Friday, 2 January 2009

Beach #2

This is an extract from my African travel blog, where you can read all of my adventures in Sierra Leone.

Picture from Flickr

Just had one of the best days of my life!

Woke up feeling pretty rough but dosed myself up with some extremely strong, possibly marginally illegal, knock-out cough syrup, which put me on a sedated high for most of the day.

Claudette, Hirut's cousin, came to pick us up. Before the rose ceremony yesterday, we stopped by the guest house her aunt runs, and met Claudette, who had just arrived from the UK with her friend who is also Sierra Leonean and an officer in the MET. A couple more of their friends, also SLs living in London, Jay and his sister Angela, were there and we had lunch together and a chill-out.

Today we all took a drive about two hours up the road, past Lakka Beach, to Number Two Beach (or 'Beach Number Two') - famed as the nicest beach in Sierra Leone.

It is indeed very special. Miles of absolutely bright-white sand and clear ocean. We took over a couple of beach huts, set up the umbrellas, then I took a wander around the craft stalls and bought a tie-dye red sarong.

We brought tons of food: jollof rice, meat, even chocolate, and a big cooler full of cold drinks.

Me at the Beach Hut

I spent about an hour-and-a-half swimming, with the golden beach skirted by high, rolling rainforest. Truly a little piece of heaven.

After the main heat of the day passed, Jay, Hirut, Olga, Natasha and myself took a walk along the beach to the mouth of a sandy estuary. To get there, we had to swim an extremely fast-moving channel, apparently one person dies on the beach each year due to strong currents and quicksand, of all things! But we made it across fine and us girlies sat in the shade and paddled in the warm, shallow water admiring the hermit crabs and little fishes whilst Jay went and called a local guy over with a boat that looked just like this one (actually it probably was that one!).

Number 2 Beach White Sand - Freetown, Western

I was wearing a sun hat, slathered in factor 50 sun block and such, but I was getting a bit worried I'd burn to a crisp. I am so jealous of African skin when it comes to being in the sun. There's me hiding under the umbrella, fussing over re-applying cream, and everyone else is just 'yeah, whatever,' straight out the sea, drying off by lying in the full blazing sunshine, no sun lotion - no problem *sigh*

Anyway, we piled into the little paddle canoe and started off up the river in search of a waterfall Jay said he'd visited before.

"What's the river called?" I asked.

"Evocatoo," replies the boatman.

Oooh, that's exotic, thinks I, wondering why everyone else has burst out laughing.

"River number two," Natasha translates from Krio. Oh! lol

"Well, you can't say Sierra Leoneans aren't logical," said Hirut: "Beach number two, river number two..."

Now, only Jay knows where this waterfall is and we're expecting to pop up there and get back in time for the others to go too, maybe about an hour round trip. About 45 minutes later, we're starting to wonder where on earth this waterfall is and almost die laughing when we finally see it. In the dry season, there's just this trickle coming over the rocks.

But we get out of the boat and start scaling the rocks, which are lethally slippy when wet. I fell into a pool and had to be helped out by Jay and Hirut. We slipped and slid our way precariously up to the very top, where there was a deep, cool pool of fresh water. Jay and I drank from the river, we were so thirsty (the guide said the water was fine to drink) and then I went for a swim and got Natasha in too. We were worried that if we went in, we wouldn't be able to get out again because it was so slippy. After I proved you could do it, she joined me.

It was over all too soon, and we began the long journey back, the sides of the river a tangle of tropical tree roots. Herons and kingfishers flying around us, and a glorious setting sun.

We'd been gone about three hours when we got back, walking in triumph across the white sand back to the huts. It was too late for the others to go, and they'd already started packing up, but it was such a special journey and we had such a good laugh on the way. Definitely the highlight of the trip.

We all said goodbye and Claudette drove us home. It's her 30th birthday next weekend and she's having a big beach party at #2, we're so sad we won't be here to enjoy it.

We're back now and I'm heading to bed as I'm shattered. The medicine's worn off and I'm feeling distinctly wobbly. My lungs feel like someone's sandpapered them down from all the dust on the roads. Such an excellent day, but must sleep. Thankfully, my potential sunburn has turned into a gloriously golden tan :op

Sunset at Beach #2