Kabala - Makeni
5.30am alarm; 5.30am call to prayer. This town feels much closer to Mecca than Makeni.
I emerge into the cool darkness with no sign of the cook for my promised 6.15 breakfast. There's nothing for it but to start making my way into town in the dark with a tiny bit of dawn creeping in to show me the way. I should perhaps feel threatened but I don't. With it already 6.30 it is clear to me that the only way I am guaranteed to make the bus is if I break my rule and jump on the back of a motorbike. I stop the first rider I see near the cotton tree on the Guinea road and ask him to 'very very slow slow' to the government bus stop.
To be fair he isn't riding much faster than you would a bicycle and we only actually pass three more bikes on the road into town.
The bus is completely full and some of the lads are trying to put me in a poda poda. Travelling up on the government bus felt as safe as I have done on the roads here so I am going to stick to my guns and the lads from yesterday, remembering me, allow me to pay to sit on my stool again. The bus departs 15 minutes ahead of its scheduled departure. Lucky I got here 20 minutes early. Breakfast would have spelled disaster. I am sure Sajid factored that in.
My mini road trip out here has felt like real backpacking. I have seen some amazing sights especially now in the early morning light. One scene that I am sure will stay with me is of a dozen or more kids all huddled around a fire, reading hand-written Islamic teachings on long wooden tablets.
They are a friendly bunch on these government buses. One of the lads I have been chatting to for most of the early part of the journey from Kabala is an army lad who knows Coach Moses in Makeni. He jumps out at the battalion base; Salone's forward defence should there ever be - God forbid - an incursion from Guinea.
After an hour there is a stop for breakfast where I buy seven ripened bananas for a total of fifteen pence. Many of my travel companions eat some white slop that looks like a cross between porridge and old rice.
Every second person on the bus wants to chat and is keen to know what I have been doing in this country and what my take is on Salone. One recurring theme of conversations I have been party to during my time in this country is a a truly passionate desire for Sierra Leone to develop in the coming years. It seems like everybody wants this to happen and they also love discussing how it can be achieved.
About an hour away from Makeni we pass close by some amazing otherworldly mountains that look like the kinds of shapes a four year old would cut with scissors if you asked them to represent this scene. The contours and shapes of these mountains really are quite incredible and bizarre and prompt a bus debate about life on Mars. One bloke is convinced that intelligent life resides there and says it is only a matter of time before the truth outs.
I love the Salone people in this environment. They are friendly without being over bearing and always want to debate some subject or other.I suddenly feel taken by the desire to get on one of the buses going in the other direction and extend this road trip over the border to Guinea, before travelling beyond there to the conflict-free parts of Mali.
We are back in Makeni for 10am, allowing me to work all day. My final day here.