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…



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



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



Clear Skies by jc2010sl
September 27, 2010, 7:37 pm
Filed under: photos | Tags: ,

As well as the fairly obvious benefits of not being wet the whole time, the end of the rainy season also means I have the view from my office window back. A couple of months ago in the height of the rains I could just about make out the roof of the Miatta Conference Centre (the white lego block in the left foreground)

Today the skies are clear and I can see as far as the antennea of Leicester Peak.

I should enjoy it while it lasts – come December the Harmattan winds will bring dust from the Sahara and obscure the view again.

NS



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!



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…