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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Ending on a high

We’ve been back home a week but my brain hasn’t quite assimilated that we’ve left Sierra Leone.

Since touching down at Heathrow I’ve felt like a rabbit in the headlights. Or, at least, one dazzled by the neon glow from the logistics warehouses at the back of Terminal 4, which seemed impossibly modern after the equivalent sights at Lungi.votenow-1

I’ve spent most of the week hiding indoors, much as I did during my first seven days in Freetown. More than a sort of reverse culture shock, however, it’s a common cold that’s kept me confined to quarters.

It made for a low-key end to a tumultuous year. But 2017 got off to a great start when I discovered this website had been shortlisted in the Travel section of the UK Blog Awards.

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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

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

A long weekend in Freetown

Freetown might seem an odd destination for a long weekend but it’s certainly doable, as our friend just proved.

I picked up our old housemate Tim – or Topsy Tim, as the Flump named him (her first CBeebies in-joke) – from the SeaCoach terminal at 6am on Friday.

He’d enjoyed a trouble-free overnight flight until the passport officer stamped him in and then asked for money for a drink. Being a kindly soul, and having nothing smaller, Topsy handed over a fiver (Sterling), enough to fund a decent night out.

We aimed to show Tim as much of what Sierra Leone had to offer as is possible inside four days. Continue reading