Town of the Free

I don’t know when Guinean formalities end, and Sierra Leone begins, there is no flag or sign. As I’m finding routinely, I am dealt with kindly and quickly, if only I didn’t have to keep getting off my mototaxi to the town of Kambia every few minutes for a different sort of check…

Working on onward transport a rough-looking sort offers me in muttered English what are so obviously shards of broken glass as diamonds that I burst out laughing, and cause several others to do the same.

Ibrahim, the owner of my hotel in Kambia introduced himself as “retired from urban planning, but not tired”. “We are hoping that now the new highway goes all the way to Freetown” he says “people might what to see upcountry without safari roads”.

The next morning I manage to wrangle the last hard unpadded seat on a poda-poda (minibus) straight to Freetown along the new highway. It is already scratched and badly patched in places, making me fear for its long term future.

The traffic in central Freetown is about as bad as it can get with vehicles still just about moving. Inch by inch coaches jostle for space with trucks, carts, cars, taxis, lots of motorbikes, and people pushed into the road by the narrow pavements and market stalls.

The days cultural event was a visit to the newly opened Peace and Cultural Monument, a series of 3D murals designed to bring the country together after the war. The ticket price includes a comprehensive but dull explanation of each mural, making the young guides admission that both his parents died “by the gun” during the war all the more startling; his mother dieing 3 years after his father.

The next day I pass the odd old Krio house: painted wooden horizontal planking on 2 storeys. One side of the lower storey was opened up as a veranda, while an entirely enclosed staircase fronted the road like a bulbous nose – not unsightly, not beautiful – but far more elegant than concrete and corrugated iron.
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