Sierra Leone you hidden gem

Trip Start Aug 14, 2013
Trip End Feb 01, 2014

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Flag of Sierra Leone  ,
Friday, December 13, 2013

It is hard to  believe that the end of the first part of our trip was already upon us, no sooner had we entered Sierra Leone, we would farewell some of our newfound friends and meet the newbies replacing them.
Entering Sierra Leone would prove tedious, not only was it a long drive day, we would find ourselves going through numerous police checks, each time being made to leave the truck for a role call - at one point even being given an African name.
It is hard to believe that just over a decade ago Sierra Leone was in civil war, although crumbling bullet riddled buildings remain, the cities and villages are vibrant and full of life and the people of Sierra Leone are showing they will not be beaten! 
We were lucky enough to spend 2 weeks in Sierra Leone, starting our time we spent a couple of nights camping on the beach, apart from the run down hotel with no electricity or water for 90% of the time, the prostitutes that appeared at night to 'massage' the boys shoulders and the parts of the beach that were strewn with what appeared to be hospital waste, the beach was idyllic with beautiful white sand and crystal clear water.  We spent our time swimming, watching the fishermen dig out a new canoe, eating the most amazing freshly caught barracuda at a local guy Nathaniel's house - our time was pure bliss!
From the beach we headed to the capital of Freetown, catching the local motorcycle taxis into town to meander the busy streets, along the way visiting the Cotton Tree and Artesian Markets, we met locals who invited us to sit with them in cafes overlooking the slums and harbour to tell us about their experiences of the war, we found Roy's bar / shisha den by the beach, where we came to spend hours sampling their mint and lemon's shishas - mmm!  A group of us on a proper shisha high decided to invest in a shisha for the next part of our trip, 60 Euros later we had purchased a fine shisha with coals, an assortment of tobaccos and coals!
After 4 days enjoying the craziness and vibrancy of Freetown we found ourselves on the road yet again, on the way to the beach village of John Obey (or Tribe Wanted) - a British guy has set up a series of Eco villages where Westerners will volunteer their time to help set up an eco village which is in time handed over for locals to run and manage.   We only spent a day at John Obey enjoying the beach and inaugurating the FioFo shisha committee (Fit in or F%$k off) - day 1 of owning the shisha and its already paying itself off!
After a day of unwinding at the beach and feeling ever so relaxed we soon found ourselves overlanding once more, bouncing on the red dirt roads trying to cover long distances but not getting far due to the state of the roads.  We spent a couple of long days in the back of Aminha, bush camping along the way and getting more and more dirty, passing village after village where the locals run over to greet you with their big smiles and waving hands - we have been greeted by hundreds of locals and still my heart is warmed when they come out!
The long days were worth it, as our reward was staying on the little visited island of Tiwai, where pigmy hippos live a reclusive life, monkey's swing in the canapies of the rainforest (up to 11 species) and wild boar roam the forest floor.  We spent 2 days camping on Tiwai island taking canoe boat rides and rainforest treks in search of the pygmy hippo - sadly no one saw this elusive animal, we did however get to see lots of species of monkey's high in the trees, hearing their alarm calls to notify other monkey's at 'objects' below - crazy white people staring up at the trees monkey spotting; we spent our evenings of darkness (there is no electricity or running water on the island)  swinging in the locally made hammocks, smoking our much loved shisha!  We would loved to have spent more time on Tiwai, however time is of essence and we had an offer from a local chief to spend a night at his camp on the mainland getting to know the local customs and traditions.
We spent an amazing night in a local village, we were taken on a cultural walk through the village where a local boy explained to us how the village came about, visiting the grave of a giant warrior who saved the village centuries ago, we were taken to the village rice processing plant where huge generators  milled the rice, we visited the local school where one of the kids 'broke' in to show us the classroom, we met the big chief and elders of the village and were privileged to be told tales of warriors and crocodiles, and a couple of us spent time with the local girls plaiting our hair - laughing all the while at the white girls fine 'un-African' hair.  Probably the best local experience we have had so far, we felt really honoured to be given the opportunity.
Another couple of days on the worst roads to date - getting stupidly bogged, staying in more bush camps, passing through bustling towns with blood diamond jewellers a plenty - we were somewhat confused by the diamond shops as a lot of them appeared to be anything but diamond jewellers (i.e. a scooter seller), we would find ourselves leaving Sierra Leone on the border waiting to enter Liberia.
There are already too many countries we have visited on this trip we want to return too!!  This part of West Africa is just out of this world!!
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