There was nothing to be done tonight; so we agreed to camp at the school. The caretaker showed us a small room used as a store cupboard mainly but with one bed and a few rush sleeping mats. There was an overpowering smell as you walked in caused by a bat colony under the eaves, which also explained the shit all over the floor.
We were grateful for the bed and although the driver had already said he would be happier on the rush mat, the rest of us wanted some distance between our bodies and the creepy crawlies on the floor. There was also a mosquito net on the bed, so we decided we would swallow our pride and sleep together.
We also decided we would leave it as long as we could. So we spent the next hour or two out on the caretaker’s veranda. We had a few visitors from the village come up on their mopeds. They chatted a long time to the man and sympathised with our plight as best they could. One moped sped down to the blockage to take a look, and it was agreed that at first light a team would come up from the village with some machetes.
Our conversation with the caretaker and the family was very stilted; he had little French, no English and only a smattering of Krio. They kept their torches off to preserve the batteries so we sat in the dark, listening to the shuffling of the family on mats or benches or floor, the night sounds of insects in the nearby bushes. No four wheeled vehicles went along the road, only a couple of mopeds who went no further than the school itself. We were exhausted and concerned about our onward plans. I foresaw several hours of work to shift the tree; then it was still an 8 hour drive back to Freetown. Matt had one more day’s grace after that before he had to be on his plane to London. We needed to be up at first light if we were to make enough progress. We made motion to head to the stinking storeroom, thanked the caretaker one more time for his hospitality and reluctantly headed for our bed.
The driver plonked himself down on the rush mat almost immediately. We did the best we could to ablute, then the three of us crawled under the nylon mosquito netting. The bed was not insanitary, but it was hardly clean and it took a while to get used to the smell of bat faeces. The netting did provide us with some protection from the insects buzzing around the room and the three of us lay as still as possible to avoid disturbing or touching our bedmates. It was hardly surprising that despite the conditions of the accommodation, that I fell into a deep sleep quite quickly – the morning of meetings, the border crossing, long drive then walk to the school mounted up to an extremely busy day. But it was a fitful sleep and I remember waking up in the dark several times, almost wishing it were already daylight and we could attempt to move forward.