An epic journey
All good things must come to an end and our visit to Sierra Leone ended on Weds. after ten incredible days in West Africa. Following a morning spent haggling for bargains at Freetown's bustling and colourful 'big market', fortified by our tasty lunch, we set off from our accommodation - a handsome ex-colonial house set in grounds designed by an ardent conservationist in which various large birds of prey nested - at around 3 pm.
A typically bumpy journey aboard our tour van on Freetown's frequently patched-up roads ended at the ferry terminal, where bags, pupils and teachers were counted and re-counted and counted again to ensure we all arrived safely at the other side of the crossing. Another bus ride and we were deposited at Freetown's compact airport with plenty of time to spare. Only four flights left Lungi Airport per day, so it was imperative we didn't miss our flight.
Almost four hours later and 45 mins. after boarding, we touched down in Monrovia, capital of Liberia, where we waited on the runway for new passengers to join us. Then a 6 hr. Flight, trying to sleep, half-watching films and reading the novels we'd optimistically packed and had had little time to read.
Amsterdam airport is much larger and more sophisticated than Sierra Leone's, but even its variety of attractions struggled to keep our weary band of travellers occupied during our 5 hr. Stopover. Eventually a short hop from Holland and we were coming into land at Bristol, noticing, as if with new eyes, the lovely rolling West Country landscape and all the neatness and orderliness and prosperity of England.
Finally, after 24 hrs. in transit and another van ride, we arrived at Wells at around 3 pm, tired but also exhilarated by our extraordinary visit. Thanks at Wells often come in big sizes and this really was an occasion for huge thanks - to Julie for her excellent, indefatigable leadership, to Jack for his unflappable leading of the musicians, to Elizabeth for her plucky stint as our fourth musketeer, for the incredible warmth and hospitality of our Sierra Leonian hosts and to our amazing students who threw themselves into this experience with such energy, enthusiasm and empathy. And so our epic journey ended, leaving us all with a patchwork of vibrant, brightly-coloured and unforgettable memories to cherish.