Friday, October 05, 2007

Countryside & Roadside Snacks - 27th August 2007

Monday morning, and we were off to the hydroelectric dam project that my father is working on, in Bumbuna. First we had to get through Freetown’s traffic mayhem, which meant sitting in stationary traffic for quite a long time, watching people selling, delivering, shouting, greeting, carrying and hanging out. Then there was a terrific downpour, and umbrellas of all colours burst into flower, whilst stalls were quickly covered in plastic.

Eventually, we left Freetown behind, and I spent the four hour drive upcountry enjoying the sights of palm plantations and my first African thatched houses, as well as returning the many greetings from villagers and fellow road-users (on foot, in cars, in buses, on motorbikes and in lethal-looking lorries). I was taking in scenes so typically African that I felt like I was in a fibre-glass-based safari park.

Lunch on the road was sweet green bananas, and char-grilled corn on the cob (tasty but could have done with some salt and butter), bought from street sellers. We also purchased some strange fruit that we were told were plums, but looked nothing like them and were inedible raw.

As we got further into the countryside, children outside mud and straw houses would go berserk waving, laughing and screaming “O Poto, O Poto, O Poto!” (Meaning ‘European’/ ‘white man’) at us as we went past. We’d get to what looked like major places on the map, but the settlements themselves were no bigger than a small village. The mud, thatch and tin cottages and huts, with chickens and goats milling about them, looked restful and solid after the slums of Freetown.

The Range Rover climbed up ochre dirt tracks, further into the jungle. We eventually arrived at the dam project worker’s camp by early evening, just in time for some pre-dinner drinks with freshly roasted peanuts - which tasted exactly like peanut butter. Without a doubt the nicest peanuts I’ve tasted, I vowed to try and find raw peanuts in Europe when I got back, so I could re-create the home-roasted flavour.

I asked the barman for the best places to drink in Bumbuna village, and he told us about Mabinti Johnny’s bar, where you can also get good food. We’d have to search it out the next day…

Being an Italian-run project, the camp’s cafeteria serves Italian-style food. ‘Camp’ makes it all sound very basic, but actually it’s a collection of bungalows and communal buildings. It was a nice change to have red wine and a meal of meatballs, potato, cheeses, charcuterie, and salads. ‘Specially the wine. ☺

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