07 October 2007


September 1

Bonthe, the capital of Bonthe district, is on Sherbro Island, just off the southern coast of Sierra Leone. After riding three hours to Mattru Jong, you catch (if your vehicle's not late) the daily boat to Bonthe - a 30 km journey of 4-5 hours.

In its prime Bonthe, a prominent colonial outpost along with Freetown, must have been quite impressive. Today the town has perhaps ten deserted old churches, dozens of pretty if dilipidated 'storey-buildings', an abandoned airfield (complete with stripped plane), streets and lanes with names, a local radio station (there are lots of these in Salone), and a ten square foot area that sometimes gets mobile phone coverage. It is kind of like Janjanbureh, Gambia's old colonial island, except it's more remote and seems to have fallen from a higher perch.

Still, it was a nice place to spend a couple of days walking around, visiting palm and/or bamboo wine ghettoes/spots, listening to locals chatting about politics and Bonthe's steady decline, and learning a tiny bit of Mende (hello/how are you?/thank God). There aren't many tourists (besides me there were two EU election observers and a British student journalist) so there are few hangers-on like in Gambia, just some kids saying Pumwai (white person/foreigner).

Aside from a few skirmishes in Bo and another town, the elections were pretty calm, with the main opposition party (APC) beating the Sierra Leone People's Party in the second round on September 8.

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