Into the Jungle – Speeding into the interior

While we had been coming along the peninsula the wide mangrove swamps of the Freetown harbour lay flat to our left and you could see why no-one had every driven a shorter route from Lungi Airport through here, it was a quagmire of channels and thick vegetation.

Beyond Waterloo the scenery changed.. For one thing there were far fewer people and vehicles here, and our speed on this graded road increased dramatically.  Second we were going through gently undulating countryside now that was peppered with palm trees.  I had a few discussions with my fellow travellers about these but could never work out whether these were stands of native palms or the remnants of some old plantations.  They certainly looked quite well ordered, but did palm trees always grow like this in the wild?  Most of my memories of palms were fringing tropical islands or mixed in amongst scrub.  Here they were the dominant tree rising high above the other species and often well spaced apart.

We dropped down to a large river crossed by a single lane metal bridge.  It was more by luck that we did not get stuck with a lorry coming the other way, but while we waited for one or two cars to cross from the other direction, a series of wise hawkers tried to sell us groundnuts , bananas and unripe mangoes.

We reached a check point but were waived through quickly.  Sierra Leone certainly seemed more relaxed out here in the countryside.  It had been over ten years since the civil war, and some wounds were being healed.  However, it was obvious from the number of limbs missing of people that others would never be forgotten.

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Materials for the new chinese railway

We passed a couple of main roads heading off to other parts of the country; one to Bo, the second city of Sierra Leone, then we turned off ourselves from the main road to Conakry in Guinea and headed eastwards.

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Important junction

The landscape started to change again; the palm trees thinned out, there were wider open plains mostly grazed, punctuated by dense stands of forest usually surrounding villages.  These were both the fruit trees that people prized – mainly mangoes, but in some places they were sacred groves.  An offshoot of having a place for spirits, burial sites and the like was that the vegetation cover was so much more highly prized.

We passed the first mining town we had seen.  Lunsar.  A new railway had been constructed, again by the Chinese, to access a mine deep in the interior of the country.  It was carefully graded and had heavy engineering to keep the worst of the tropical downpours from undermining the line.  Brand new, it cut a red scar through the landscape as it ran parallel to the main road.

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