13-Mar-2010 -- I had just spent a week with a multi-national team of environmentalists and foresters at Sierra Leone's first game and wilderness reserve, the Outamba-Kilimi National Park. Now it was time to plan the return trip to Freetown. The lure of capturing a degree confluence near Makeni, the country's quiet capital of Northern Province, prompted me to leave ahead of the team, giving me some extra time on Saturday to attempt to reach the target. Traveling with two Leonean colleagues, we caught a ride with park rangers on their motorcycles and proceeded south to Kamakwie. Reaching the bank of the Little Scarcies River, we took the ferry across. The ferry turned out to be a dugout canoe; vehicles must take a much longer, alternate route. We were dropped off at Kamakwie where we hired a couple of motorbike taxis to take us to Makeni.
With the soft morning wind in our faces, we wound through field and forest. Undulating hills preserve a few remnants of the deciduous woodlands, but most of this part of Sierra Leone is cultivated, or covered in bushland. We reached Makeni by late morning, passing though the town's business district. Colorful shops lined the main streets. After lunch, I hired another motorbike taxi to take me northeast out of Makeni along the highway toward Kabala. The final stretch required taking a narrow road from Binkolo, crossing log bridges and lush valleys. Majestic trees like the towering Silk Cotton (Kapok, Ceiba pentandra) fringed the rice fields.
The road brought us to within 450 meters of the degree intersection. I could hear sounds of a nearby village. Knowing that protocol requires the chief's permission to visit the land, I walked to the village of Makaray, and met the Chief. My taxi driver served as interpreter, switching between English and Temne. With the chief's permission, and a couple of boys assigned to me as guides, I proceeded to follow a footpath across marshy fields, then into dense bushland. We passed under oil palms, punctuated with other trees, including the African locust bean, the Shea butter tree, and the African laburnum. The last 150 meters proved quite difficult - we ducked, crawled, and scratched our way through the dense understory. Finally we were there – no sweeping vista this time. It was a great honor to capture the second Confluence in Sierra Leone. I challenge my Leonean friends to complete the collection for the country.