Today is the last day on the truck. Yet, it is not different from other days, perhaps even worse; even fewer stops, the end is in sight. There is also no special anticipation in the truck, I have the feeling that everybody is fed up with driving, and looking forward to the end of it.
For much of the way the landscape doesn’t change, green, palm trees, bananas, villages few and far between, with an abandoned look and almost free of commerce. Very un-West African, as far as we have experienced. In places part of the jungle has been burnt down, presumably to make place for agriculture. At one stage there are actually tractors, and large tracts of land have been ploughed – also a first, on this trip. What anybody is going to do with it, I don’t know; it is too big for individual farmers to work, so perhaps this is going to be another plantation.
Nearer to Freetown, Sierra Leone’s capital, it does become busier, villages turn into small towns, with more people, and with markets. The last hundred kilometres, or so, the road is a dual carriage way, including toll boots, somewhat ambitious as there are actually not many cars using it, yet. And then we realise where all these rural people have gone: the outskirts of Freetown is a vast expanse of houses, suburbs merging, and gradually turning into the city itself, still spreading over a large area, distributed over several hills. These, I presume, are the original Sierra Lyon, Lion Mountains, identified and so named by the Portuguese 400 years ago. Buildings are increasingly multi-storey, but many of the upper floors don’t seem to be in use, many haven’t even been finished. More and more industries appear along the road. Yet, all the way into the centre, there is not a lot of high rise, it remains two, three, four storey buildings.
And did I say yesterday that Sierra Leone was so well organised? So clean? Devoid of commerce? Freetown is an enormous traffic chaos, with cars, motorbikes and tuk-tuks fighting for space on the clogged roads, roads lined with market stalls, and roads full of rubbish, of course. This is a very African capital.
We had hoped to quietly dislodge ourselves from the group, so we had booked a hotel in town already, irrespective of what the group was going to do. Guess what? The truck drove directly to exactly the same hotel. And everybody decided to stay here.