I have only been to Freetown from my base in Makeni about 3 times. Mainly this is due to transport and more recently - accomodation.
Last weekend 4 of us went to Kabala which is north of Freetown - about 200 miles although it takes about 6 hours to travel from Freetown to Kabala.
One of the 4 of us managed to arrange transport via a works truck - of course we had to pay for fuel and for the drivers time.
It took 2 and a half hours to travel from Makeni to Kabala - about 135 miles.
The road was rough and bumpy but was not as bad as I thought it would be. The tarmac was very pot holed in places and the edges of the road were non existant. Often we drove on the wrong side of the road to avoid pot holes that were filled with water and so the driver would not have known how deep the holes were.
We arrived at another colleagues house in Kabala - she had booked the 4 of us into a guest house - the best one in Kabala!! Bed but no breakfast. It was basic and had 2 double beds in 2 bedrooms, a small sitting room and a toilet, sink and wet room style shower. When I brushed my teeth I did not notice that there was no goose neck attached to the sink - so my spit that went into the sink sprayed out onto my feet! We slept 2 to a bed - I wondered how clean the bed was. The pillow case had black mildew on it and the sheets smelt sweaty not to mention moist - but that could have been from my sweat. There was electricity from 7pm - midnight - so we put the fan on that was in the room.
We went for a walk in Kabala the afternoon we arrived. It was a beautiful day - bright, sunny and certainly a lot cooler than what we have come to expect in Makeni. We stopped at a small cafe and had groundnut soup - a very typical meal made with goat meat and loads of rice. We also had some bottled fanta.
We walked to the town - a lot more airy and spacious than Makeni - if you think of Makeni as a diluted Freetown and Kabala a diluted version of Makeni. There was certainly less traffic and very few houses had compounds.
It was great to get out and have some really fresh air.
Some of the group went to the cafe for some drinks later - but I went to bed early - I was shattered!
The next day the 4 of us and our 2 colleagues plus a local guide all walked up the big hill - Wara Wara - I think that is what it is called - I've left my guide book at home! It was a steep climb and the others walked up it like mountain goats. Our guide made us some walking sticks - this helped with getting past the rubble as the incline was steep.
I did not make it to the summit and neither did one other - we chose to wait just at the base of the summit - it would not have been too far to have completed the journey - but I was flagging. We waited for the others to complete the climb then they returned so we all walked down together.
We met a family who live on the hill. Apparently during the civil war many people took to the hill to escape from the rebels. There was evidence of crops/managed land for growing produce. The house was just so basic with no electricity and water other than what was collected from a stream.
I spoke with one of the boys who lived there - he travels up and down the hill to get to and from school every day. I asked him about the last baby that was born in the family - he told me that a local traditional birth attendant came to the house to help his mother as she could not walk down the hill in labour. She was lucky and so too was the baby - but this type of midwifery is common as the infastructure is one of the problems, not to mention lack of trained staff and midwifery 'waiting houses'.
We walked down the hill but my hips were showing signs of strain - one of our colleagues walked with me - and I was very grateful for that - I could not hold on with my feet and the steep angle - I was fine once we had reached the bottom.
We went back to our colleagues house and I poured water on my feet - the best feeling in the world! I also had no socks - which did not help - only a few blisters!!
We had a cab ordered for us to take us back to Makeni - a 9 seater Renault estate car. We paid for 7 seats so we had comfort in the 2 back seats between the 4 of us. The boot was full and the driver picked up 2 passengers who both sat in the front seat. One of the other passengers had a live chicken in a bag and by the time we arrived to Makeni - it had pecked its way out of the bag. I was sitting in front of the chicken and every now and then I could hear it rustling - but it was squashed in by a suitcase.
That day we also visited the maternity hospital in Kabala - it was I understand run by Dutch personal - but 2 years ago they pulled out and left it to be managed by locals - overseen by the government.
I was impressed as the hospital was clean - it smelt of cleaning fluids, the women looked well cared for, the beds were not covered in blood and there were 2 wards - one for newly birthed and one for c. section women. The operating theatre and birth room also looked cared for - this was certainly a surprise - not what I was expecting. The grounds of the hospital were spotless - well done to them.
More about the Government Hospital Makeni in my next blog.