Sunday, January 30, 2005

Conakry To Freetown

Conakry's an interesting place, stretching for many a mile. It's hard to characterize; parts of it are typical African slum, parts are almost languid. The fanciest hotel in town is literally one block from an area that is straight out of a primitive village.

I got well rested overnight and in the morning headed back out to the garage area for a share taxi to Freetown. This time I bought two seats, and had shotgun all to myself. As we went out of town it was clear that now I was in a totally tropical area, complete with tropical hills in the background.

Not that you could see them that well, since we were now in Harmattan season, a time when dusty winds sweep south from the Sahara. You can't actually see the dust, but after two hours driving down a paved road my brand new pants were all dirty.

We got out of the car at the border to do the leaving Guinea stuff, then crossed over into Sierra Leone. That's when I discovered that my camera must have fallen out in Guinea. Drat, drat, drat, drat, drat.

Drat. I tried to be stoic as we motored along. I hadn't liked the camera anyway, it was freezing up on me, I was going to buy a new one.

But, but, all the pretty pictures...

Well, it's not good to let the natives see a white man cry. And the extreme poverty I saw unfolding around me made me reflect upon how relative it all is.

For now I was in the country ranked poorest in the world by the UN. Yay! I'd made it! These guys should be so lucky as to have cinder block houses and working sheet metal roofs. Not to mention that they were just coming out of about ten years of a vicious way.

But it was still tropical looking and very beautiful, like a Caribbean island. And like said island you could still tell that they were proudly British. There were towns like Waterloo and Kent, the first billboards since Morocco, actual street signs and road directions.

And when we got into Freetown it looked like an extremely poor Caribbean capital, complete with horribly dilapidated wooden houses scattered amongst the other buildings. It was chaotic, crowded, and becoming Saturday night.

I found a cab who said he knew where the Hill Valley Hotel was, but he didn't. We ended up at the Hjemann Hotel. Fortuitously, that turned out to be a half mile from the Hill Valley. Fortuitously, I got the last room available. Fortuitously, they had both electricity and a/c.


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