Sierra Leone: A Modern Portrait

Sierra Leone: A Modern Portrait

Sierra Leone: A Modern Portrait

Sierra Leone: A Modern Portrait

Excerpt

Il kabo na kabo All welcomes are welcomes

CREOLE PROVERB

AT three thousand feet the forest is a vegetable empire reaching to the horizon. A vast, lumpy, tufted mattress of greenery, its leaf-woven surface absorbs the hot sunlight. Here and there a winding ravine, whose brown floor is languidlymoving water, reveals the depth of the pile under that surface: seventy or eighty feet, contested every inch by a host of tropical plants--trees, creepers, parasites, undergrowth--wrestling in a massed embrace upwards for life. For three hours the infinite forest slides slowly eastwards under the wheels of the aircraft-- Gold Coast, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone; a broad swath of the West African rain belt.

The plane is squarish, with large oblong windows and unadjustable upright seats like a bus; a slip of paper is handed backwards from passenger to passenger. It gives the course and expected time of arrival, and tells us that we are about to cross the Mano River into British territory. Everybody stares out, to locate another brown lane cutting through the green plateau. Soon after, the appearance of the ground begins to change. It is as though a mowing machine had been roughly thrust through the forest, which looks less dense and matted. Hitherto, little brown clearings in the forest, with the oblong or rounded excrescences which were African huts, had been infrequent; now the intervals between them lessen. They appear in clumps like so many haystacks. Large cleared brown or black patches grow in number and size, like a leaf-blotch on the surface of the green vegetation; at this height the white boles of cut trees look like spilled matchsticks. A spreading veinstructure of red roads or paths asserts itself, and red-brown rivers succeed one another, all flowing slowly southwards and seawards, with an occasional glitter of rapids or shallows.

As we lose height, the land becomes a mottle of lighter and darker greens and browns; the rivers and roads are furred with dark trees along their edges. Among the trees the feathery . . .

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