My Sweet Salone top five

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Chaotic transport and poor infrastructure might keep Sierra Leone off the mainstream tourist trail for a while yet but new flight choices could soon tempt the more adventurous traveller. 

Dutch airline KLM will fly to Freetown three times a week from March 26, after a two-decade hiatus. It’s currently offering £470 returns from London or Manchester and there are signs that rivals are dropping prices, making a long weekend or week’s break more feasible.

So what are Sweet Salone’s top attractions? Here’s my favourite five:


5. The Sierra Leone Marathon

Okay, so I only ran the half distance – my body really wasn’t ready for 26.2 miles – but whatever you feel fit for, it’s worth making the journey for a race with a truly special atmosphere. The charity Street Child puts together a fantastic itinerary that allows runners to meet some of the kids they’re raising money to help, both in rural schools and the host town of Makeni.

Sierra Leone Marathon-2016-180

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Beside Freetown’s festering seaside

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Gaze out from the water’s edge at Kroo Bay and you see a typical West African seaside vista.

It’s not picture postcard exactly but attractive enough, with traditional wooden fishing vessels rounding a coastline punctuated by cotton trees and the odd leaning palm.

But this is no place for a picnic.HPIM1471-1.jpg

Turn 180 degrees and you’ll take in the rusting metal roofs of tiny slum dwellings that house somewhere between 15,000 and 20,000 people. Continue reading

Haven of tranquility

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As we glided silently over the barely rippling waters of the River Moa, listening to the myriad exotic birdcalls, I finally understood.

This was why Tiwai Island is hailed as the jewel in the crown of Sierra Leone’s natural splendour, and by many as the country’s number one destination full-stop.title

A landscape straight out of Jurassic Park – of exotic palms, 200-foot kapok trees and giant bamboo plants – was mirrored with the fading sun on the water.

And with a solitary fisherman in a dugout canoe for company, my sexagenarian father-in-law and I felt like little boy explorers on a storybook adventure. Continue reading

A Christmas wish… and 10 more “things”

Ah, Christmas; a time for giving, sharing, for thinking of far-flung friends etc.

I don’t expect to be receiving any cards over here this festive season, particularly as I’ve still never seen a postman. (Although a bloke who lives nearby can often be seen sporting a cast-off Royal Mail top).

However, there is one small item on my Christmas list to you all. In response to numerous kind comments about my tales of a family bumbling their way through a stint in Africa, I’ve entered Home Salone (the name of this blog, ICYMI) in this year’s UK Blog Awards.facebook-2

If you’ve found it entertaining, amusing, nice to look at, or just plain feel sorry for us, then please vote for Home Salone in the Lifestyle and Travel sections. Continue reading

An escape

No matter where you are in the world, sometimes you just have to get away.

On Saturday, we decamped for a night just a few miles down the road at Lakka.

We’d always fancied staying at Tommy’s Paradise Guesthouse, our favourite beach place, but didn’t think it’d be worth overnighting so close to home.

However, we’d had a bit of a week. Continue reading

Climbing Mount Bintumani

Another visitor, another excuse to explore further afield.

Rather than a relaxing tour of the Western Peninsular beaches, my old uni mate Jody fancied climbing a mountain.

Not just any mountain. At 1,948m Bintumani is the highest peak between Cameroon and Morocco. And it’s a long way from anywhere sizeable enough to be called a town. Continue reading

Meeting heroes of the Ebola outbreak

A year ago last week, Sierra Leone was finally declared free of Ebola.

Its people had endured what would almost certainly have been the most terrifying, paranoia-stricken 18 months of their lives had many of them not already survived a vicious civil war.

Reminders of the virus’s insidious spread are everywhere, from defiant slogans painted on walls to notices in bathrooms reminding you to wash your hands. Continue reading

Times they are a-changing

I hate to be one of those irritating people who go on about amazing far-flung beaches while you’re pondering turning on the central heating.

But our last few beach outings really have been fantastic fun.

As the rain has eased, so has the flow of litter into the drains and on to the sea. The last seaweed bloom that left the sands covered in a festering mass seems to have finally cleared.

And at Lakka on Sunday the water was clear and perfect for bathing, to the point where I had what’s probably my first ever proper swim in the sea – covering about 500m aided only by the salt offering great buoyancy. Continue reading

The importance of eating buns

Wherever we are in the world and no matter how adventurous or varied our lives, I suspect we all crave a bit of routine.

We need an anchor to hold us steady as we negotiate life’s highs and lows, pegging us to a state of relative “normality”.

For us, that anchor comes in the shape of buns.

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Grim realities

It’s been a week that’s highlighted some sad realities about life in Sierra Leone.

Firstly, we heard two vehicles had been stolen during a break-in at the One With The Common Sense’s office.

Worse, however, was finding out later that one of the night watchmen had been killed in the robbery. Men armed with machetes – or cutlasses, as they call them here – had tied him up and strangled him. Continue reading