My colleague got up earlier than the rest of us and walked along the beach to the spot where the fishermen come in. He examined the catch and chose three plump fish which he purchased for our lunch, before he joined us on the little terrace for breakfast: fresh mango, scrambled eggs and toast with coffee.
Then two of us decided to take the boat trip up the river. The boat was moored where the river joins the beach, where it twists and turns through the white sand, watched by herons and flocks of royal terns resting on the sandbars. We stepped gingerly into the boat, and the boatman started to row us upstream, firmly and rhythmically, the paddle first one side of the boat then the other, so we glided smoothly through the water. The white sand quickly gave way to mangroves, and the terns were replaced by blue-cheeked bee-eaters hunting insects over the river.
It didn’t take all that long (not as long as I would have liked) for us to reach the waterfall. Or rather, the jumble of rocks that separates the fresh water river from the salty tidal lower reaches. Only for a few months, during the height of the rainy season, is it a true waterfall.
But we moored the boat and scrambled up the rocks, to the deep, clear pool at the top. A giant monitor lizard that had been sunning itself lumbered off into the forest, and we were keeping our eyes peeled for the monkeys that sometimes go to that area to fish, apparently using their tails as bait. We saw a couple eventually, on the way back, but they were not, unfortunately, fishing.
As soon as I could after we got back to the mouth of the river I was in the water. The tide was going out which meant that the river water was flowing quickly towards the sea. I floated on the surface, with the current pulling me along, around a couple of meanders and into the slightly turbulent bit where the water is so shallow that it bubbles around between the sandy humps on the bottom, turning me 360° before I continued my journey towards the sea. Finally I stood up (the water only up to my knees) and waded out and up the bank so as to go back for another go.
I know I've written about this place before (Beaches and Islands, 8/4/10), but it is good enough to write about twice. There really are not many things in life that beat drifting down River No. 2 in Sierra Leone, between the white sand banks, with the waves breaking onto the beach in one direction and the lush green jungle-covered hills in the other.