Freetown, Baby!

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…



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.

Surf’s up by jc2010sl
March 8, 2010, 8:23 am
Filed under: photos, travels | Tags: ,

I got my first taste (literally) of the Atlantic surf yesterday at Bureh beach. It’s the furthest from Freetown, but well worth the extra trip along bone-crunching dirt tracks:

This extra distance usually ensures quiet serenity (as above). As it happens, a bus load of freetonians pitched up either side of us at about 4 and tried to out-do each other with their knackered sound-systems! Fun to see for a while, but within 20 minutes, utterly deafening.

Bureh is the only beach in Sierra Leone where there is any surf to speak off. Before the war it was popular with the French for some reason, and when they left they gave their boards to some local kids, who as a result are sickeningly good. According to our travelling party who’ve been to Bureh before, the waves were good yesterday. Not that it made much odds to me catching the white water after they’d  broken. It’s a pretty exhilarating experience, even before you get onto a wave proper. This is one beach I’ll certainly return to, possibly with ear plugs next time.

Week-end at the Beach… by mabrajeux
February 4, 2010, 8:16 am
Filed under: photos, travels | Tags: ,

As I mentioned in passing earlier, we headed to the beach this week-end. Now this might make it sound as if there is only one and everyone congregates there every week-end, a little like Brighton beach on a bank holiday. Far from it…

There is Lumley Beach in Freetown, lovely by any reasonable standard, but we’re not really in reasonable beach territory anymore. Oh no. So, when you head out to the beach in Freetown, you take the Lumley road and head south on a red dusty road along the peninsula. Every corner seems to reveal a turn towards one of the many beaches along the coast, each with improbable names such as Kent, Sussex, N° 2 or even Goderich and each apparently with its own brand of loveliness.

The beach at Number 2... Need I say more?

We headed for Sussex beach, occupied by the apparently legendary Franco’s and his guesthouse/restaurant. It isn’t so much a beach as a bay which fills up at high tide and which you can cross by foot at low tide to reach a sandy bar overlooking the ocean. And so we got our first swim in the Atlantic, one of many I’m sure…
Back at Franco’s, the kitchen were getting busy preparing our lobsters (or, as our resident fish expert informed us, our large langoustines – doesn’t quite have the same ring, does it?) and our fish carpaccios (carpacci?), all to be consumed in due course, ie after a couple of beers on the deckchairs and the application of copious amounts of mosquito spray.

Franco's at Sussex beach...

Lobster is a staple around these parts, as is most type of seafood such as shrimps or crabs, but also fish, with barracuda, snapper, grouper, mackerel, etc aplenty…

In fact, we spent most of the week-end sampling this amazing supply of fresh fish and seafood: lobster and carpaccio for dinner, grilled barracuda and shrimps for lunch on beach N°2 the next day, and, to polish it all off, freshly fished yellow jack sashimi and mackerel for dinner on Sunday back in Freetown… Good thing I like fish!

Catch of the day - Barracuda, Yellow Jack and two unbelievably big Mackerels...