Pete, one of the gappers from the north east, writes from Freetown:
Sunday 24th February, 6pm
King’s Lodge Hotel, Freetown
24 hours into the trip and I am already exhausted. The fun started at Heathrow on Saturday evening with a few boarding gate issues and the original plane worryingly being deemed ‘unfit for flight’ but eventually we got away.
We touched down at dawn and then took a water taxi from the airport to the capital city of Sierra Leone, Freetown. The water taxi was an exciting novelty but received a mixed response from the group, upsetting the insides of half the group whilst gently rocking the other half into a serene sleep.
The first moment to pause and reflect on our witness found me sooner than I anticipated. As I stood on the water’s edge at 7am on the first day a series of small children walked past our group each carrying a bucket of water upon their head. The apparent normality of the strenuous labour really struck me; they were here simply carrying out their morning business. They can’t have been older than 8 years old but they were doing this duty at first light in order for them and their family to have water to survive for the upcoming day. No doubt that they will be there at the same time tomorrow.
Our wonderfully welcoming local CAFOD chaperones, Harriet and Dennis then brought us straight to our hotel and after some much needed rest and recuperation they took us to Lumley beach for the afternoon. Although it is not intentionally named after the actress, the beach was both gorgeous and entertaining. All along the vast beautiful beach were scenes of socialisation and activity, which we enjoyed as we walked along the sandy shore and as I looked around at the tropical paradise I couldn’t help but feel I was on holiday. So I immediately ran to the nearest sun bed and put my towel down for the week.
Our first taste of Sierra Leonean cuisine was at a seafront restaurant so I felt obliged to go for the locally caught fresh fish. Now I love Blackhill fish & chip shop but I must admit that this was something else and has set the bar high for future meals on the trip! Maybe on my return I will suggest to Blackhill fish & chip shop that they add ‘barracuda and fried rice’ to their lunchtime special board.
We’re all retiring early this evening before proper work starts tomorrow.
Pete is in the group travelling with Iona, Carmel and Joe to Makeni – which is about 85 miles east of Freetown. They arrived there safely this afternoon (Wednesday 27th Feb) and will be receiving updates from CAFOD partners Caritas Makeni on programmes in the area before venturing out.