Thursday, February 16, 2012

summit March 1970 with Kuranko hat
summit - March 1970
summit 1969
summit of Bintimani (6381ft) - March 1969 - ©  - the large tubular structure behind me marks the summit (highest point)

In March 1969 and again in March 1970 I made two rather challenging trips to the Loma Mountains in the northeast corner of Sierra Leone. Both trips were physically quite demanding - with the first one followed about a week after returning to our home in Kenema by a rather serious bout of Malaria and also hepatitis. The Loma Mountains were quite remote and the summit - Bintimani was about 6380 feet. Travel there was arduous since from Kenema, via public transport, it took a minimum of two days. From the end of the road at Kurobonla the trek began on bush roads (trails) through tiny and remote villages before reaching the base. The last 75 miles by road were treacherous with serious road disrepair, and frequently bridges across streams requiring immediate repair before vehicles could cross. I have written other posts about the many challenges of this last 75 miles - a distance that could take a full day if not more to negotiate. However, there was, for me, a romance about the far north and Bintimani. In our training other volunteers talked of the mountain, its extremely remote nature, the wondrous views, and the friendliness of the people who lived there. A fellow volunteer and I made plans (1969) to travel there  A first day was spent meeting fellow volunteer Skip Smith at his northern province station in Matotaka (near Magburaka). Form here we headed further north to Kabala where we spent the night with volunteers stationed there. It was early on the following morning that we headed east out of Kabala on the very difficult Kabala-Kurobonla Road. This section of road was an adventure itself (I have described it elsewhere). Suffice it to say the day was very hot, very dusty, and given the roughness of the road surface and the bridges - and our position straddling gear in the back of the lorry - we were quite physically beat up (and bruised) by it all. This trip eventually involved us getting smuggled illegally into Guinea - a country that we were not allowed to travel to - involved us sleeping in a remote Guinean village - and also our indirect and risky involvement, by virtue of the lorry that we had chosen, in what turned out to be a smuggling operation of goods into Guinea. However - after a 24 hr journey we set down in Kurobonla. Being ill I was forced to spend a day in Kurobonla before heading up.
The picture above - taken in March 1969 was from the summit.The climate up top was cool (temp in the 70's) and less humid. Down below we had trekked through savannah grass and heat well above 100ºF. As I sat up top, and marveled at the view in all directions, I thought of how very remote we were, and how very far from home it all was.
Mount Bintimani is the highest point in West Africa west of Cameroon.

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