On my second day off from duties in the Port Loko ETC, JS invited JB and myself to join her on a jungle walk. Most of the team had already been on this walk and were quite effusive in their enthusiasm. So, off we went down Rotifunk road; actually more of a dirt track with a single row of houses on both sides. The community spirit was in clear evidence, with many gatherings on verandas, including the wise old men and women, and kids plating on the path and small fields. As we got closer to a small stream, we started to see more and more small rice paddies with subsistence farmers harvesting as well as planting. Some of the locals were quite friendly, while others tended to shy away from us, understandably.
To progress we had to eventually cross our first stream, off came the shows and we waded across a nice cool stream after having a short chat with one of the farmers planting rice. The path split, with one direction clearly heading to some huts, while more fields appeared on the left and we decided to explore that direction. We walked along a river and then crossed another stream before heading “uphill”.
As we walked up the hill, it slowly dawned on us that we were surrounded by a gigantic swarm of ants and they were not happy. Time to retreat! Some of the ants were quite vicious and their heads had to be pinched off before the jaws released. As we walked back, one of the locals came in our direction; when I told him where we had had been he smiled, said “ants?” and chuckled when we nodded. We walked back to our original crossing and now took the right turn, apprehensively approaching the huts as we did not want to intrude. We were approached by a giggling groups of children that immediately ran away as soon as we started to talk to them. They went into one of the houses and ran from window to window, giggling, until their mother calmed them down. Three families lived here and they were preparing their evening meals. Most houses had a separate thatched enclosing that were used for cooking, possibly for keeping the smoke away from their sleeping quarters?
We walked on down one of the paths, this time down a “real” jungle path (middle image) and found another hamlet, this time with small farm plots close by, possibly cassava or ground nuts, also some bananas.
On the way back to base camp we started chatting to some kids playing. One of the little pikkins wanted to come home with me (August 2015, left). JS has re-deployed to Port Loko (October 2015) and she sent me the photo on the right with the following message: “I found this little guy still waiting for you to take him home.” People, this brought a few tears… at some point I would like to go back and find “my” little pikkin….