On the morning of the 20th we left for the 90 minute drive to the stunning beach at River No. 2, stopping en-route in one of the most frenetic markets I’ve ever experienced in Africa in a town called Waterloo. In spaces where people are so closely packed that you have to squeeze your physical way through…mini vans arrive blasting their horns causing the already tightly packed crowds to jam ever more tightly together in the space created only on each side of the vehicle. It was madness and I quickly made my way back to the truck after my only needed purchase of toothpaste.
The beach at River No. 2 was absolutely stunning. It was clean and mostly trash-free with a string of bungalows lining the length of the beach where several of us also chose to pitch tents. The next 3 days was spent in a blissful non-routine of sleeping in, having a very leisurely omelet breakfast (the leisure brought on by the length of time it takes to make food as much as our own sense of relaxation) swimming in the turquoise warm waters, chatting with new friends over beers, and dinners of grilled shrimp. It was rather magical and a great way to begin a 48 day overland truck voyage.
Even Charlie joined us for some fun in the sun and rather reluctantly allowed the four of us ladies to convince him to actually go into the ocean. Like many Africans, Charlie didn’t know how to swim and had spent most of his adult life living within a few minutes’ drive of this gorgeous beach without so much as setting a toe in it. I was so proud of him (and us!!) for getting him to enjoy the water so much after much encouragement, that within a few hours he was jumping and body surfing the waves like a pro.
The Christmas holiday in Sierra Leone brings with it a party season and every Thursday-Saturday night, giant beach based parties are planned with loud music, dancing and partying.
On our second night on the tranquil beach, we were caught off guard seeing vans and people arriving to assemble a giant stage with even bigger speakers literally within a few feet of our accommodations. In earnest requests with the manager, all 22 of us had the laborious task of moving to the south end of the beach so that we wouldn’t have to face brain-blasting music until 4am for the subsequent two nights. We all wondered: why on earth wouldn’t management have simply informed us of the planned party when we checked in the day before? As with many things in this part of the world – it appears that such matters do not occur to staff in the service industry because the tasks of the current day are all that consume their thoughts.
In any case, I was sad when it was time to leave River No. 2 and head to the wildlife hotspot on Tiwai Island – a mere 10 hours’ drive away.