“In every outthrust headland, in every curving beach, in every grain of sand there is the story of the earth.”
― Rachel Carson
Saturday morning is traditionally the day to clean your house and do the washing, so what better time to head for the beach? We drove down to the ‘town’ beach – Lumley Beach – for a morning walk. We began at the southerly end beside the golf course and headed north. The sky was leaden grey and covering the tops of the hills behind us – an indication of what the rainy season will be like. We hoped this wasn’t an early end to the dry season! However by the time we walked for half an hour and turned for the walk back, the sky was clearing and the sun came through. We had timed it perfectly!
There is no doubt that this is a rapidly developing city, but the proximity of the sea, such a beautiful beach and the forested hills as a backdrop, can give the impression of anything but an urban area of over a million people.
We passed groups of locals, young men in football strips, fishermen hauling in nets and individuals walking or jogging along the sand. No one hassled us, no one tried to sell us anything, in fact no one really took notice of us apart from a few waves and some mumbled greetings.
We had been warned to wear thick-soled shoes, but down on the tide swept hard sand there was no litter, unlike the upper areas of the beach, which in some parts were being swept – outside the beach bars. The beach is on one side of a narrow strip of land between the ocean and an inlet lagoon along which there is a road and some small scale hotels, guest houses, restaurants and shops.
The sea was fairly calm, with the odd break offshore, where there must be a sandbar. However from the sharp angle of the fisherman’s nets, it looked as though there must be a strong current flowing south. In several places teams of seven or eight men were leaning back like well angled tent pegs, feet planted in the sand, pulling on a long rope, the floats of the nets still far out. I liked the look of the rope coiling job which fell to the chap at the back, who therefore had less pulling to do! I did think a pulley with gears would help them.
Further along, three men launched a colourful wooden fishing boat and began paddling kayak style, with rather small looking paddles – they looked the size of conventional oars, but with the ends slightly more diamond-shaped. They just didn’t look big enough, or enough of them for a largish (4m?) boat on the ocean.
A meeting then took us high up into the hills just above where we live, to probably the best hotel in Freetown, the Country Lodge, although you certainly wouldn’t suspect it was there from the state of the road leading to it! However we bumped and rattled past some amazing old houses, built in colonial times for administrators, sadly now rather run down, but still owned by the government and occupied by civil servants (click on first link to see the houses as they were when built and second link to see them now – towards the bottom of article – along with other historic houses).
They are built up off the ground on metal and concrete stilts. A staircase with a corrugated iron roof (essential in the rainy season!) and lattice-work sides leads to the main living quarters on the first floor, and the kitchen is in a separate block – this was a precaution against fire. The main part of the house is wooden planking with numerous windows. Rumour has it that they arrived as flat packs from Harrods! Ikea equivalent nearly a hundred years ago! It must be said that considering the climate, which is particularly hard on wood, they have lasted very well! The houses are perched either side of the apex of the ridge, overlooking the city in both directions, so they catch the breeze as well as having stunning views. The houses were built after research showed the connection between malaria and mosquitoes. It was thought that up here in the hills there would be fewer mosquitoes. The houses are a short (if steep) walk from what was once the top of the 5.5 mile (8.8 kms) mountain railway from downtown to Hill Station, they are shown as the dots on this map ca 1925.
Map courtesy of http://www.tpo-seapost.org.uk/tpo2/tpsierraleone.html
Country Lodge aspires to be a top class hotel but needs some upgrading to achieve this. However the location ensures a wonderful panorama over Lumley Beach (on the right) and the coast to the south with large tracts of recent development in the valley below and rapidly spreading up the hills.
On our return home, our resident troupe leader visited the balcony:
These are Green Monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops sabaeus) – unless anyone knows better?