Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Guided Tour of Banta

When I first went to Sierra Leone all I had were some pretty dodgy maps to try to piece together an idea of where I was going. While there it was hard to build up a picture of the geography of the place from my 5-foot-something-small vantage point. Since that time I have been able to look at better maps and now, with the help of google, we can see what it all looks like from space. What is really interesting about what is currently available on google is that it is all about 6 years old so we can see what Banta looked like before there was Children of the Nations.

So let's take the tour...

I am going to assume you know where Sierra Leone is in the world and so let's start with a shot of the whole country. As we go through these pictures you can have a look at any one of them in more detail simply by clicking on it.

So if you were flying to Sierra Leone you would land just north of Freetown, across the bay, in a place called Lungi. That's where every journey begins. If we look further south we will find Moyamba District.

You will see Bo city over in the east there and if you look right in the middle you will see a little area of blue, what look like lakes. Now we're getting very close to Banta because these lakes are what has been left by the mining of rutile. People in other parts of Sierra Leone don't generally know where Banta is but if you tell them you are from "the rutile area" they know where you mean. It is suggested that one third of the world's rutile, a mineral used in paint and welding rods amongst other things, is under the soil of this part of Sierra Leone.

Anyone who has been to Banta will be familiar with the river in the eastern side of this picture as it is the river that runs past Mokpangumba, Wubangie, Mokele and others. And you will see that google and I differ on the spelling of Mokpangumba. Look out to the east and you will find Serabu, our nearest hospital.

Now, find Mokpangumba on the river and look over to the east a little and you will see the bauxite mining plant owned by Vemetco. Which means our next picture is going to be of Banta itself and is going to feature a little village called Ngolala. If you have been to Banta look at the below picture, follow the road up from the mining plant and see if you can find Ngolala for yourself before moving on down...

If you aren't sure where to find it, look at the middle of the above picture near the top and just east of the road you have the village we know and love. The below picture gives you a better look.

Let's take a closer look at that...

Finding this was all pretty exciting for me. Ngolala has grown a lot since this picture was taken with many more houses built, especially up at the top of the village. You can see the cleared area at the top which is now "Ngolala Field" football pitch. And, beginning back down in the heart of the village, you can follow the path out to the east through Chief Kobba's palm tree plantation and take a right off the path, heading south across a swampy area to the beautiful village of Senehun, one of my favourite journeys. You can find Senehun at the bottom right corner of that picture.

Let's look more closely then at Ngolala, which from above looks like it has taken the shape of a tear drop.

And here is Senehun.

And if we passed Senehun and went round the corner of the mining road we would find ourselves at Jiminga. All of these villages have grown since these pictures were taken, it looks like there were no houses between the central part of Jiminga and the road at this time.

None of these villages can match the growth of Wondie however. At the time of this picture below, what is now referred to as "the old village" seems to have actually been "the whole village".

Then we have little Mogborie, surrounded by bush.

And Monicawe, by the road.

Let's go back across the river to get a closer look at Mokpangumba...

And then this picture of Mokelle. The little village to the north, at the top of this picture is where you get the boat to cross. If you are taking a dugout canoe you will probably cross more or less straight over and walk down to the village. If you are lucky enough to enjoy the bigger boat with the outboard engine you will travel south, up-stream to the village proper.

Let's go back to this wider shot once more so you can get your bearings again.

Find Ngolala at the top and in the middle of the above picture. Look left to the road from Ngolala and then about the same distance to the left again and you will see the little brown circle of Mogborie. Nowadays there is something pretty big that should show up in the space between these two villages. Nowadays the picture below would be a great shot of Children of the Nations...

Mogborie is there in the top left corner and you can see our swamp to the south of that. Notice that there is just one hut where the village of Ngolala Junction has now grown up. This is an incredible image when you think about what this patch of green jungle has become. I look forward to google updating their images so we can put the before and after side by side.

If you want to search google's representation of this part of our world for yourself then here is a link to start you off: Banta on Google

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