Travel & Design Blog - BY YASMIN METZ-JOHNSON

Friday, 10 March 2017

KABALA: WARA WARA MOUNTAIN


I was about to start this post with ‘I recently visited…’ but it really wasn’t recent. More like the beginning of the year. But here I am with the post, better late than never.

As some of you may know I’m of Sierra Leonean descent. Although I am British born and bred I am very much in touch with where I am “really” from. Thankfully. Having a lot of family based there I tend to visit at least once a year. I try not to miss a Christmas in Salone. As I love the heat, the beaches, the food, and the vibrant people the list goes on. Freetown never sleeps. But enough about Freetown, I told myself this trip that I was going to explore outside the claustrophobic city. I wanted to see what else Sierra Leone has to offer. Any destination travelled, I think it’s so easy to stay in the city and turn a blind eye on other regions, I say this because I feel that is how I was for a while. But I will save that for another post, I’m wandering off the topic. A few days after Christmas I endured a six-hour car journey with my mother to the largest town of the Koinadugu District.  Kabala!




We were only staying in Kabala for three days and two nights at Stando Resort before returning back to Freetown. Knowing it was a short trip I was most definitely going to make the most of the time. Kabala is known for its mountain range, hills and valleys, it is also referred to as one of the cold regions of Sierra Leone. That being said I was boiling throughout.

Before leaving Freetown I mentioned I was going to Kabala to some friends and family back in the city, which came with the response “Oh are you going to climb Wara Wara Mountain?” I had this response more than once something I didn’t initially understand, until the tradition was explained to me. Many of the people of Kabala climb Wara Wara Mountain on New Years Eve and will spend New Year’s Day there. The Limba people in particular believe that those who make the journey to the mountain top will receive prosperity and luck for that year. After learning this I made it a plan to climb it, not solely for that reason of course but for the experience and to see the view for myself.



Unfortunately I was leaving a few days before the first day of the New Year, so I didn’t get to see all the commotion and the picnic meets party that was described to me in such detail. But I did go up the mountain, just two days before with the coolest local kids (who were pro photographers in disguise). The path wasn’t easy neither was it too bad. However as I jumped over slanted rocks, treaded carefully over burnt harvest plants, pause to catch my breath and sip on my bottle of water (not too much fully aware that there were no toilets where I was heading).  I couldn’t help but think, how do hundreds of people walk up here altogether, with no designated path but all the obstacles you can think of? Thank God I went with locals otherwise if I went alone I would still be finding my way.
  
 I was also really content with the fact that I did the climb a few days before the New Year hype, I mean no disrespect when I say this but I can imagine it becoming frustrating, having to walk at the same pace as the elder people of the community. There are only so many of them you would be able to dodge until you would unwillingly just have to join them and walk at a safe and slow rhythm. 
 



What if I did go on New Years Day? I wouldn’t have seen the view in its glory the way I did if I went with the crowd. Not to mention my photo bomber free pics!

Nevertheless I made it! After an hour and thirty-five minute hike on an adjacent hill, we got there.


As soon as I saw the view from the top of the mountain its as if the hike to get up there was instantly erased from my mind. The view and the fresh breeze made it all worth it. The mountain is located in the village of Wara Wara Yagala in Koinadugu District.  Wara Wara is the prime location for when a chief of the surrounding communities’ is being inaugurated into their new role, the ceremonies usually take place on the mountain. I spent quite a while up there, perhaps the same amount of time it took to get there. Taking in the scenery, reading what I could from the faded chalk messages people leave, not to forget the blog photo shoot of course.  This adventure made me consider all the other activities and experiences to take part in outside of Freetown such as Outamba Kilimi National Park.  However it also made me think about all the leisure and tourist attractions we don’t have. They have the few eco tourism spots but with Sierra Leone having one of the largest rainforests in West Africa and countless mountains, there is the potential to create more tourist attractions, like the mountain top I was sitting on the time these thoughts crossed my mind. It really begs the question, why does Sierra Leone not monetize the natural recourses and scenery the country are more than blessed with?

Now that I’ve completed my first official hike with Wara Wara and surprisingly enjoyed it more than I probably expected, I think I would be willing to do another one! If I could change anything about this trip it would be the duration. A part of me wishes I were there a tad bit longer in order to make greater comparisons between both Kabala and Freetown. Overall I’m glad I did something I’ve never done before during my visit to Kabala. Mount Bintamani is the highest mountain in West Africa also in the Northern region of Sierra Leone. Who knows maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to challenge that hike too!








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