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stuzaza
 
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Banjul to Freetown by taxi

28 January 2013, 10:02

During my time in wild west Africa I started using the phrase "howbe?", when greeting a buddy, so the cry in Ghana would be "'owbe Tjaali!!" (pronounced charlie, in the local vernacular it means friend) and the response would range from '' 'no bad my brudder" to "managing small". The latter indicates ruff! times and worry - often said with a forlorn expression and sometimes an omen of a  Passive Mugging Event. 

PME is highly prevalent in wild west Africa - it has been honed to a fine art - how to convince an otherwise sane (generally white) person to part with hard cash because of a woeful tale or some unreal deal.  It can range from taxi fare to fortunes.

White guilt is very lucrative.

I knew a guy from Canada who got sucked into a gold dust deal - long story sh..., he was in for $200k before he clicked he was being cooked like a grasscutter (local delicacy - rodent boiled to a second death and served with "jollof" tomanto rice - yes tomanto just like on the menu and a scoop of shito sauce.) He waited in Ghana for 8 months before he saw 25% of the money returned not mentioning the hotel and legal fees he racked up. He was relatively lucky.

Then there was the Dr from Brazil who had parted with $40k, (from her internet machine at her home to a guy she met online!!) to fund a clinic and school in the hills. She came to Ghana 3 times to try and meet Mr X to see how her money was being spent - you can guess the rest......

Said Dr from Brazil, in fact, fell in love with me (!!) - for real. She offered me the world if i married her and hounded me for months, she is one of the reasons i dont use facebook.

Possibly the best experience i had was in Sierra Leone. I was living in Gambia at the time and decided to see the journey from a taxi window instead of flying the 1 hour trip from Banjul to Freetown. 3 days later we crossed from Guinea Conakry into "Salon". There was more hole than road most of the way and we averaged about 25km/h the (w)hole way in a klapped out peugot with my driver Alim stopping only to buy king size rizlas or find a suitable place to ease ones self.

Hectic trip but all i can remember are the laughs and beautiful moments, prolly better that way!! Sleeping in the car for 2 nights on the side of the road, chaos and banditry at the border posts and living on 2 minute noodles and mango was interesting, from a digestive point of view. Conakry too was an experience - one I wish never to repeat. All the usual squalor and stench but no easy going street vibes here, just pushy smackjunkies and a con around every corner - lol, i never thought about the con in Conakry, omg there's a "kry" too!! very apt

Freetown itself is a real eye opener - beauty and the beast side by side. The city is on a peninsula with long chain of big hills and is quite majestic looking in a "poor cousin of Rio and Cape town" kinda way. The poverty and filth is horrific, much like the Favelas of Rio and the flats of cape town I suppose.

I was promised, by Alim, very reasonably priced helicopter flips over the estuary and city - only to find out service had been suspended indefinitely, due to a land to air strike on said chopper. Africa at its finest.

The local folk were generally very easy going, most VERY well educated and with the best sense of humour in Africa imo. I hung out at Eddris' bar or Spot as informal bars are called and would listen intently to the locals take verbal swipes at each other - funny insults and mutual banterinh to and fro in Krio, the local parlance - spoken with a lilt like west indian and a rolling of the Rs. Absorbing to listen to and strangely understandable. After a few extra strength Guiness' that is. I have never met a Leone i didnt like - quick to crack a joke, passionately hospitable and a human respect that seldom went as far PME.

On the streets the standard "hello, how are you?"equivalent is rendered thusly " 'how da body?'   to which the reply, generally, is   "da body a machine!". Cracked me up every-time especially when used by the functioning drunk barkeep at Edriss' Spot, who would go through 2 bottles of local "gin" a day only to present himself to duty looking like absolute shit.

Clearly this mans machine was close to seizing.

Once out of Freetown i fell in love with the country - golden stunning beaches, tropical jungle spilling onto the sand, mountainous backdrops and super pleased to see you locals. Genuine warmth of spirit, even from the numerous peeps missing arms and hands - courtesy of Charles Taylor and the warlords. I sadly realised that if roles were reversed, an African tourist to SA would prolly never be welcomed as warmly as I have been throughout my African travels. A lesson in humanity indeed.

The best day was the hot lobster lunch with frozen Star beer on the beach at a place called Sulima, kids actually swam out to catch my lunch! Reef to belly in under an hour, now thats what i call service. The bill was a coupla dollars if i remember right. I skipped the famous Chimp and Bonobo sanctuary, i almost blubbed at the plight of the polar bears at JHB zoo so i wasnt gonna risk my emotions on our cousins in trouble.  Kinda regret that but there you have it.

Alim took me to his home near Kono in the east of the country and the time i spent in diamond country was filled with mixed emotions. All the qualities of diamonds represent life in Salon - hard but beautiful and all to often a catalyst for murderous mayhem.  

These people went to hell and back during the 10 years of war and reminders of the carnage were still very evident. I saw the diamond diggers at work and was staggered by the amount of manual labour that goes into the extraction of sparklers. Buyers, mostly Israeli, Lebanese and Saffas, set up camp in the bush and sponsor teams of diggers to move mountains and divert rivers to find the stones. One can buy uncut stones as easily as buying kreef at Coffee Bay. The price you pay may not translate into a massive profit margin ( if any at all) and the perils of getting caught far outweigh the benefits. 

The only thing i didnt like about Salon were the numerous Saffas hanging around,  all of em addicted to diamonds, full of brandy and boerish behavior for breakfast.  Saffas don't travel well,  a sense of entitlement that makes me cringe.


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