road to paradise

Sundays is a day off. The guys from Studio D, Ernest (aka Eazy E), Kenny,Tembo & Sammy have borrowed a fantastic long-wheel base, modern Nissan van and they turn up to take us up to Laka and Number Two beaches.

Bricks drying in the sun

Up out of Freetown for the first time, through ramshackle villages on potholed roads like you’ve never seen, we’re all covered in the clouds of red dust and Sammy drives like crazy, undertaking taxis, pipping and accelerating over battle scarred, tropically decayed roads that are almost worse worse than if no road existed. Past red dusty villages and red dusty trees, with distant jungle mountains behind them.

Eazy E sings and tells me about his songs. He talks about how the people must vote, how it’s their only chance to save themselves and their country, but that the politicians are all corrupt and their promises are all empty. Eazy E tells me how one day he’s wants to be a big star and take his music to the world. Eazy E, Ernest, is a buyer for a construction corporation. He’s one of the lucky ones, he’s got a good job and he’s got respect.

We bounce along the road. There are big houses being built in the jungle. “In ten years all of this will be houses and hotels.” says Eazy.

“How are all these houses being built when so many people are in poverty?” wonders Kenny. “Where is all the money in Sierra Leone?”

The beaches are beautiful. The most beautiful beaches I have ever seen. Backed by steep dense jungle, pure white sand, palms and fig trees, high waves. At Number 2 beach there’s a ferryman with a tiny boat and he’ll row you across the idyllic lagoon like Number 2 river estuary to a spit of amazing white sand.

Heaven and hell. The poorest place in the world. People are starving. We order beers and chat with a lass from the BBC and an Irishman from the UN who we meet on the beach.