Guinea- Sierra Leone

14 days,  December 07- January 08




Kind of travel: Alone in a 100% independent travel

When: 24th Dec07- 05th Jan08

How I moved: This's really tough: crowdy minibuses and shared taxis max 20 km/h on the non-existent super-bumpy roads, connecting all the main villages, though. Luckily I got a 3 days long lift on a jeep (thanks Ben and Mir!) and I jumped for 100km in a remote area on the back of a motorbike.

Freezing or baking?: Dry season (Dec- Jan) is the best period of the year to visit the country. It's hot (24-28 C) and a little humid, but never unpleasantly. The inland, Kabala, is definitely dryer.

Where I slept: In most of the small towns you'll always find basic guesthouses (5-10$). In Freetown be ready to spend at least 30$ and in 'Tiway Island' there'r some tents available: generally forget running water and electricity.

What I liked: Two great adventures: the visit at the diamond mine and the 100km from Kabala to Faranah by motorbike. The last but not the least I found people more relaxed (and NOT PUSHY) towards the whites than in many other African countries.

What I disliked: The obsession of the locals for the cellphones (no food but holding a cell!), the bribing culture, the frequent fights among the locals and the food sucks!

How much daily: Not very cheap. Accommodation prices are reasonable (5-10$) but Tiway Island (2 days :40$), motorbike lifts (100km: 40$), staying in Freetown (80$/ night, I had to get the visa) brought to 45$/ day.

Dangers/ hassles: no more a single rebel in the country and little criminality, but two risks: malaria (I took Lariam) and the main one, the car crashes. By the way, while on the motorbike we seriously risked to smash down twice.

What to bring: mosquito-net, candles and a flash lamp. Ear-plugs could turn out useful against the generators in the night. And what about the book 'Memoirs of a Boy Soldier' by Ishmael Beah?


Thanks to a bird eager to enter the jet while my plane was taking over, I arrived in Conakry from Paris with a 24h delay!
Looking for a hotel in the Guinean capital when the city is wrapped in the darkness, means coping with dodgy taxi drivers and asshole hotel keepers.
Once it got morning I went to the bus station to take the minibus to Freetown. I had no clue how tough it would have been the 15 hours to reach the Sierra Leonese capital, through corrupted soldiers, bastard border guards, and a lot of dust along the unpaved roads.
In Freetown I slept at the 'Family Kingdom hotel', where I had to book in advance to have a proof of reservation required to get my visa in Italy.
I didn't fall in love with the capital, or maybe I was just nervous to start my travel in the country, so I left Freetown quite soon reaching the city of Bo. It's a 6h minibus travel, half of which on a dirty road, but works were on going to pave the road, hence I guess in a near future it'll be quicker and less painful.
In Bo, thanks God, I bumped into two wonderful people, Ben and Mira, who were taking a holiday from the work in a NGO at Makeni hospital. They were visiting Sierra Leone by their own jeep and the initial lift to the Tiway Island, turned into a 3 day long trip together around the country.
The landscape around had been red roads following the shapes of the green hills and once a while some locals walking from nowhere heading to nowhere.
Tiwai Island is protected island on the Moa river, where I slept in some sheltered tents. We walked around (a guide is mandatory) and we did a boat tour, looking for chimpanzees, small hippos and crocodiles, only partially succeeding (info about Tiwai Island).
The day after in 3 hours of a bumpy dirty road we reached Kenema, the town where most of the diamond buyers (they buy, but they don't sell openly!) are concentrated.
50 km north of Kenema I had the best experience of the whole travel: the visit to the diamond mines of Tongo (read about it, in Italian)
From Tongo in 4h we got to Makeni where I greeted Ben and Mir (Thankssss friends!!!) and I proceed to Kabala. Here first I walked to the top of the small mountain overlooking the town and then I organised the 100km motorbike trip across the remote region of Sierra Leone bordering with Guinea. The next day I left early, and it was a loooong day. (read about it)
More than a road it turned out to be a trail, where few parts were diffult even by a powerful motorbike. Changing bike at the border and passing several check-points I made it to the Guinean town of Faranah where I took a shared taxi to Mamou (3h)
From here easily I reached Dabala, a good place where to settle down to do some walks in the Fouta Djalon region. This is a bucolic hilly area plenty of waterfalls, easy tracks and several possibilities to sleep in the villages.
From Mamou it took terrible 8 hours packed with other 4 people on the front seats of a Peoguet 505 to get to Conakry. Here, after experiencing the tear-gases shot by the militaries to some riots against the dictator Condè, I flew back home.




Sierra Leone has had a trouble past in the last 10 years and most of what you'll experience there is somehow related to that. Even if there isn't a single rebel in the whole country and in Sept 2007 a democratic party won the elections, this is just the very beginning of the reconstruction.
Sierra Leone is having its chance to rise again, but obviously everything is not that smooth and easy. A lot it depends on the stability of its neighbours: Liberia seems to experience some relief, while Guinea future seems quite messy if Conte' doesn't give up. In short situation can change suddenly in that region.
Towards the foreigners I found locals more relaxed than I expected, in fact wandering around you won't have hassles or, left out the kids, not many people shouting you "apoto (white)"!
However I've to admit that travelling around is tough: roads are in terrible conditions, breakdowns are the norm for any mean of transport, reliable running water and electricity is a mirage for most of the accommodations, malaria is always a big threat… anyway at the end I enjoyed travelling more I did in other neighbouring countries like Mali, Senegal, Guinea. Surely speking fluently the language helps a lot.
Sierra Leone cannot be your first African destination, but, with a little of travelling experience in the black-continent, take it seriously into consideration.

Funny stories


  1. DIAMOND FIELDS (mail in italian)


Just to help you to understand better:
Kabala (SL)- 50km- Kwendu (SL)- 10km- Heremakono (border town, GU)- 45km- Faranah (GU)
Kabala to Heremakono: road completely unpaved and terrible
Heremakono to Faranah: the first 10km unpaved but quite flat the last 35km a wonderful tarred road.

Kabala is a lively small town set in the hilly inland of Sierra Leone, here I spent the day walking around and climbing the hill overlooking the town. Then before the dusk came, I organised the transport to Faranah in Guinea for the next day.
Faranah is roughly 100km from Kabala, but there's not paved road connecting the towns through this remote area of Sierra Leone. Moreover I was a little worried about the numerous check points we had to pass to cross the border in this culturally bribing part of the world.
The wisest and fastest transport was a motorbike, so I had to find a reliable driver knowing
the way. I found a French speaking driver who told me to have done it few times, I bargained
the price to 90.000 SLL (30$) to make it to the border, agreeing he would have passed at 8 am to take me with a more powerful motorbike.
The day after he came on time, and I was almost surprised everything could go so smoothly,
but then I realised he had the small motorbike and he told me the big one needed a "petit depannage" (small reparation). Anyway he assured me it would have taken few minutes.
After one hour I was still waiting and nobody coming at the horizon.
I started to get nervous, and just before complaining the French guy found both another
driver and bike.
I had no clue if this one knew the way, but I have no time to verify it and anyway no other chance than taking.
At the beginning the road didn't seem that bad, but getting further it worsened. Moreover the driver was
running like the hell, since he counted on coming back before the dusk. Few times I got scared that my ass, jumping at least 30cm, would have landed somewhere else then the seat.
"Sorry Sir, but there'r gallops" he said everytime he realised it could have been too much.
being "Gallop" the way the locals use to indicate a very bumpy part of a road.
In few points the road got so steep that I had to get off and walking while the guy was sweating
to proceed riding.
The weather was perfect, since during the dry season in this mountainy part of the country, it's sunny
but not hot, on the opposite in the early morning I even needed a sweater. The scenery was worthwhile the effort: green areas dotted with remote villages where groups of topless women were typically doing the laundry at the stream, while the kids playing all around.
Several time we had to cross small rivers: typically the driver just started accelerating few hundreds meter before, I guess hoping the water wasn't to deep. However the most dangerous situations were passing the bridges, or better some trembling wooden panels less that one meter wide, one or two meter over the water. In such cases the theory of the driver was simply: "less you take to cross, more you minimise the risk", hence he just speeded up like hell. We manage to keep the balance few times but, obviously once (only once: a miracle!!) we fell down. Luckily without injuries, but I cursed to the guy for the next half of hour, uselessly, since he soon forgot and he run even faster .
We passed so many check points, I mean huts with few soldiers; some of them were friends of the driver and somehow he managed to dribble them. While others turned tougher; in particular once they obliged me to get off and started questioning. I showed to be kind but upset, saying that I had already paid bribes, that this wasn't the way to treat foreigner, what about the Sierra Leone hospitality, bla bla....
Surprisingly the border point went particularly smooth and at the end I never had to pay any bribe.
In the border town of Heremakono I found another driver, and when I asked him about the Guinean entering stamp he told me I should have got in Faranah; I insisted I wanted leave the border without having and at the end he took me to a private house where a lady was doing laundry with her daughter.
We went inside the house, she opened an old drawer and she took what it seemed a centenary wooden
stamp. Then she went inside looking for the ink, came back and stamped energetically my passport.
After that she started writing on it, I mean not signing but really writing 4 lines.
I've no clue what it's written and in which language, but at the immigration, when I left the country from the
international airport in Conakry, they seemed very interested in such writing.


DIAMOND FIELDS (mail in italian)


31st Dec 2007
Makeni, Sierra Leone


No, qui non c'e' la guerra, o meglio e' finita. Sono finiti 11 anni di guerra che hanno distrutto quello che c'era da distruggere lasciando ai posteri case bruciate e amputati.
I ribelli sono stati disarmati con l'aiuto delle truppe britanniche, i paesi responsabili sono stati identificati (qualcuno si e' pure scusato), il dittatore Liberiano che finanziava il tutto e' sotto processo e sono appena state tenute le prime elezioni del dopoguerra in cui ha vinto un partito democratico.
Insomma ci sono tutte le carte in regola per iniziare a ricostruire il paese e la Sierra Leone sembra intenzionata a farlo. Come mi ha detto un ufficiale inglese dell'UN:
"O la Sierra Leone si rialza adesso dall'ultimo gradino o non avra' piu' un'altra chance come questa"
Il perche' di tutto questo macello?
E' ben noto: le miniere di diamanti.
Il paese potrebbe benissimo essere il piu' ricco del mondo eppure e' semplicemente il piu' povero, non tra i piu' poveri, ma IL PIU' POVERO! Dove l'aspettativa di vita e' 37 anni (in Italia 81), dove c'e' l'80% di disoccupazione, il 60% di analfabetismo, si muore come mosche di malaria e ci sono tra gli ultimi focolai di vaiolo al mondo.
E' proprio la zona delle miniere la destinazione del mio viaggio che partendo dalla Guinea entra in SL, per poi passare da Freetown e arrivare nella zona orientale del paese al confine con la Liberia.

Il tutto e' iniziato con un simpatico uccello che, durante il decollo, ha deciso di entrare nel motore dell'aereo rompendo delle palette del compressore e obbligando a riatterrare con tanto di show dei vigili del fuoco.
E' stato pero' solo a Freetown che ho avuto qualche momento di scoraggiamento che mi ha portato a lasciare la capitale prima del previsto. In seguito pero' e' stata la sorte a baciarmi in fronte quando la mia strada si e' incrociata con quella di Ben e Miranda, due olandesi che lavorano per un ospedale locale e presi da pieta' mi hanno caricato sulla jeep della loro organizzazione.
Quello che era uno strappo per attraversare una zona di jungla fino alla riva di un fiume, si e' trasformato in un passaggio lungo vari giorni con lo stesso obbiettivo:entrare nella zona dei diamanti.
Non era chiarissimo come poter fare per accedere ad una miniera, l' idea era quella di andare nella citta' piu' grande e trovare qualche aggancio: cosi' abbiamo fatto.
La citta' di Kenema non abbonda certo di guesthouse e un buon
posto dove dormire si e' rivelato l'ex quartiere generale delle milizie antiribelli durante la guerra. Gli hanno dato una bella riverniciata, grattato via un po' di sangue e voila' pronte tante belle stanzette in cui passare la notte.
La sera un po' per l'agitazione di come sarebbe andata il giorno successivo, un po' per il caldo stagnante dentro la zanzariera non riuscivo a dormire. Mi sono messo a leggere un libro scritto da un bambino soldato delle truppe antiribelli che ora vive negli States (grazie Betto!) che racconta, con abbondanza di particolari, ogni sorta d'atrocità che lui ha commesso durante la guerra. Impossibile quindi non pensare a quanto dolore, rabbia e odio sia stato provato pochi anni prima magari proprio in quella stessa stanza.
La mattina gironzolo per la caotica citta' e rimango sorpreso da come tutti i negozi, indipendentemente da cio' che trattassero, comprassero (ma non vendessero) diamanti. Tutto ma proprio tutto basato sul commercio di diamanti, comprese ovviamente le attrezzature per cercarli: pale, palette, setacci....
un po' come l'attrezzatura di Zio Paperone per cercare l'oro nel Klondike :-)
Non passo certo inosservato e il coro di 'Pobui, Pobui, Pobui (white man)!!' mi segue come un eco in qualunque angolo mi infili. Faccio un po' di domande in giro con quell'aria indifferente da 007 all'opera, che attira l'attenzione piu' di un cartello luminoso sopra la testa.
'Sir, won sii diamonds?? I shoo you!'
Tutti la stessa frase, ma di vedere i diamanti a me non frega niente, io voglio vedere una miniera!!!!!
Trovo uno che mi da qualche consiglio:
' Sir, guidi per 27 miglia verso Nord (circa 4 ore), raggiunga il villaggio di Tongo, chieda del capovillaggio, mostri i soldi e qualcosa succederà'

La strada e' cosi' disastrata che non si viaggia oltre i 15 km/h e in piu' arriva il primo check point. Inizialmente mi preoccupo ma, il logo del NGO sulla jeep e' un gran lasciapassare, nessun militare osa bloccarci e chiedere soldi.
Come in ogni altra strada in Sierra Leone le macchine private sono rarissime e l'unica cosa che si vede per la strada sono le jeep dell'UN, stracolmi minibus libici (donati da Gheddafi per farsi perdonare dall'opinione pubblica per aver finanziato i ribelli), capre e gente che cammina nel mezzo della jungla per andare chissa' dove. Non manchiamo di dare passaggi soprattutto per fare qualche domanda, ma appena si nominano i ribelli del RUF le bocche si chiudono e nessuno spiaccica una singola parola.
Lungo la strada villaggi di molte case distrutte e bruciate, con a fianco un capanna di fango in cui vivono gli ex proprietari.
La scena e' sempre la stessa a tal punto che ci si fa anche l' abitudine. Gironzolo all'interno di una delle villette vittime della guerra. Non ha il tetto ma le stanze ci sono tutte; entro nel bagno e c'e' ancora la vasca e il water con lo sciacquone come se i proprietari fossero fuggiti pochi istanti prima.

Il panorama e' unico: una strada di terra rossissima che serpeggia nel verde delle jungla o di quella che era la jungla prima della guerra.
Arriviamo al villaggio. E' domenica e la strada e' colma di gente in citta' per il mercato; scendo dalla jeep e mi sento leggermente osservato.
'Pobui, pobui (white man)!!!'
Che siano arrivati tre bianchi in citta' ora lo sanno proprio tutti, e quindi non e' il caso di fare domande per strada. Ci infiliamo nel recinto di una chiesa cristiana. All'interno un gruppo di donne si gira e mi fissano come se fosse entrato un alieno. Mi blocco, come vedessi una scena vista in qualche film dell'africa degli anni 70. Loro vestono abiti coloratissimi, verde acqua o arancione, che fanno risaltare molto la carnagione scura, con enormi cappelli di paglia, adornati di fiori di stoffa, indossando gioielli e pietre. Sono allineate sulla panchina di legno e tengono in mano le borsette luccicanti . Si devono essere messe qualche unguento perche' hanno una pelle che brilla, come un paio di scarpe appena lucidate.
Qualcuno da dietro:
'Good morning Sir, fra poco inzia la cerimonia, vuole unirsi a noi?'
A parte il fatto che cosi' ricoperto di terra rossa e sudato
come un cammello, mi vergogno, ma in realta' sono qui per un altro motivo. Parto all'attacco:
' Dear friend e se per caso volessi dare un okkiata a qualche miniera di diamanti?'
'Oohhhhhhh diamonds' E gli si illuminano gli occhi...
Allora chiama un altro tipo che contatta al cellulare un altro che alla fine manda qualcuno a prenderci. Il nostro improvvisato accompagnatore non chiacchiera molto, sale sulla jeep con noi e ci indica la strada.
Ammetto fossi un po' nervoso...
Usciamo dal paese e passiamo dei campi per scendere sul fondo di una leggera vallata dove scorre il fiume. Subito, come se si fosse alzato il tendone di un palcoscenico, si apre uno spettacolo inaspettato: centinaia di persone a scavare e setacciare tra la fanghiglia, come fossero tante formiche che lavorano in un enorme formicaio.
Scendiamo e iniziamo a camminare su un sentiero, ci raggiunge quello che dovrebbe essere un po' il Boss, ma non altro che un ragazzotto bello robusto e con la maglietta un po' meno a brandelli degli altri. Gli spieghiamo che lavoriamo per l'ospedale di Makeni (magari io non proprio:-) e questo aiuta a rompere il ghiaccio. Lui subito se ne esce con:
'You wanna tek snaps?'
Sudo freddo, pensando che qualche scatto lo vorrei davvero portare a casa, ma ribatto con un:
' non e' importante e solo se le persone sono felici di farsi fotografare'
Che ovviamente non significa una beneameata fava, ma lui tutto soddisfatto mi sorride e mi stringe la mano.

Iniziamo a camminare tra gli operai:
a cercare i diamanti tutti uomini, eta' massima 25 anni e le donne portano il cibo. Condizioni di lavoro drammatiche e caldo insopportabile, ma erano davvero in tanti. I ragazzi non hanno paga, guadagnano solo quando trovano diamanti. Quindi chi non trova non mangia.
Intorno a me sento tantissime voci chiamarmi, come al solito saluto stile Papa accompagnando il tutto con le sole due frasi di krio imparate.
In molti ad urlarmi:
'Thank you for being here!'
Perche' mai dovrebbero ringraziarmi per essere li???
Secondo me mi hanno confuso con qualcun altro :-)

Chiedo se oggi hanno trovato qualcosa. Lui alza la testa
fa un urlo e dopo poco un ragazzino corre verso di noi,
gli da un sacchettino, lui lo versa sul palmo della sua mano e ne
escono due diamantini grezzi che, in particolare su una pelle scura, brillano come di luce propria.
A lui luccicavano gli occhi, come qui luccicano a tutti quando si parla di diamanti. Se da una parte qualunque persona appena accenni alla guerra si chiude e tace, dall'altra solo a nominare i diamanti gli sguardi si illuminano e le persone si inebriano, iniziando a parlare di carati, purezza, tagli...
E' strano perche' per me in Sierra Leone tra le due cose sembra non esserci proprio alcuna differenza.



    • How to get there
    • Accomodation
    • Food
    • What to do there
    • Tariffs
    • Diamond mines
    • Kabala- Faranah by motorbike
    • Bottle water
    • Generators
    • Guide and info
    • Bribes
    • Local language
    • Photo of the mosque


My God, it has been a real pain!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I trusted an Italian visa agency who told me I didn't need any proof of reservation to get the visa. So I was quite surprised when my passport got rejected from the SL consulate in Milan. Then it started a two weeks long struggle to manage to have a damned 'proof of reservation'. I contacted a lot of agencies and I even tried to convince the consulate to bypass the normal procedure for my case, but unsuccessfully.
At the end, few days before the departure, I managed to have a letter of confirmation from the 'Family Kingdom hotel' in Freetown thanks to the site www.visitsierraleone.org.
Don't think that sending a mail could be enough; at least I didn't get any answer so I called the office in London (+44 20 7193 4532) and begged them to work on my reservation. Of course it's not for free, in fact a night in a single room cost me 80$, although the website claims 70$! However the Family Kingdom is the cheapest hotel I found in the website and I paid directly to them after having slept there. Following my pushing action, they sent me a email with a 'reservation number' (I guess I could have faked by myself) that in turn I faxed to the Consulate with a letter explaining I booked just one night since I wanted to visit the beautiful country, Regards, Best Wishes, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and bla bla bla...
After one day I got my single entry 3 months valid visa for only 100 euro+ 30 euro for the idiots of the agency!!!

Another opportunity is to get the visa in Conakry in Guinea. I took this as the very last chance, since being very short of time and in a holiday period I risked to wait my SL visa for days in the 'beautiful' town of Conakry. If you have more time I had, the following thread can turn out very useful:


As I know forget to get the visa at the airport unless you aren't part of an organised tour or you have the support of some organisation.



The Leone is the local currency and the change ratio at the time of the travel (Dec07) was:
1 USD= 2910 SLL. (buying SLL)
1 EURO= 4100 SLL (buying SLL)
You can change money almost everywhere and you can pay bigger amounts (i.e. accommodation) directly in $, but you risk to loose money with the change ratio




The yellow fever certificate is mandatory to get the visa. I had it attached to the passport so I cannot say if they border guards really require it, anyway I wouldn't' see the point to take the risk to travel without being vaccinatinated.
I took Lariam against Malaria. Be aware that, being one of the most humid tripical climates in the world, it's also one of the most risky as concerns Malaria. On the other hands if you travel in the dry season (Nov- April), having a mosquito net, wearing long pants, long sleeve shirts and abounding with insect repellent, you can avoid the famigerated Lariam profilassys.
Take into consideration to buy Malarone instead of Lariam, although it's a daily dose (Lariam weekly) and more expensive, it doesn't give Lariam side effects.
If you r gonna staying for a long period in the country, obviously you have to do your counts on risks, money and side-effects!

Morevoer I had the usual vaccinations: Ephatite A, B, Typhus, Tetanus, Meningitis.
I hadn't any problem with the food or the drinks, never drinking tap water, obviously.



Tiwai Island is a protected area on the Moa river. It's an island around 4x3km where many monkeys, chimpanzees, small hippos and crocodiles live.

How to get there:
By public means of transport it's a tough job, but feasible. From Bo take a shared taxi to Potoru (3h), here pay a lift on motorbike to the village of Kambama (17km, 30min). At the village take the boat to get to the Island (the boat trip is included in the entry price)
Kambama is connected also directly to Kenema without passing through Bo, and while I was on the jeep, I saw some minibuses and shared taxis passing on this way. If you have time and patience I'm sure you can do it by public means of transport, anyway by jeep it took the best of 3 bumpy hours.

A community based organisation rents some nice and sheltered tents on the island. They even have solar lamps, running water toilets, showers and a kind of veranda with seats and table.
Although it's recommended to book in advance in their office in Freetown or in Bo, you can pop up directly in Kambama and they will manage somehow to find a tent for you. Of course booking in advance you minimise the risks (address and telephone on the Sierra Leone section of the West Africa 6th edition, 2006 Lonely Planet)

You can find all the beers (and bottled water) you want, but forget having some choice of food. They didn't even manage to find some bananas for us in the nearby villages. At the end they found a chicken (so bad!), but the best it's you buy your own food in Bo or at worst in Potoru.

What to do there
Basically enjoying the peace and the sounds (or noises) of the animals. Boat trip and walks will let you see a lot of chimpanzee jumping among the trees, crocodiles tracks and, if you are lucky, the small hippos.

Fix tariffs (Dec07)

Tarif [$]
Entrance, sleeping, boat / each day
Entrance each day
Boat tour to the hippos (1-2 hours)
Canoe tour (but there was no canoe still)
Cooker (food not included
Walk in the forest with guide (2-3h)




Diamond mines
To visit a "diamond field" is a must for a travel in Sierra Leone, but at the moment there's nothing organised, so you have to work by your own. My suggestion (at least what I did) is to go to Tongo (50km north of Kenema by an awful dirty road by there's also some shared taxis) and once there, ask around avoiding making people suspicious. Don't go to the market shouting: 'I want to see the diamonds!".
For sure shortly you'll find somebody who has a friend who works there and can take you.
Once there ask for 'the boss', however he will reach you before you find him, and recognise his authority: speak him, explain who you are, ask if you can take snaps...
The fields are very near the town and theoretically you could walk there by yourself, but I don't think it's a good idea.
At the end I gave a 10.000 SLL (2$) tip both to the guy who took me there and to the boss; I know it can be less but, for the best experience of the whole travel, I think it's the right amount.

Kabala- Faranah by motorbike

Kabala (SL)- 50km- Kwendu (SL)- 10km- Heremakono (border town, GU)- 45km- Faranah (GU)
Tot distance= around 100km
Kabala to Heremakono: road completely unpaved and terrible
Heremakono to Faranah: the first 10km unpaved but quite flat the last 35km a wonderful tarred road

Read the funny story I wrote to get more details and a link to the TT LPlanet that turned out very helpful to me:

- SL entry from Faranah to Kabala without motorbike

Bottle water
Always check if the bottle is well sealed. Twice it happened to me to get an already opened bottle, I guess they refill with normal water.

If you r sensitive to the night noises, take into account the location of the generator choosing your room. Nevertheless your window can probably be next to the neighbour generators, so ear plugs could be the only solution

Guide and info
The best source of info I found is the Sierra Leone section of the West Africa 6th edition, 2006 Lonely Planet; it's 30 well done pages. Also the 14 pages of the Africa 2007 Lonely Planet are concentrated but fundamental. Then it comes the TT forum, essential to be updated about the safe areas in the country

Bribes from soldiers at the check points turned out to be not as bad as I thought. For sure border points are the shittest places from this point of view (from every point of view) but keep always some change with you. Corrupted soldiers don't give change :-)

Local language
The communication couldn't be easier in Sierra Leone since most of the people speak some sort of English. The local language is mainly Krio, a transformed form of English that often sounds funny.
Greeting the locals using their forms will be very rewarding; the most used ones are:
"How di body?"
"How di day?"

Photo of the mosque
After having been annoyed the all three times I took a snap of a mosque (quite far outside), the only thing I can recommend is to avoid handling your camera in front of the Holy Places