Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The village under Bintumani - Sokurella

-----all images can be enlarged by double clicking on them-----

typical afternoon scene in Village of Sokurella - taken in March 1970

although a double exposure this picture shows PCV Skip Smith heading out with backpack from Kurobonla with young guide Kewulé Marrah with Loma Mts in distance - March 1969

Hiking down with VSO's - March 1969

With two British VSO's and our guide on Bintumani - just after "tea." March 1970; the man on left - named "Bill," was from Northern Ireland and spoke with a difficult to understand accent; the woman wore a skirt and clogs on her feet - I found this impressive that she could hike so easily in such "civil" wear. [VSO = volunteer service organization - the British equivalent of the Peace Corps in those days]

Lloyd Ziegler and me at our "base camp" with Bintumani in background - March 1970

Our Kuranko Guide - he was hired in Kurobonla to lead us up the mountain. The summit - Bintumani is in the background. 

Paramount Chief Marrah of Kurobonla on his veranda - he obtained a guide for us (for a fee) and allowed us to climb Bintumani - March 1970

 two girl's under veranda of a house in the village of Sokurella - March 1970 (double click to enlarge)

Located in Kuranko country in the Northern Province and far from the end of the road, Sokurella was a village that I visited twice during our Peace Corps years.  My first visit - in March 1969 was brief, and was with several folks from the U.K. who were hiking from Kurobonla to the top of Bintumani.  This first trek into the mountains of the north was initially with fellow Peace Corps volunteer Skip Smith but when I briefly got sick, Skip elected to head on, and I ended up hiking with the "Brits," to the top.  They were a funny group, and I enjoyed them.  The woman hiked in sandals - I was impressed with this.  The two men were an amusing pair. One spoke in what was thought of as "the Queen's English," and was easily understood (the woman also spoke this way).  However the bearded and red headed other fellow was from Northern Ireland and had an accent and rapid speech that I found incomprehensible.  When he joked as we walked I found trying to decipher what he was saying about as easy as I did the Kuranko language that was spoken in the area. I think the Brits would look at me - after one of his jokes - and wonder what was wrong as I would ask them either to repeat what had just been said - only slower, or I would register little in the way of response while they would be laughing or reacting.  I was amused - they were not at my lack of humor. Here I was with 3 folks from the UK and I could not understand the one from the Northern Ireland.  I thought - here is a "Yank," who is having almost as much trouble as our Kuranko guide in understanding.  I wondered if they thought I was an idiot. Most amusing perhaps was "4 o/clock Tea." We had left Kurobonla late in the morning to hike the 24 miles through the grasslands before heading up to the top.  The Paramount chief in Kurobonla had provided us with a guide, and off we went. But at 4 pm the Brits stopped (we were still a ways from our destination), and under some shade they set up their stove, heated water in their tea pot, and had tea.  I thought how very civil this was - in the most rural section of Sierra Leone. Here were all were, having late afternoon tea, in the Savannah Country just below the Loma Mountains (and the summit Bintumani).  What a kick.   Then, when tea time was done, the Brits packed their gear, and off we continued. The heat was oppressive (the shade did provide some relief), and it was humid at the end of the dry season despite the absence of rain. The temp could get above 100ºF at mid-day.  And here we were having tea. The Brits kept to their schedule.  We passed through Sokurella on that trip, stopping briefly to meet a few folks, before heading on up the mountain.  I was feeling better - I had hydrated the night before and gotten a reasonable rest. The women's sandals kept falling off - and as she treked on I laughed to myself. Here I was with reasonable hiking shoes (perhaps walking shoes would be a better term), and here she was in sandals and not a complaint.  My best memory of that trip was that Skip had gone up and down and I do not remember weather we passed on the way ( we must have).  I think that we all must have done the circuit - from Kurobonla to the summit (Bintumani) and back down - in one day.  I do remember us taking pictures at the summit of each other - but I do not think we stayed up top. Anyway - I think I traveled home with the Brits (they were all VSO's - the UK organization comparable to the Peace Corps) as I do have one picture of them in what looks like the town of Makeni, which would have been on our way home.  The two things from that first trip that were striking was how Skip persevered despite our very challenging trip to get to the area. This was impressive - he was in far better shape then I was.  The other was how very sick I became soon after returning to Kenema (for this see my other posting earlier in this regard). Susan had stayed with some Australian friends in the North while I was hiking (she did not want to go on this challenging trip).  Of course the scenery in the mountains was beautiful, the Kuranko people welcoming and fascinating, and the trip was worth all the effort despite the hardships.   In March 1970 I took another trip to Bintumani this time with a 1969-71 Peace Corps Volunteer named Lloyd Ziegler - who was a secondary school teacher at Holy Trinity Secondary School in Kenema.  Lloyd lived on the other side of Kenema from us on what was known as Blama Road.  This trip was perhaps better planned for me - and our trip via public transport this time went without a hitch (the previous trip had been 24 hrs and involved us being "smuggled" into Guinea - see earlier postings in this regard also).  We did stay overnight in Kurobonla, obtained a guide (this time a young school boy who I think was named Kewulé Marrah), and for several days stayed in the village of Sokurella before setting up a base camp just below the summit. In Sokurella they allowed us to set up my tent - and since Lloyd was briefly not feeling well - we stayed. One of our nights there we witnessed a wonderful celebration of singing and dancing - folks came from all around - it was quite a celebration.  From here we established a base camp and stayed up top overnight (our guide went back down to Sokurella).  Up top the air was cool.   We cooked on my primus stove, I do not remember what we ate (in Sokurella we obtained rice and local sauce).   


Anonymous said...

Chad, Lloyd was my chemistry teacher in the 1971-1972 school year at Holy Trinity Secondary School on Blama Rd. He actually lived in Blama and rode his honda to school each day. I was in form 2 and my brother was in form 1. We lived with my parents and my little sister out off of Hanga Rd. I love your posts. Keep up the good work,
John Rabideau

Anonymous said...

What a magnificent collection of photos. Very comprehensive. Thanks for taking me back to Kenema.
John Rabideau

lloyd t ziegler said...

Hi John! Bet I wouldn't recognize you now....yes, these pics really sent me down memory lane! Excellent site.
Lloyd Ziegler