Monday, April 23, 2007
Top of West Africa! - Mount Bintumani
This past weekend we were privileged to see a site few Sierra Leoneans have ever seen. We made a trip 76 kms to the base of the Loma Mountains to hike in to Aaron Kortenhoven's Buffalo research camp. Aaron grew up in Sierra Leone and knows Kuronko and Krio as good or better than natives to this area.
Overall it was a learning experience for all of us. I would say that now I truly know how to drive on Sierra Leone roads. On the way in to Senakoro – the base of the hike – we seriously bottomed out around ten times. Aaron Kortenhoven gave us a non-stop stream of advice on how to maneuver back down that same road on our own.
The hike began at noon on Friday, four hours of straight hiking from 1200-4500 ft. When we finally turned around at the base camp after a grueling climb the view was awe inspiring. After an evening of listening to monkeys and chimps chatter, storms pass by below and stars moving overhead we felt rested and ready to challenge the peak. I think all three of us were completely surprised by how high Bintumani actually is. The 2000 ft climb to the top was breathtaking. Enveloped in mist we made the final ascent. Although we could not see for miles we got glimpses of the stunning beauty of the forest canopy and rolling hills below. I was also privileged to speak with my mom on Aaron’s satellite phone. We got the unfortunate news of the Canucks loss in game 5 but it was so special to wake my mom up at 5 am to tell her “I am calling from the top of West Africa!”
Loma mountains did not disappoint us, Like Aaron warned us, “there are rocks there that will blow your mind.” And they did. Impossibly stacked and tilted! When a friend of Aarons suggested that some ancient civilization set these rocks in their positions, a kuronko friend of his, Yegbe, proclaimed “Ee no believe God!”