Freetown, Baby!

The Game by mabrajeux
November 30, 2010, 11:44 am
Filed under: entertainment, photos, public life, society, travels | Tags: , ,

The first time I visited Moyamba, I was bitterly disappointed not to be able to stay in the recommended guesthouse, which also doubled up as … a stadium! It’s hard to explain the feat of architecture that allowed this amazing combination, but basically the rooms are underneath the steps which overlook the gamefield…

As I’m sure you’ll understand, I was therefore incredibly excited when, on my second visit to Moyamba, I managed to bag myself a room at ‘The Stadium’! Although the TV wasn’t working, the place still provided a predictable entertainment for my evenings in town: the national Sierra Leonean football tournament involving such talented teams as Bo, Bonthe, Moyamba, etc…

All three nights I stayed in Moyamba, I was greeted, as I came home from a day-long workshop, by hundreds of locals, cheering, shouting, sucking cough drops and oranges – you don’t eat oranges in Salone, you suck the juice out of them, this being the end result:

The atmosphere is hard to describe so I’ll let the shots do the talking…


That Sunday Feeling… by mabrajeux
September 26, 2010, 7:27 pm
Filed under: photos, society, travels | Tags: , , , ,

When I first moved to England, I loved the fact that shops are open on Sundays. I mean, what could be better than going shopping on a quiet Sunday when you haven’t had a chance to do in the week, not to mention the fact that you would never have to go milk-less again…
I never really bought the argument that Sundays should be saved up for family time or, in a more general way, non consumerist activities… But then I have to admit that there is something really amazing about the centre of Freetown on a Sunday afternoon.
We wondered there a few weekends ago to check the first church established by settlers in 1792 (that is one of the hazards of living with a historian…) and were completely shocked at what we saw, or rather didn’t see… The pavements, which are bustling with all sorts of vendors and peddlers in the week were entirely deserted and the streets, which are normally rammed full of cars, motorcycles, poda podas and the occasional livestock (check the photo on the home page for an illustration…) were empty but for a group of children playing football!

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…

Road to nowhere? by jc2010sl
July 21, 2010, 5:16 pm
Filed under: public life, travels | Tags: , ,
Traffic is pretty horrendous in Freetown, largely because there are only 2 routes to the city. The northern side of Freetown gives out onto the sea and to the south are the steep Peninsula Hills. Heading east the only way out is the Kissy Road, and to the west is the Lumley Road. Pretty much all traffic coming into or out of the city takes one of these roads, with the result that they are always jammed, and sometimes totally grid-locked.

Maybe it’s because the Western end of town is less crowded, maybe because it’s where the political class lives, but on this side, the roads are being widened into dual carriageways. There was a lot of activity clearing a path for the new Lumley Road on Saturday. Groups of people set about the dwellings and shops next to the road with sledgehammers and crowbars gleefully pillaging anything remotely re-usable. Corrugated iron, tyres (to hold roofs down) and long planks were all dragged away. One man was even smashing the concrete off some steel cables that had been used to reinforce it. No less a person than the President himself came to visit the site and review the “work”.

Of course in the long run, improved infrastructure is precisely what the country needs – enabling people to access jobs in town and bring their goods to market. But I doubt there is any form of compulsory purchase equivalent in Salone. And it is the poorest, living in shacks next to the main arteries, who feel the brunt of the development.

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.

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The tough streets of Kenema… by mabrajeux
June 8, 2010, 5:24 pm
Filed under: photos, public life, travels, Uncategorized | Tags: , ,

Here’s a few pics I took to document the street gangs of Kenema, the third largest city of Sierra Leone…

Kenema's feared street gang...

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Turtle Island by jc2010sl
April 13, 2010, 10:39 pm
Filed under: photos, travels | Tags: ,

I was joined over the Easter weekend by my attorney and another associate. I thought I would treat them to more than just the hustle of Freetown and pristine beaches of Peninsula, so I booked a trip to the Turtle Islands – a collection of islands cast into the Atlantic off the south coast. These are the stuff of castaway movies – little more than sand bars covered with palm trees. They are truly idyllic.

Fisherman head out for the day

But I wondered if it was so for the locals. The islands are exceptionally remote – 4 hours by speedboat from Freetown, and 24 hours by public ferry. Our arrival was greeted with some fanfare and on some islands I suspect we were the first white faces they had seen. I imagine many people had never left the archipelago, and therefore have no reference point to compare with the incredible place they live in.

But even those who’ve never set foot anywhere else are aware of what their compatriots on the mainland can access – electricity, running water, televisions, a community larger than 300 people where you have the freedom to move. On one island an elder spoke to us about his hope to “develop” the island. It was a comma in the ocean; no more than 40 meters wide and 150 meters long. What does “development” even mean in this context I wondered?

The very remoteness, and lack of basics that we take for granted is precisely what attracts the western tourist to these places. But I’m not sure that’s how the islanders see it.