Freetown, Baby!

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.



Sektakandinguyay by jc2010sl
September 10, 2010, 4:02 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

Regular readers of the blog (if such people exist) may be bored to tears now by the incessant talk of rain, rain, rain. If so, I have managed to convey some of my own frustrations with the climate out here. Last week we suffered a convulsion of 7 days almost continuous rain. Apparently, it’s known in Krio as the “7 days rain” and marks the end of the rainy season.

The Limba, from the East, have a more lyrical name for it; “Sektakandinguyay”, literally “the time when you take what you have set aside.” It is a time of such downpours that no one is able to work and therefore unable to earn any money. Hence, you have to look to your savings.

However it’s known, I only hope that it does indeed mark the end of the rains.


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?


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:


Ren don cam by jc2010sl
June 25, 2010, 11:12 am
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags:

For the last few weeks we’ve started to get the odd shower; occasionally torrential, but never sustained. This rainy season isn’t much to speak of I thought. Then, all of a sudden, it started in earnest. Rain, rain, rain from Sunday afternoon.

We’d optimistically taken our new team mates out to the beach on Saturday evening and stayed the night. It just about held dry until lunchtime Sunday and then it thrashed down. Of all places, the sea is the best spot to find yourself in – for a start you’re wet already, and the mountainous backdrop to the beach looks pretty spectacular shrouded in heavy raincloud.

Driving back was perilous though. I felt like the fat guy in Jurassic Park. Even with the wipers on full speed I could barely see more than 20 meters in front.

After just a few days of heavy downpour the streets in the centre of town, that is, at the bottom of the hills, are covered in red soil, and by the side of the road great piles of the stuff have been dug out of the open drains.

Yesterday I noticed that a number of my colleagues weren’t around. The reason, I found, was that the bridge to Goderich, a small town in the West, had been swept away. Fortunately it had happened in the night and no one was seriously hurt, but on a purely selfish note, I was dismayed that the main route to the beach has gone.

Not that I’ll probably be needing it much over the next 3 months…

It often rains and it pours… by mabrajeux
May 10, 2010, 3:26 pm
Filed under: photos | Tags: , ,

I’ve been back in Freetown for a couple of weeks now and the strangest things about being back is that it is, well, not strange at all. It has really felt as if I never left in the first place, which is reassuring but also a little disconcerting.

There is one novelty though: it’s started to rain. It started literally with a bang on my first Tuesday here, the anniversary of the independence of Sierra Leone and the day of the Akon concert.

We sat on the balcony waiting for dinner and watched the clouds gathering in slowly. A few strikes of lightning later and the heavens literally opened and the wind started howling. It wasn’t quite complete until the power cut halfway through dinner though… And even the concert did not survive the rain!

Thankfully, the rain doesn’t always come like this. Generally, the first thing you notice is a stillness, or rather, a stickiness in the air. The heat gets more oppressive and you feel as if weighed down.

Continue reading

The changing of the seasons by jc2010sl
March 20, 2010, 1:12 pm
Filed under: nature - wildlife | Tags: ,

There are 2 seasons in Salone. Wet and Dry. Although the wet season is still a few months off, there are grim signs that the dry season is drawing to a close.

First, the price of oranges has gone up by about 50% in the last week. Oranges are dry season fruits and become scarce towards the end of the season. When the rains come, mangoes will be plentiful and I won’t find an orange anywhere.

Second, and more important, water is scarce. There’s no reliable source of clean piped water, so expats tend to have large cisterns at their houses. One of my team mates up the hill has run out, and has spent the last few days failing to get any delivered. He’s been dropping in on the rest of us for his morning shower.

The other consequence of the water running out is that power is ever more intermittent. The national grid gets it’s energy from the Bumbuna hydro-electric plant upcountry – completed last year and one of the President’s flagship achievements. So when the water runs out, so does the power. In order to ration power, they’re only letting water through the dam for a few hours each day. I gather this will continue until the rains come.

At least it won’t be all bad then, when it’s raining 24 hours a day for 8 weeks straight. I’ll be feasting on mangoes, and have all the power I want. Every cloud…