LAGOS 2 DAKAR: MY WEST AFRICAN ODYSSEY. (4E PARTIE – Sierra Leone)

Continued from 3e Partie

Much like most other West African countries, Sierra Leone is a country I very much looked forward to visiting. I had watched scenes of war and heard so many tales that it felt like I already knew the country. What I didn’t count on, however, was visiting a village, just outside Freetown, that had recently suffered a fatal mudslide.

I must confess, by the time I got to Freetown, I had nothing left. The road took it all. It was sheer will power that kept me going. I was definitely running on fumes. But it wasn’t just the road that was hard on me; the stories, from Liberia, of the devastation left behind by civil war and ebola was kind of hard to stomach. Each time I heard one of these stories, it felt like I was being waterboarded; but like I always say, these things happened, the least I can do is listen.

The greatest thing about traveling in Africa is the hospitality. Getting stranded is almost impossible because you will always know someone who knows someone who will offer to host you*. This time, it was my cousin’s husband’s brother, Victor, hosting me in Freetown. I was given a room with a king sized bed in his family hotel. On the first night, no matter how hard I tried,  I could not roll to every inch of the bed. It was the closest thing to Heaven I had felt since I left Lagos.

Much like most other West African countries, Sierra Leone is a country I very much looked forward to visiting. I had watched scenes of war and heard so many tales that it felt like I already knew the country. What I didn’t count on, however, was visiting a village, just outside Freetown, that had recently suffered a fatal mudslide. While an official number of the dead was lacking, local estimates put that number in the hundreds.

I wasn’t prepared to deal with such a recent tragedy, but the locals were great in opening up about the whole thing. One night, a huge mass of mud atop a hill, in Matome, gave way and slid down the hill, demolishing houses and killing unsuspecting residents along the way. With little available in terms of emergency services in this remote village, the locals were left to their own devices; the night saw no mercy.

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After speaking with survivors I needed a pick-me-up, so my local guide and friend, Foday, told me about a waterfall a few miles away that was breathtaking. It became a must see for me. We jumped on two motorcycle taxis and rode for about twenty minutes to the foot of another hill and then continued on foot for another thirty minutes into a more remote area.

As we walked, Foday could not quite remember how to get there, so we often stopped to ask people on the way. Every time we got a response, we also got a thumbs up, a smile or some other form of encouragement which got me even more excited. I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of what was surely to be a superlative sight: ‘The Waterfall of Matome’. Well, that’s what I called it since no one seemed to have a name for it. A fact which seemed odd.

We walked about 2 hours in the rain and got bitten by all kinds of insects in search of this unknown waterfall only to find out that it was a dam. I almost lost my mind.

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I managed to shake off the disappointment and continue, along with Foday, into Freetown city. What I found was that even after war, a country retains its soul.

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In the evenings, I hung out with new friends. One of those was Osman, a stand up guy and one of the nicest I’ve ever met. Over drinks one night, he opened up to me about life during the war. Now, I’m always hesitant to ask people about their war experiences for fear of appearing to be an insensitive and senseless jock, but when Osman told me about some friends he grew up with who left Sierra Leone because of the coming war and ended his sentence with “but I stayed back…I weathered the storm”, I saw that as my opportunity and jumped in.

For the next hour or so, Osman recounted moments of hiding in fear, sounds of heavy artillery getting closer and closer, bullets narrowly whizzing past, people dying, and much more. It was quite a chilling tale that left me aghast and my mouth ajar. Unfortunately, I can’t go into details because I didn’t get Osman’s permission; and since I know he will be reading this, I shall refrain out of respect.

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L-R: Esther, Mariama, Osman, and Goga

War stories aside, Osman also did a lot to make my stay a memorable one; he made a car available to me during my stay, recommended places to go, and even instructed that, after visiting the beach, his driver take me to his home where his lovely wife, Aminata, whom I had never met, cooked me lunch.

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At No.2 beach, just outside Freetown

As I mentioned at the beginning, I was running on fumes by the time I got to Freetown, but then I met a little angel who not only shook the melancholy off me, but actually gave me a renewed sense of joy and purpose. She basically refilled my tank.

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#Newfriends. Osman’s niece, my little angel
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Rice and Potato leaves, courtesy of Aminata

While it might seem weird that Osman had his wife cook for me, a stranger, in his absence; this is Africa, where hospitality is as important as life itself. This hospitality, however, would be taken to a whole new level in Guinea; a strange man would offer to share his bed with me.

Continued in 5e Partie

Song of the day: This guy professes his love for a woman, telling her that whatever happens, he will be there, by her side. Not exactly the same thing, but wherever there is a story, I will be there. Does that make sense? Yes? No? Ugh. Enjoy…or not.  Je Serai La by Locko. Shout out to Cameroun.

*This applies to Africans. Can’t speak for non-Africans traveling in Africa!

 

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