Freetown, Sierra Leone

Paradise, Playboys and Ho’s.

This will have been posted in the UK but I’m writing it in a cafe, in Freetown seeing out the day before making the dreaded trip to Lungi airport to catch my flight home (It turned out not to be so bad!).

Sierra Leone was always going to be a highlight and I’m glad I stayed a few extra days (see pictures), but I am extremely jealous that the tour is continuing on and will be spending the next ten days travelling around this awesome country before heading towards Ghana. The people here are fantastic. As soon as we crossed the border they were only too happy to let us camp within their border compound for the night. Probably the friendliest border I’ve ever crossed. We were warned of a political rally taking part the next day in Freetown and that it may take a bit of time getting into the city. It took well over two hours and we probably covered little more than ten miles. It wasn’t a rally you and I know of or even a more typical African one, or than again maybe this was more typical. Either way what we saw can simply be described as a carnival. It was one big party throughout the whole city. There was a sea of red showing support for the APC, the countries’ current government. Being in the truck looking across it all was quite overwhelming and surprisingly knackering, exchanging smiles, waves, and thumbs up with everyone. Remarkably we only had one guy climb onto the truck.

The next day was quite odd as the last day of overland tours can sometimes be. Firstly the group staying on were struggling to get visas for Guinea, well the Brits were. Only days before, the British embassy had refused to issue the Guinean Presidents wife a visa in their capital Conakry and said she must apply in Freetown. Reason unknown. Obviously the Guineans are unhappy with the British and as visas politics are basically tit for tat they in turn weren’t granting British visas. Anyhow when the majority of the group spent four hours at the Guinean embassy in Freetown, I was at lunch in a local cafe where we got talking with the owner about politics. She got quite emotional about it and insisted I take a full size Nike football that she had received the previous day during the political rally from the vice president no less. I insisted that surely the kids here would like the football but she got offended until I accepted. She said it is to remind me of Sierra Leone when I was back home. Remarkably I’ve managed to get it in my rucksack along with my sleeping bag and roll mat. I suppose I didn’t understand the significance until I drove past a huge political poster where both the president and vice president were holding the very same footballs. Not sure of the meaning of this. Elections are in a few weeks time.

I was hoping to stay with the group for a few days but due to the visa nightmare I took to my default plan and headed 20km south of Freetown to the paradise that is Cockle point at River No.2. There is no other word for it, paradise. I was a bit bummed out due to being back on my own and without my wingman but I couldn’t help but be lifted by my awesome little beach hut which overlooked the mountains and where breakfast was served on a sandy beach overlooking a clear river which promptly joined the Atlantic ocean.

This is where I spent my final four days in Sierra Leone. One good thing that came from the visa nightmare was that I had company for a few days which was much welcomed especially upon returning from the beach on Thursday afternoon. What we saw back at our tiny ‘resort’ was no less than twenty bikini clad women surrounding one skinny white man. The music was loud, the scene frisky. The small fishing boat had sunk and was covered in women. I didn’t dare take photos in case the army guard shot me or a hooker (I assume) slapped me. The only way I can describe it is just watch any American rap video. It appears they do actually happen. Incidentally the guy was celebrating his 30th and was an Israeli/American dealing with gold and diamonds and had been in the country for five years. I was quick to move away for fear of getting more attention than the guy paying for it all, naturally!

The rest of my time passed relatively peacefully. A few hours passed on a boat trip up the river, a few walking along empty beaches, a few reading a book with a monkey asleep on my lap. None of what’s happened here has really surprised me, it’s West Africa! I get the feeling Sierra Leone is in a place where people can really start to enjoy themselves finally. It’s incredible how a country with such a tragic past is bouncing off the walls today. Long may it continue. (literally right now Mr playboy/diamond man has walked into the cafe I’m at!).

After my last trip in East Africa I have done nothing but rave about the place. I always wondered what made that trip so amazing back in 2008. Was it where I visited? The adventure activities? Safaris? Amazing friends and crew? Part of me feared that my opinion of Africa was skewed by the aforementioned factors. But no, this place is amazing! West Africa is completely different to the East. Tourism is a whole new concept in some of the areas we went. There are few adventure activities or wild animals although the crew and fellow travellers were fantastic. Ultimately though my thoughts on Africa being the best continent on earth with the best countries have been cemented. I have tried my best to convey this through my blog and photos but it’s impossible to understand what I mean unless you visit. I am at my happiest, most content and relaxed when in Africa. The only place I’ve ever felt such a thing.

South America waits. Five new countries and the last continent for me to visit aside from Antarctica. I have no doubt it will be awesome for all its own reasons! Next stop Peru.

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