The drive back to Kabala was interesting and strenuous in all the same ways as the ride to Senakoro sans the veranda sitting and constant haggling. Oh, and the river was waiting for us, too. We passed freely through all.
Addendum: Indeed, I was clearly frustrated by the need to constantly negotiate and renegotiate fees. This aspect of Salone is new to me. Back in the day, one would need to get to Senakoro, give kola to the chief, find a guide and climb Bintumani. Done. I understand that the villages on the Senakoro line are feuding over who gets to collect fees from trekkers and this has sparked a bit of a free for all whereby each village will try to exact a fee from travelers passing through. No doubt that this development is driven by people living below subsistence level and who have increasingly seen the visitors as a potential source of income. The unfortunate part is that as the reports of experiences like ours get into guidebooks or on the internet, informed would be trekkers will avoid Senakoro as an access point to Bintumani. We encouraged the Paramount Chief to review this process and consider standardizing fees then alert the guidebook authors when he has done so. We'll see and let's hope betta go deh for all.
Nar Sarah Clinic
The Nar Sarah Clinic headlines a number of projects all of which are designed to meet the needs of the greater Kabala/Koinadugu district community and provide income to support the clinic financially. The remaining funds needed to keep the clinic afloat are obtained through donations and the efforts of the Nar Sarah Clinic board. The board is comprised primarily of men and women who have deep connections to Sierra Leone either as nationals living abroad or volunteers who lived in the country at intervals over the years. These are clearly dedicated people who have invested scads of time and energy into creating a web of services that is largely run by Sierra Leoneans for Sierra Leoneans. This is the meat of international development; having nationals on the front line making decisions that are culturally specific, culturally relevant…and it seems to be working nicely. Progress is steady despite all the usual obstacles and uncertainties present in a developing country.
Oil Palm Project
The oil palm project was designed to connect the clinic with a local community whereby the village would manage the plantation and the clinic would benefit from the proceeds. The Bendugu village chief, a village about 8 miles from Kabala, donated land to create an oil palm plantation and a paid manager was selected from the community. The first seedlings were planted 3 yrs ago and each year more have been added. Soon, the trees will be bearing the “banga” or oil palm seeds from which the oil can be extracted. The oil, a maligned substance in the States as it's been implicated in contributing mercilessly to the ever growing obesity rate, paradoxically, is an essential element of the austere Salone diet providing vitamins and much needed saturated fat. It’s also a nice cash crop that, with good maintenance, simply keeps on giving – for decades!
So off to Bendugu we rode with Robert Jarawa, our program manager, in the lead and Peacemaker behind us. My initial, but mild trepidation, gave way rather quickly to the exhilaration one experiences riding on a road that requires your complete attention. After a short while we came to a creek crossing where we were to ride into the dark water and continue partly submerged on rocks you could only feel for about 10 -15 yards. One is supposed to do this… willingly. Okay, so, back in the day, these water crossings were common and my least favorite Honda activity. I bagged and, somewhat shamefully, asked Robert to ride the Honda across for me. Michael and I walked across. Robert jigged and jagged and galloped over and through and met us on the other side. He handed me the Honda keys and said that he expected me to ride through the water on the way back (here’s “the tree you climb up is the tree you must climb down” proverb at work again – dang!).
Time to Go
The morning of our departure arrived. We had arranged transport on the government bus to Freetown, necessitating another pre dawn walk through the quiet streets of Kabala to the motor park with our luggage. We were escorted by Peacemaker, Lansanah, Mariama and, before leaving the guesthouse, had some tearful goodbyes with Merah and Old Hawa.
Theresa and young Hawa were also coming to Freetown and so we all departed amidst the crowing roosters and other passengers for another 5 – 6 hour ride to Freetown arriving in the heat of the day. We had a quick bus ride to Juba Hill and then a motorcycle taxi to Dorcas Kamanda’s Freetown house for the next few days. There isn’t too much to share about Freetown except that it’s congested, busy, noisy, dirty and not easy to get around whether you are in your own car or on a Honda or on a bus. We went to Tokeh beach for the day with the Dworschacks. We departed for Freetown as our flight was the next day and left them there to enjoy a few overnights on the beach, and indeed they did! They had a magical 3 days sleeping in their hammocks between palm trees on the practically deserted beach, eating fresh fish and lobster and even snorkeling!
Hawa stayed by our side during this final time in Freetown. It was a nice, relaxing transition spent in the presence of a new friend. The day of our departure was spent eating our last cassava and rice, doing a bit of souvenir shopping and enjoying the hour long ferry ride across the bay to Lungi airport. Everything went pretty smoothly. Our goodbye to Hawa was, bittersweet; so glad to know her, so sad to leave her. We have a business arrangement where I agreed to bring some of her tie dye (gara) cloth back to the States to sell so that she could keep her business afloat and make a living. If it goes well, perhaps we can continue the arrangement….
The plane lifted effortlessly in the cool night air above the smoke, haze, kerosene lights and friends whom we had grown to care for over the last few months and headed north to England where we would spend the next week.
England: bell ringing, cathedrals, thatched roofs, narrow roads, mystical stones
We had the great fortune of staying in the English countryside with an Arvigo Therapy friends of mine Hilary and Kengo. They offered us a peaceful place to rest and transition while introducing us to some of England’s famous historical sites. We learned about the culture and history of bell ringers;
A few final thoughts: