Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Sierra Leone

The oasis in the carnage

Rainy season in Sierra Leone is not to be taken lightly, In 4 weeks I had already seen several storms, numerous flash floods and a 50ft African tug nearly sink. On this particular day I speak of, July 15th 2010, the sun was like a glimmering jewel on blue satin, the sea was a millpond and the air was so still you could smell the rancid goat den in the vicinity. It did not take me long to decide to rise from the sullen coffin of my hotel room where I had been banished for the last few days, with my destination being a beautiful, apparently perfect mythical beach on the shores of River No2,  North of Freetown.
The smiling taxi driver, Mousa, greeted me in a typical Krio accent, ‘how de body man’, I replied ‘de body fine’. I proceeded to harangue and rant about this mythical beach, Mousa replied ‘yes, yes 80,000’, I instantly became excited about the possibility of the existence of this rumoured oasis.
The old and battered excuse for a taxi rattled and creaked from my hotel up the tin shack lined dusty lane. We passed the rancid goat den as they basked under the sun, too hot to move anything but their fly ridden ears; a young women was washing under a makeshift shower made of an old holey bean can, a plastic bag and a coat hanger, a group of young children looked up in surprise as they saw me pass, ‘a putoo, a putoo they shouted, their faces gleaming with happiness.
The taxi came to a halt outside a tin shed at the top of the dirt track and Mousa began to rant at a half dressed man who had just arisen from behind the door beads. The man began to excitedly point in different directions; my balloon of excitement had just been popped as I realised Mousa was asking for directions; we had only driven to the end of the hotel drive way.
Despite our delays we proceeded to make headway through the picturesque Freetown suburb of Aberdeen, to the East you could see the luscious green jungles on the rolling hills towering above Freetown and to the West, 20 or so bellowing locals heaving a 30 ft fishing dugout from the shores of the glistening Atlantic.
‘Mousa, do you know where you are going?’ I would sheepishly exclaim, he replied, ‘yes, yes no problem’, followed by a quick stop and a rant at the nearest person. We chugged and weaved for 2 hours over Jungle infested mountains and through valleys where glistening ravines flowed down in to the sea. The rickety taxi was no match for the winding, pot holed dirt track, but it chugged along taking us further in to the beautiful countryside. Tin shacks, filth, limbless locals and the stench of inner-city Freetown became sparser, replaced by beautiful valleys in the distance, dotted with wooden and vine type structures. The locals moved like ants, carrying various materials on their heads, going about their daily routines.
We turned down a tiny path and entered a small tree covered cul-de-sac in the jungle, my childish excitement had returned as the taxi came to a halt and I realised we had a reached the end of our journey, where ever that might be.
I navigated myself through the thick untouched brush and was instantly mesmerized as my eyes refocused to see mile upon mile of the whitest sand I have ever laid my eyes upon. The sea glistened under the sun and several gleaming white sandbars had formed under the contrast of the luscious green jungle. Oasis in the carnage.

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