John Obey - Waterloo - Lunsar
Waterloo is chaotic and frantic. Unfortunately, the fuel crisis still has a grip over the country and all the petrol stations are without fuel and closed. This is rather problematic as we are travelling up-country today to Makeni, where Jayne, Kate and I will be based. The official price of petrol is 4500 a litre (roughly 66 pence). The government subsidizes this and rumours are that this fuel shortage has been artificially manufactured by the state so that when new price increases kick in the locals will just be happy to have any fuel at all and accept the higher rate without too many protests or problems.
The thing is though that you can always buy a litre of fuel, here and there, at the side of the road from business-minded hoarders. Fuel shortages are a way of life and some people make a living by selling on petrol at hugely inflated prices when the shortages kick in. Dorset Alex buys a couple of litres for 6000 apiece in Waterloo so we can continue on our way.
At the armed vehicle checkpoint, on the road east, the police take a look inside the car and point to a can next to the gear stick. "You are drink driving!"
"Yes, but it is Coca Cola"
"Yes, but I don't know what is inside the can"
Alex smiles and shrugs.
"Okay, Okay. Have a nice day," The policeman concedes, dropping the rope to the road so that we can continue on. This is apparently as close as Dorset Alex ever gets to paying a bribe: a vague suggestion that he has broken the law that is made more in doubtful hope than as a genuine threat. "It is one of the policies of the Collective that we never ever pay a bribe to anyone." Alex emphasises as we reach a hill pass that was once a key strategic stronghold of the notorious West Side Boys during the civil war.
Up-country it is immediately noticeably hotter; the lush green vegetation rapidly turning more of a brown as it is zapped day by day by plus thirty degree temperatures. As well as rising temperatures we are also having to contend with rising fuel prices. 'Eight thousand'; 'Twelve thousand' are the latest quotes for single bottles of roadside petrol as the petrol gauge flashes a disturbingly red colour. If you'd told me one day I would be sat in the back of a car in Sierra Leone about to run out of petrol in the middle of nowhere, you would have scared the living daylights out of me. In all honesty though I don't feel much more bothered by it than I would do at home. I am only reflecting on the possible inconvenience rather than any threat to our personal security.
I am just thinking to myself that an awful lot of fields near Lunsar have been slashed and burned when Dorset Alex pipes up:
"Right you lot, I think it is time you all started visualising lots of fuel for seven thousand in the next town or we might be calling it a night there. We are almost out of fuel."
And so it came to pass. Ten litres back-of-the-netted at 7000 per bottle.