, 2010, 9:29 pm
Filed under: nature - wildlife, photos, travels | Tags: , ,

This week-end, we escaped from the craziness of Freetown and made for the hills of the peninsula… It only takes a 20 minute drive up the hill before you reach the lovely village of Regent, and then the road gets a little bumpier and a little dustier and you hit the jungle. First on the right, it looks almost too narrow, but there’s a sign there, insisting that it is, after all, the right direction. The track gets progressively worse and then suddenly the track’s not under you but literally in front of you, shooting up and only to be tackled with the help of a four-wheel drive.

Then, at the top of the hill, here it is: Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary. The Sanctuary has been running now for nearly 15 years, rescuing chimpanzee which are all too often captured to be sold as bushmeat or pets. After an obligatory 90-day quarantine (chimps can catch many human diseases, such as meningitis, flu or even malaria!), they are slowly introduced to communal life.

Continue reading



Vultures on the veranda by jc2010sl
April 25, 2010, 12:42 pm
Filed under: nature - wildlife | Tags: , ,

I’ve been feeling under the weather the last few days, so I’ve spent a lot of time just sat outside on the balcony doing nothing at all. One of my favourite things to do if I get home before it’s dark is to sit and watch the red kites gliding on the thermals, periodically falling on one another, or swooping in search of lizards. With nothing much to do I thought I’d take up my camera and capture some of the wildlife. Continue reading