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Trip Blog Archive

The Hull Freedom Trail has now delivered all of the vehicles to our recipients in Sierra Leone but as so many people have asked to see all the blog entries from our journey, here they all are for your interest and pleasure…

At Last We’re On The Freedom Trail – October 25th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-15 21:57:32 GMT. 5 comments. Top.

At last the long months of planning and preparation are over. Tonight the Hull Freedom Trail finally hit the road, with the five Mitsubishi L200 vehicles rolling out of Victoria Square in Hull as planned.

The vehicles assembled in Victoria Square earlier this afternoon with their teams of trailblazers. Rotary International were there in force and by early evening quite a crowd had gathered to wave them off. The event was filmed throughout by Hull Freedom Trail cameraman Claudio von Planta, and the TV presenter Helen Philpot took to the stage under the big screen to interview the team members and keep the public abreast of the proceedings.

BBC Look North covered the event, broadcasting live as it happened. As the moment of departure approached the waiting crowd joined in the countdown. At 6.45pm the engines roared and the convoy wheeled around the square with horns blasting, crowds cheering and the trailblazers waving goodbye to friends and family. The five 4×4 vehicles were accompanied by motorcycle outriders from Rotary International. The lead bike carried Claudio as pillion, filming the procession as they left the square and headed east through the city along Hedon Road to the ferry terminal.

The Trailblazers Assemble In Victoria Square

The vehicles and trailblazers assemble in Victoria Square prior to tonight’s big send off. Andy Paxton and Mike James look over the collection of jerry cans just out of shot before kicking the tyres one last time.

Trailblazer Justine McMillan Is Ready For Off

Justine McMillan is ready for off, standing with L200 Number 4 “Hannah More”. She will be spending the next three weeks in this vehicle with fellow members of “Team Hannah”. Note Andy Paxton’s snowboard strapped firmly to the roofrack – he’s planning to carve up a few of those Sahara dunes on the way down to Freetown.

Mark Kensett is interviewed by Helen Philpot on the stage under the big screen in Victoria Square. As always Claudio is there with the camera. It’s in the can Mark!

Jonathan Richards & Helen Philpot

Jonathan Richards on stage with Helen Philpot in Victoria Square, Hull. Jonathan explains how he was inspired to start the Hull Freedom Trail.

Philip Dean From The St. George Foundation

Phil Dean tells Helen Philpot how the Hull Freedom Trail will effect aid agencies on the ground in Sierra Leone. Philip works for the St. George Foundation in Freetown, reuniting street children with their families. The foundation currently relies on four clapped out motorcycles for transport, but the gift of a fully equipped 4×4 vehicle from the Hull Freedom Trail will make a huge difference to their work.

Rotary International Hit The Road

The five vehicles roll out from Victoria Square in Hull. L200 Number 3 “Thomas Clarkson” is driven by the Rotary International team.

Team Hannah Say Farewell

L200 Number 4 “Hannah More” takes its place in line ready to roll out. Next stop the ferry port for the overnight crossing to Rotterdam and the start of the European leg of the journey. Wish us luck and safe travels!

Day 1 Update – October 26th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-15 21:58:14 GMT. 14 comments. Top.

After a great send off, The Hull Freedom Trail has made it through France

After a mammoth driving session of over 700 miles, we have made it to the south of France arriving at our accommodation in the dead of night up a side of a mountain in the Ardeche Region.

We´d all like to thank everyone who turned out to see us off. It was a really humbling experience to feel the support of our friends and families.

Below are some pictures of our journey through the low countries.

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Day 2 Update – October 27th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-15 21:59:18 GMT. 6 comments. Top.

France into Spain

What an epic! We have now travelled through France and have stayed overnight in Spain at a place called Elche. Typical Holiday Inn Express type of place, but a real opportunity for all to get a decent bed and a reasonable nights sleep. If a little short! Some of us were aware of the time change from Summer Time to Winter Time and others were not. Let´s just leave it at that shall we…

Epic mileage, epic scenery and lots of motorway service stations. Tomorrow we go to Algerciras at the tip of Spain and then into Africa! We are all well and even though things are getting cramped in the car our spirits are good and the cars performing very well.

Below are some photos of the trip so far.

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Day 3 Update – October 28th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-15 21:59:41 GMT. 22 comments. Top.

Elche to Algerciras (Spain, gateway between Europe and Africa)

What a relief! After a decent nights sleep for everyone, we wake to a bright sunny morning in Elche and fill up the long range tanks for the run down the coast of Spain to Algerciras. We´ve driven through some fantastic scenery around the southern tip of Spain and seen the Rock of Gibraltar as well.

Everyone seems to be getting used to our cameraman, Claudio von Planta, filming everything that moves and everything that doesn´t. Driving down the motorways side by side at 60mph for the camera is a skill everyone seems to be getting good at. We have radio comms between each vehicle and these are a real source of fun, banter and vital “pull left now!” information.

Last night, Claudio and Jonathan went to talk to the border guards here and learned of the problem of people trafficking through this port. There was one case were a woman was being smuggled across the border from Africa in Europe in the engine compartment of a car. Also, we heard of another case of 15 children being trafficked by plane from Sierra Leone. So the problems are rife.

Here´s todays photos!

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Day 4 Update – October 29th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-15 21:59:55 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Gibraltar to Morocco (Africa!)

Today has been a tiring day for many reasons. We left our hotel to catch the 45min Fast Ferry from Algerciras to Ceuta (Morocco). The Ferry boarding had to be seen to be believed, with many men shouting Spanish at great speed and the hustle and bustle gave an edge of excitement as we embark on our odyssey into Africa.

As expected, we spent a few hours in the border area and we were looked after by people called ‘fixers’. These guys meet you as you enter the border area and help you through the paperwork necessary to get you on your way. Generally very pleasant guys but as wide as you like! Money changing hands with slight of hand movements and comments like ‘I get you special price’ or ‘you have very nice day – no problem’ etc. Bit daunting at first but quite fun after a while!

We drove down a stunning road along the coast. Steve Saunders was driving, but I’m sure he’d rather have been sightseeing because he spent quite a lot of the time looking out the side windows…

The teams are getting along well and everyone is appreciating the CB radios not only for directional help in the traffic of Morocco, but for fun and laughter. Tomorrow we have some serious filming planned and the party going off to drop Isobel at the airport in Marrakech.

Here are today’s photos. We’ve got some more awesome pictures for you tomorrow though!

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Day 5 Update (via Satellite) – October 30th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-15 22:00:42 GMT. 25 comments. Top.

A surprising day for many of the group. We drove from Rabat to Agadir via Marrakech and for the first time we entered into mainland Morocco and saw the sort of scenery that you see in the travel books – the red soil, barren landscapes sparsely populated with palm trees and rock outcrops. Stunning stuff and one of the real changes we have seen in the landscape that reminds us that we are entering into the edge of the Sahara desert. The temperature is also climbing and is now a steady 25c with the evening temperature a dry and cool 15c.

It is becoming clear that one of our biggest challenges on this trip is fatigue and each day we are getting only 4 or 5 hrs sleep with many hours stuck in the vehicles. With the roads soon to turn into dirt tracks and the pace to reduce, we are on a mission to keep to timetable and make sure we can achieve our goal of getting into Freetown for around the 13th November. We shall see.

Below are today’s pictures.

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We’re reading your comments!

Last modified on 2007-12-16 20:31:44 GMT. 51 comments. Top.

I’m writing this on my mobile phone in a place called Layounne which is on the coastal side of Western Sahara. Things are getting remote now but amazingly I can still get a mobile signal. We have a Satellite Antannae for when we need internet access anywhere there are no other facilities.

Howver, we’re all very tired and at times, feeling in need of words of encouragement. I want to let you know that we are reading your comments and even though there is no mechanism or time to reply to them, I read them out at various points of the day. Either when we are travelling over the radios in the cars or at team meetings or directly to the person if it is appropriate. They are a real boost to team morale and everyone is so touched by them. So please keep them coming. Tomorrow we will have some time over lunch to get the Satellite Antannae out so I’ll upload lots more photos and bring you all up to date on our progress.

We’re thinking of our friends and families all the time and talk about them often. No one pretended this was going to be easy and they’re quite right. Still, our spirits are good and the team is pulling together to get us through this.

Jonathan

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Day 6 Update (via Satellite) – October 31st 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 20:42:26 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Agadir to Layounne

Today the team are in good spirits after a decent time spent talking together and covering the issues that arise in a team as large and diverse as this. When tensions build it’s good to get everyone together and deal with it. So now, we move on and enter the Sahara proper. Our progress is good but to sustain this daily mileage demands getting up early with long long days in the saddle and the inevitable late night hunt for a Hotel. Claudio has filmed several of these late night missons which are either a source of hilarity or tension…

Although most of the photographs look like we are on a grand holiday, a group of us have visited two projects in Casablanca which are involved in caring for young women who are victims of modern day slavery. Justine took a series of photographs which tell the story. The teams members who went and filmed with Claudio came back in a very different mood to the others and for some was their first real encounter with people in this situation. Their visit helped us all to appreciate the privileged position we are in and spurr us on when the times are difficult in the cars and in the team.

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Day 7 Update (via Satellite) – November 1st 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 20:42:06 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Layounne to Dakhla

After a really early start from our Hotel we departed Layounne in the fog! Rather surprising for the Sahara Desert. After many miles of interesting scenery, the days drive was mostly boring desert scrub until we came over the brow of a hill to such a spectacular view that we just had to stop the cars and take lots of photographs and footage. This was the Dakhla peninsular and it is a finger of land that extends off the west coast of the Sahara and is surrounded by sea on the north and south side. In our attempts to film various ‘GV’s’ (General Views) for Claudio, Andy was the first person to get a vehicle stuck right on the side of the road…

Now we see faces changing and the culture we are living in very different to our own. We constantly comment on the fact that even though the window in our vehicle is the same, the view outside of it has changed significantly and we have driven here! It is surreal to drive through the desert in a vehicle that only a few days ago was in Victoria Square in Hull.

Again, we are tired and it’s difficult to focus even on compiling this blog. We will have a rest day soon and hopefully I’ll have time to write a more witty and engaging prose. Generally we are all tired but are focussed on getting the job done and delivering these vehicles to the people who need them.

We read your comments everyday and it’s fantastic to know that you are all supporting us and helping us through this. Please keep them coming.

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Day 8 Update (via Satellite) – November 2nd 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 20:45:40 GMT. 8 comments. Top.

Dakhla to Nouadibou

Today was only ever a means to and end. We left the ‘camp site’ around 8.00am and drove to the border between Morocco and Mauritania. This is a sensitive border area and the no-mans land between the two countries is mined, so we had to take a guide with us to lead us through the mine field.

Border proceedings at these kind of places can be a bewildering and time consuming affair with hanging around being the order of the day. The trick is to take along with you an experienced guide who knows what to do and does the running around for you. Our’s is called ‘Booba’ and we met him traditional dress at the camp site in Dakhla. He showed us his letters of recommondation which included part of the Dakar Rally Team. After a quick haggle, the deal was done and we now have him for 4 days. He seems to be labouring under some misconception that we are a rally team and appeared next day in western clothes complete with Dakar Rally jacket fancying his chances! Still, everybody at the border seems to know him so his story is holding up so far.

Basically, it takes all day to cross from Morocco into Mauritania. First we have to clear passport control, get searched by the police, export the vehicle from Morocco. Then we cross the mine field and enter passport control at the Mauritania border, get searched by the Police and import the vehicle by the Customs (Douane), buy a Visa for Mauritania then get searched by Customs. What a faff! The customs guys had all the back of the car out and were looking for drugs and alcohol. Mauritania is an Islamsic country and alchohol is forbidden. I had a small bottle of Whiskey in my bag which it was recommended to bribe the customs further down in Africa. It was a worrying time when they were looking through all the bags…

The feel of Mauritania is very different to Morocco. The people here are obviously much poorer and the country has a slighty more intimidating feel to it. Especially at night which is when we arrived. The streets have very few lights and many of the cars have only one light working, so coupled with all the people milling about, it makes for a challenging drive to get 5 vehicles and a truck (in convoy) across the city to our safe parking.

We are staying at a Auberge (an Inn) called Momo’s. Is accomodates around 25 people in a mix of beds and tiled rooms. So it’s a case of put your roll mat & sleeping bag down and crash out. Thankfully, there is a european style toilet here and even warm water and a shower, so spirits have lifed after using squat toilets and having to go without showers at the previous place. So, it’s a case of updating the blog tonight and seeing what tomorrow brings. It’s a rest day and many of us are looking forward to some time to get our things sorted and seeing the sights of Nouadibou.

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Your comments

Last modified on 2007-12-16 20:53:22 GMT. 21 comments. Top.

We are still reading your comments and would like to thank everyone who is posting them. We read them everyday to catch up on life back at home and sustain everyone when we are out of our comfort zones.

Keep them coming!

Day 9 Update (via Satellite) – November 3rd 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 20:54:24 GMT. 31 comments. Top.

Nouadhibou (Mauritania)

A surprising day today. We had chance to rest and after an easy start several members of the team wandered around town and also went to the market place. They were fascinated by the hustle and bustle of it and even though they thought it might be intimidating, it was actually an energising place full of colour and interest.

After a lunch on the terrace of Momo’s Auberge of fish, cous cous and water melon we all went to see the wrecked ships on the beach. On the way there, Nick had a football with him and we played football with the local kids. The ships are dumped on the coast here for insurance purposes as Mauritania has no navy and can’t defend this practise. As we approached one of the ships, we noticed a small number of make-shift huts on the beach. We thought they were uninhabited but were amazed to discover that a family with 3 children were living there and were actually employed to guard the ship that was nearest to them.

As we approached, they were very friendly and we spent some time with them and started chatting with the children and pulling funny faces and the like. They were in the middle of eating a meal of fish and cous cous which was covered with flies whilst the woman was breast feeding her baby. Coming face to face with poverty like this for the first time was shocking for many. Having seen images like this on TV and in books and magazines, doesn’t quite prepare you for the mix of emotions. However, they were friendly and seem content with their lives. Kayleigh, Kayla, Anna and Richard Swain started playing with the children and before we knew it, the next hour was spent playing with their three children.

On the way back to Momo’s the conversation was charged with the contradictions of different people’s opinions of their situation. Some people felt powerless and wanted to take action, others were impressed by the humility of the family and how content they appeared. Either way, it was a moving experience that will stay with us for the rest of our lives.

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Day 10 Update (via Satellite) – November 4th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 20:58:49 GMT. 56 comments. Top.

The Sahara Desert in Mauritania

Today we left Nouadhibou, said our goodbyes to Momo and his staff and drove on into the Sahara Desert proper. We arrived at our campsite with the wind blowing a gale and had to pitch our tents with sand blasting our faces. It’s amazing to find how many places the sand gets! When we first arrived in the desert, we attended a traditional tea making ceremony underneath an Acacia tree. I know it sounds obvious, but the desert was very very hot and the heat reflected off the sand is tremendous. With the wind that constantly blows here, the sweat evaporates immediately off your body. Too much information I can hear you say!

I now sit in the car with the photographer, Mark Kensett and cameraman Claudio’s daily footage digitising onto the hard drives ready for editing. I can think of better places to be when in the Sahara… still, it must be done!

Tomorrow we drive onto Nouakchott, the largest city in Mauritania. We will be staying three nights there and filming the work of several aid agencies who work with victims of modern day slavery, which was abolished only in August of this year. Plenty more interesting stuff to come I expect.

Jonathan

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Day 11 Update (via Mobile) – November 5th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 21:38:38 GMT. 15 comments. Top.

Sahara Desert to Nouakchott

Apologies for the late update. A cable has been broken from our satellite antennae and we’re trying to find a replacement whilst we are here.

Today we broke camp in the desert and spent the morning filming various sequences for the film. We drove across endless plains of sand, five abreast for the camera. I have to say, the temperature was enormous, hovering around 40 c (100F) in the noonday sun. We let the tyre pressures down on the cars and the truck to help with the traction. But it took nearly 2 hours in the baking sun to pump them all back up again. We had to get out of the sun, the temperature was crushing. Finally we got going on the road again.

The drive to Nouakchott was 200kms and the temperature held steady around 40 all the way until the sun went down. Now we are travelling further south the humidity has increased considerably and the mosquitos are out in force.

We are staying in a group of apartments in the city of Nouakchott and even though hardly anything seems to work, it seems like luxury. In typical African style, the light in the toilet doesn’t work, the doors don’t lock, the handle comes off the bath tap, the light bulbs are broken and bare, we’re sleeping on the floor and the air-con makes a racket. It’s all luxury compared to a tent in the desert.

We are staying in Nouakchott for 3 days where we will visit various aid agencies who are involved in the slavery issues in Mauritania. More interesting photos to come out of them I’m sure.

Jonathan

(Due to the cable problem, Jonathan has just dictated the text to me over the phone, obviously couldn’t do anything with any photos today. Hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly! Anne).

Day 11 Pictures (via Satellite)

Last modified on 2007-12-16 21:39:44 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Hooray! With a new cable made up from a shop called ‘Top Technology’ we are now back working on the Satellite. This is a good thing! Here’s a selection of photographs from Day 11.

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Photo gallery from the last few days

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:00:18 GMT. 19 comments. Top.

Here’s a selection of pictures from the last few days. Hope you like them!






























Day 12 Update (via Satellite) – November 6th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 21:59:10 GMT. 3 comments. Top.

Nouakchott

The temperature here is enourmous at 40-45C at the hottest part of the day and it makes doing anything exhausting. However, we visited Madame Maye Mint Haidy today. Madame Haidy works for the government compiling statistics and ‘on the side’ she collates statistics relating to slavery. She was a feisty character who was very pleased to introduce us to UNICEF and to her friends in the Ministry who would vouce for her work. After the visit to these places with Claudio we had a good handle on the sorts of slavery that exists in Mauritania.

Slavery exists in Mauritania in these ways:

1. Street children who are forced to beg at street corners and when they don’t reach the required target, they are then beaten.

2. Female Circumcision. About 71% of the female population are circumcised.

3. Under age marriage – as young as 12 years old.

4. An ancient feudal system of land and people ownership which still persists today

Later in the day, some of the team went to visit an organisation called SOS Esclaves. They campaign for the legal rights of people who are affected by these forms of slavery. We were fully expecting just to have an interview with the leadership team, but we were ushered into a room and slowly more and more people came to meet us. Until in the end, around 30 victims of modern days slavery came to tell us their stories. It was a moving experience to speak first hand with these people and their strength and humility was striking.

Because slavery has only been outlawed here since August 2007, we are getting very mixed and confusing messages from whoever you speak to. Some say it doesn’t exist but the meeting as SOS Esclaves paints a very different story.

On the team side of things, because we are in 4 apartments (6 to each), communication has been very difficult. Claudio has set up all of the contacts here and the last two days have been a moveable feast of activities which various groupings have been attending. We are all looking forward to getting everyone together and debriefing. It’s been a bit ‘not knowing what the right hand is doing’ type of scenario. We’ll muddle through, but compared to being in cars with the CB radios, communication has been strained…

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Day 13 Update (via Satellite) – November 7th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:01:53 GMT. 42 comments. Top.

Nouakchott

What a frustrating day! The temperature has been crazy, now in the region of 45C. We have the air-con on in the room all the time to keep it tolerable. The air-con on L200 No.1 ‘William Wilberforce’ is also looking vunerable and is likely to fail soon. Looking forward to that!

The biggest news is that we had three activities set up today. The first one was a visit to see a man who we met at SOS Esclaves. We worked the land for his master and had a daughther. The daughter was taken away from him becuase of the feudal laws that I spoke about yesterday. He is now receiving legal help from SOS Escalves but still cannot get his daughter back. His case is very recent – only 2 weeks old. Claudio, John Olner and Sammi went to film him in his home so he could tell his story. After this, Madame Haidy showed them around the slums and to a feeding centre. This was quite distressing for them as they were shown a baby with a bad skin disease and the general deprivation was appauling. Claudio asked Madame Haidy for an interview under the shade of a tree and she suddenly refused and cut short the visit. A strange turn of events that left the people involved angry and frustrated at the situation. This was compounded by the fact that Claudio has found that a tape he filmed on yesterday has become corrupted and all the filming has been lost on that tape. Again, all very strange and the first time in his career.

Things here are very fluid with the TIA (This Is Africa) vibe prevailing. People turning up late or not at all and official offices difficult to negotiate. To this end, we are still awaiting to see if our Visa’s have been extended so we can leave the county. We leave at 6.00am tomorrow but as of now, 6.00pm Wendesday 7th November, we don’t have the necessary paperwork to leave Mauritania. Also, the border crossing into Senegal is the most dificult of the trip and the road leading up to it (all 140km) is rough track. The challenging times are ahead.

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Day 14 – November 8th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:03:57 GMT. 30 comments. Top.

Nouachott to Dakar

Jonathan has asked me to post this in the absence of a chance to put the satellite antennae up today. All is well. Phoning from an all night restaurant in Dakar (don’t think they are staying there all night though!) Jonathan told me that the team finally got their visas and successfully crossed the border into Senegal mid afternoon today (Friday). Apparently Senegal is lovely!The team have now split with half going to Dakar to film slavery stories tomorrow, and the other half going to Zebrabar to camp and rest. They will rendevouz later tomorrow in Tambacounda.

As soon as they can, more details and photos will be loaded up, but in the meantime keep the blogging going – they really are appreciating all the messages from home.

Anne

Day 14 Update (via Satellite)

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:05:18 GMT. 48 comments. Top.

Nouakchott to St Louis and Dakar

A loooooong day. The visa crisis is finally over as at the eleventh hour a concerted effort by our guides and fixers resulted in the production of most of the visas we required to leave the country. I say most becuase a new Trailblazer, Pauline, has joined us in Nouakchott. Becuase she flew into the country her visa situation was different and she had to get a taxi to the border rather than come in the main group. Long story.

In order to keep to our schedule, we had to leave the town at 4.00am and drive south to cross at a little used crossing point called Barrage de Diama. This involved driving down 140km of rough track to reach the point. The road varied from simple rough track to heavily corrugated and rutted track which was a real test for the suspension. The vehciles survived aside from the vibrations unscrewing the mountings of our compasses! We reached the border around late morning and started the, often lenghty, proceedings. Even with two fixers and the application of ‘fees’ (bribes) to the Police which went straight into the Chief’s pockets, it was late afternoon when we were finally released into Senegal.

Senegal is a much more vibrant country than Mauritania. With relaxed Muslim laws. The women wear the colourful clothes you often see on tourist pictures of west Africa. The roads here even have white lines down the middles and sometimes have kerb stones and road signs. What a luxury! The terrain has also changed from sand based desert scrub to a more lush green scenery in a surprisingly short amount of time.

The team has now split into two, with 2 vehicles driving straight to Dakar and the others driving to a nearby campsite called Zebrarbar. The Dakar team will spend the next day filming a project which teaches children their rights to liberty and freedom as well as visitng Goree Island which was a major transit point for the Transatlantic slave trade.

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Day 15 Update (via Satellite) – November 9th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:10:07 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

St. Louis and Dakar to Koungheul (enroute to Tamabacounda)

Car Team 1 left the lovely Zebrabar campsite in St Louis and headed east into Senegal to pick up a road running south. Car Team 2 headed towards Dakar to film the activities of an agency called The African Centre for the Education of Human Rights as well as visit to Goree Island.

To explain the situation in Senegal. One particular problem is a street children begging racket that operates throughout the country. It is purported that this is organised by the religious leaders, the Maribou. Within the Senegalese culture the prevailing religion is Islam with ancient African religions and African traditions still having a strong influence. The Maribou still exert a powerful force over the people (rather like a cult) with evidence of trafficking and abuse happening to children and young people. The African Centre for the Education of Human Rights aims to educate children and Young People in their international human rights so that they can protect themselves from becoming involved with the cults.

Car Team 2 (Jonathan, Richard, Steve S, Claudio, Becca, Sammi, Mark K and Nick) visited the centre in down town Dakar. Just in case you didn’t know, Dakar is bonkers! Crazy traffic, colourful hustlers, packed full of life in all it’s forms. Children congregate around the vehicles and constantly ask for ‘Cadeaux’ or gifts. Just to even park the cars near the project required parking on the forecourt of a local bank and paying the guard to look after them. It’s difficult in this blog to fully express the nature of Dakar when I’m bouncing down a dirt track writing this on my laptop though.

The greeting we received in Dakar was fantastic. We attended a youth group on the terrace on the roof of their building and in 40C heat they performed an energetic dance and drama which illustrated their education of human rights. The energy levels and general buzz of the group is a universal language that seems to be the same the world over. We were treated to cold Coke, friendships, smiles, hugs and a genuine interest. Lovely. After this, we went to Goree Island. This was a slave collection point for the transatlantic slave trade 200 years ago. It’s an island just off the coast of Dakar, just a 20min boat ride away which ironically has now turned into a sort of holiday destination. The local authorities have preserved some of the slave houses that were used to hold the slaves prior to departure to their ‘new lives’ of slavery. We were shown the Door of No Return, this was the final departure point for the slaves and was at sea level directly out to the slave ships. It’s an errie place that echoes with the suffering of the past.

Our next challenge of the day was to rendezvous with the rest of the team in a place called Tambacounda. The only way to meet them was to drive through the night. This would have been an easy task except that after a third of the way there, the roads quickly turned bad. The tarmac has been eroded by the passage of trucks and the heavy rains into a vast series of pot holes around 3-4ft across, 6 inches deep and spread across the whole surface of the road every few feet. The impact of going down these holes jarred the car so much you’d think it would destroy it, and the pounding went on and on for miles and miles and hours and hours, all through the night. Both teams gave up the rigous of this road at a place called Koungheul, some way from our target of Tambacounda…

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Day 16 Update (via Satellite) – November 10th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:16:27 GMT. 3 comments. Top.

Koungheul to Sambailoo Border (Boundou Fourdou)

The Road from Hell! After the rendezvous with the two teams in Koungheul around 7.30am, and after an hours rest for the overnight team, we all started on the road to Tambacounda and beyond. Once again, the road was a nightmare, with the pounding of the unavoidable potholes jarring the cars and loosening some vital parts of the equipment. In addition to this, the air-con of ‘William Wilberforce’ has stopped completely and we are having to endure the additional humidity and dust with the windows open. So now we are covered in red dust, sweat and flying insects. We battled on over these roads all day. The tarmac has finally finished and we are on the red earth roads that are typical all over Africa. The cars are getting filthy and we are getting filthy. The dust is getting everywhere and now we are camping, we don’t have the opportunity to wash. Our full schedule doesn’t permit the luxury of time so it’s a case of sleeping for a few hours and then pressing on.

We continued driving until way after dark with hope of reaching Koundara in Guinee. This involved crossing the border after nightfall. On arrival at the border we spent several hours there in a little hut illuminated by candlelight and a single bulb. Large insects were flying around the lights and the formalities seemed to take forever. It turns out we were missing a vital piece of paperwork and we would need a customs escort throughout Guinee. With the customs guy ready to go at around 10.30pm, we proceeded up an awesome track full over some of the most amazing potholes and ruts you’ve ever seen. We had to pick our way at walking speed for 33km. We were then informed that at the end of the track is another customs post were even more paperwork had to be completed. On arrival at the upper post, the population there were watching the Premier League on an outdoor TV and the place was heaving wih truck and vehicles of all types. The customs guy who had the necessary authority to release us was unavailable until the following morning, so we had to camp in 30C humidity and heat amonngst the trucks and people. So a short and sweaty night was had by all with many of the youngsters electing to sleep in the cars because of the insects.

Day 17 Update (via Satellite) – November 11th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:17:22 GMT. 30 comments. Top.

Guinee Border (Boundou Fourdou) to somewhere…

We left the border around 9.00am but not after some emergency medical work. One of the Police at the border had fell off a motorbike several days earlier and badly burned his leg on the exhaust. It had become infected and asked if we could help. Our paramedic, Alison Olner, armed with some donated Smith & Nephew Bactigras bandages (especially for burns), treated his wounds. He was very grateful and even though clearly in a lot of pain, had his wound cleaned and dressed. He was given pain relief and antibiotics to help him on his way but he really needs a skin graft. I’m not sure if he can have this in Guinee and he may well loose his left if it gets infected again.

We then set off for the border with Sierra Leone. The roads here are very bad and the going is slow. It’s looking more and more live we are going to arrive in Sierra Leone on the 15th rather than the 13th as expected. This is a bitter blow to some of the team as they were hoping for more time in the country.

Things are tough now, the additional humidity makes everything an effort. We are all filthy, sweaty and in need of a shower and bed. We are camping today again and finding places to stop at night is not good. Were we are at the moment is crawling with ants and insects and has the odd cow wandering through the tents. However, we are near to our objective and we must carry on. The roads are a labourious series of ruts, potholes, ruts, potholes, ruts and potholes. Let’s hope the road improves becuase the pace is down to walking speed at times and we need to get to Sierra Leone for the 16th to catch our pre-booked flights home…







No photographs?

Last modified on 2007-11-13 01:21:44 GMT. 37 comments. Top.

Sorry for the lack of photographs. With the schedule and camping arrangements it’s been difficult to get the photographs prepared for the blog. We are only stopping to eat and it’s impossible to edit on the road.

I hope to get some to you in a day or so.

Jonathan

Day 18 Update (via Satellite) – November 12th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:20:07 GMT. 3 comments. Top.

Somewhere to Labe (Guinee)

After a brief nights sleep, we awoke in our makeshift camp site to a crowd of curious locals who had gathered around to watch these strange white people take down their curious fabric houses! We arrived last night after crossing over a large river on a pontoon ferry. The ferry could hold four cars and people and was hand-cranked over the river and prevented from floating away by a system of steel wires. Crossing at night was surreal in the light of the headlights and head torches of the team. I’m sure by day it would have been a lovely view. We drove further on and having asked for directions and help, we inadvertently stumbled across the chief of the local village who kindly let us stay in the clearing where we camped last night. This is how it works in Africa…

The cars are covered in a think coating of red dust from the roads now and simply loading them gets you filthy. So after the application of many wet wipes after breakfast, we are now dirty again before we even turn a wheel. Great. So the day begins with hour after hour of pounding away at the road. Simply travelling on the correct side of the track is impossible as you have to weave around to avoid the huge potholes. It was whilst one of the vehicles was on the wrong side that a young motorcyclist and pillion came straight towards us a full speed around a blind bend. He was unable to take any avoiding action and crashed his bike directly in front of our car within inches of hitting it. Fortunately they had only a few minor injuries and Alison was at hand to patch them up. It was a sobering reminder for everyone as to how close we came to killing them and also the lack of local health care and police. We fixed his bike up enough for them to get themselves home and gave him some money to repair it properly. This is how it works in Africa…

Shortly after this incident we were stopped at a Douane Checkpoint (Customs Checkpoint) were our support vehicle Goliath had been for some time. It transpires that we have failed to get the appropriate paperwork at some point (we’re unsure as to how this has happened), but we now have to have a customs escort to Labe to see the controller of customs. After another hour of travel, we approach Labe which is quite a major town in this region. However, the road approaching it is quite the worse we’ve seen with massive ruts, rocks and bomb holes. Extraordinary.

The controller of customs couldn’t believe that we were allowed into the country without this paperwork and had to contact his superiors in the capital Conakory to check what to do. Claudio has been invaluable on this trip and even with his language skills we were negoiating for a couple of hours. The result being that we are in a political battle between the head of customs and the local customs people and we now have to present our case directly to the head in Conakary. This is completely in the wrong direction for us and will add on at least another half day to our already tight schedule. So now, great debate has started as to how we can claw back some time, visit the customs people in Conakary and still get through the border to Sierra Leone in time to make our flights on the 16th November. We decided against another all night driving episode and decided to crash out for a few hours in a local hotel and start again at 3.00am for the 9 hour journey to Conakary. This is how it works in Africa…



Day 19 Update (via Satellite) – November 13th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:24:22 GMT. 69 comments. Top.

Late this evening (14th November), the Hull Freedom Trail team has finally arrived in Sierra Leone! I write this whilst sat on the bed in a small motel facility near to the border. After a mammoth 22hr day which started at 2.30am, we decided to push for the border. Those with energy left have pushed on for another 5hr drive to Freetown and three of the teams have stayed overnight here.

After a brief celebration it was great to be greeted by Philip Dean of St George, Kelfa from HANCI and Kallon from AmNet actually at the rope which separates Guinea from Sierra Leone. They had waited for 2 days there for us and the surprise celebration of 200 school children, military, dignitaries had to be cancelled because we were a day late. We are very sad about this, but delighted to have made it to Sierra Leone. We will all be together in Freetown tomorrow (15th November), but for now I only have the energy to write this and flake out in bed.

More tomorrow…

Day 19 Update

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:25:21 GMT. 15 comments. Top.

Labe to Conakory then to Kambia (Sierra Leone)

A massive day! We left the hotel in Labe around 3.30am after breakfast at 2.30am and headed to Conakory to present our case to the chief of customs for the whole of Guinea. Our armed customs escort came with us in the front seat of ‘William Wilberforce’ and must have said only five or six sentances the whole of the day. Accidents can happen so quickly on a trip like this and one of the drivers misjudged a corner down a twisty mountain road and skidded off it competely. Fortunately that particular corner didn’t have a drop on it and they were safe. A timely reminder that even towards to end of a trip you have to be so careful.

Many people had painted a picture of Guinee as a country full of gun weilding people and dangerous to drive through. The reality couldn’t have been different. In the morning light the roads were lined with palm trees and colourful people going about their everyday activities in peace and joy. All along this journey people wave at us when we drive through a village and here it is the same. Children were going to school in their colourful uniforms with their satchels, men and women were engaged in picture-postcard images of life in Africa. Colourful clothes, simple huts with reed roofs, women carrying all manner of things on their heads, and men working the land. Stunning and by far this was one of the highlights of the trip. As we approached Conakory, the scenary descended in the typical African-urban slum that we have become used to seeing. Litter everywhere, decay of the infrastructure, poor housing and overcrowding.

Our purpose of this 9 hour drive was to get to the centre of the city. This is a task and a half with five vehicles travelling in convoy, but we finally arrived in the port area of town and immediately entered into an argument with the Police and Customs over where to park the vehicles. Not a good start. The phrase ‘leave them over there and we’ll deal with it tomorrow’ was one we heard that set our minds racing with it’s consequences. However, Claudio was leading the negoiations and went to see the Chief women in her office behind her massive desk. We sat in the mid day heat for several hours, and having not eaten since 2.30am we made good use of the street sellers who were selling all manner of food. The sleep deprivation was setting in with lots of people getting edgy and cross. Finally Claudio arrived truimphant with news that we could go but we only had 2 and a half hours to get to the border before it closed and it was a 2hr drive to get there. Touch and go.

We drove the last miles to the border in darkness (again!) and the formalitles were simple now we had the correct paperwork and we were processed out of Guinea with some speed – enough to conceive the notion that we could make to to Freetown that night. How wrong we were.

The border with Sierra Leone was 2kms away over rough track and as we approached, we could make out lights and shouting in our direction. It was a welcoming committee from our recipients and they had been waiting at the border for 2 days! It was really great to see some familier faces such as Philp Dean from St. George who had been at the send off in Hull and Kelfa from HANCI. We took some photographs, shook hands over the border barrier rope and went off to process the passports. Getting the vehicles in Sierra Leone was always the final hurdle that could make our entire journey futile and being turned away was a real possibility. Fortunately Kalfa Kargbo from HANCI had been working away for many days to secure entry for the team and with only an hour or two’s delay we were finally stamped into Sierra Leone!

The entire time we had been awake at this point was 21 hours and even though the spirit was willing for all the flesh was weak for some. There was conflicting information on how long the drive to Freetown was. Some people said 2-3 hours and some said 5-6 hours. 50km of this was over very rough track and 90km was road. The team was split and it was finally decided that some would press on to Freetown and others would go to a small motel in Kambia near to the border. For the team that went ahead it ended up as a 6 hour drive which meant they eventually arrived at dawn in Freetown after a herculean 27 hours in the car. A massive effort in a massive day.





Day 20 Update – November 14th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:26:25 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Kambia to Freetown

For those who stayed overnight in Kambia near the border with Guinea, we very quickly gained a full understanding of the need to give our recipients 4×4 vehicles.

In the first hour of our journey to Freetown, we encountered stuck minibuses, drowned out cars and a lorry which had fallen over because of the road conditions. We were quickly helping to winch out a stuck minibus massively overcrowded with people and their belongings. Much of the country is like this. There are good roads as well but in the rural areas which some of our recipients operate, the roads are almost impassible in the wet season even for a good 4×4.

Sierra Leone is a beautiful country with lush vegetation many palm trees and stunning hills and mountains. For those who travelled this challenging journey the night before they missed a treat. Before we arrived in Freetown, we stopped off at a small place called Kent. Much of the places in Sierra Leone sound like British names because of the previous connections with Britain until the 1960’s. This town houses a slave house and slave graves, and an Anglican church. The adjacent beach was awesome with white sands and picture postcard palm trees and coconuts. We were given a guided tour and allowed some time for reflection. For many it was a time to celebrate and for others it was a moving experience to get to Sierra Leone after many months of planning and building the project.

We drove into Freetown around dusk and as we passed through the streets we were waved at and greeted with perplexed looks, smiles and acknowledgements after the people read the livery on the vehicles which says ‘Hull UK to Freetown Sierra Leone’. We were told that many people believe it is not possible to drive from Hull to Freetown and that we are ‘Modern Day Conquerers’. Humbling but completely wrong of course!

We are now staying in the Hill Valley Hotel in the west side of town and will spend a few days meeting the recipients and seeing their projects first hand.






Day 21 Update – November 15th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:40:42 GMT. 10 comments. Top.

Freetown

The first part of the team travel home today. We lose Dave Green, Richard Swain, Chrissy Moog, Mark Nicholson, Pauline Parker and Andy Stephenson, but not before experiencing the most hardcore off road we have yet to encounter.

Freetown is surrounded by steep mountains all around it. We visited ‘Primed’ today. They have a school and carpentry workshop up in the mountain and to get to it we had to negotiated some very steep climbs, descents, hugh boulders and ruts 2ft deep which required someone walking alongside the vehicles to spot the hazards. Amazing to think the most difficult roads we found were in Freetown. For the techies, it was definately time for low box all the way with the occasional use of the diff lock even…

Primed have a little school with around 100 pupils who gathered and treated us to singing, praying, drama and friendly greetings. It was very moving to see little children with so much hope in their eyes it made us all miss our own children as well as encourage us to continue to support their work.

After this we came down the mountain to briefly visit the office of HANCI before being ushered to the Mayor’s offices for a visit to see him and sign his visitor’s book. The Mayor of Freetown was one of the people who saw us off on the departure day event on October 25th and it was great to see him again in his home town. We parked the vehicles outside the office were a crowd steadily grew. The Mayor addressed the crowd to explain about who we were and what we were doing and led the crowd in a song of thanks. Great spontaneous stuff. We were then treated to a meal in a nearby restuarant and after unloading the vehicles we headed back to the Hotel for a well earned rest. Finally.

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Day 22 Update – November 16th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:45:31 GMT. 11 comments. Top.

Freetown

Another crazy day on The Freedom Trail! The cars are looking somewhat ‘gigged’ (very dirty) from our 5000 mile journey and the hotel staff offered to wash them overnight for us. So we awoke to 5 shiny L200’s ready to go off to a region of Freetown called Grafton. This is the region where The St. George Foundation are opening a new orphanage today and we are handing over the vehicles to our recipients at the same time. It’s an area in the mountains that was previously overgrown jungle that had in it several derelict Scout buildings from the civil war that they have restored to house around 200 children. Within the compound they have a large area which they built a temporary shelter for use as an outdoor event arena.

The team arrived with the vehicles and a number of dignitaries related to both projects (St. George and Hull Freedom Trail) were assembled as well as around 200 children. Also the 4 recipients had their teams there ready to receive the vehicles from us and the Lord Mayor of Freetown was in attendance. With the formalities over for St. George the 5 vehicles were driven from out of site towards to assembled crowd in a five abreast formation, lights on, horns blaring and the crowd on their feet cheering and clapping. A real ‘moment’ for the team. The Lord Mayor then took the keys from each driver and presented them to each recipient in turn. Philip and Justina from St. George are done and are doing, tremendous work there in grafton. After a tour around the facilities, we left the party to go to our next destination in a town called Kissi Town.

We were visiting the work of another recipient called AMNet (The Advocacy Movement Network). They work all over the country advocating the rights of children and in Kissi Town they were working with a church that has converted part of their property into a makeshift shelter for abandoned children. As we approached this small church in a small village, we became aware of a scout troop guard of honour at the door with a large crowd of singing and cheering children around the ages of 4 to 14. As we got out of each vehicle the children rushed forward to shake our hands and touch us in a slightly uncomfortable ‘rock star’ manner.

Inside the swealtering and humid church, we were ushered up to the front with Jonathan invited up to the top table feeling and looking very conspicuous. The Scout guard of honour marched forward and launched into a 5 minute tirade of military shouting, turning and posing and when they had finally finsihed they burst forth with soft shuffle movement and a lilting song. Bizarre.

After many introductions in Kreo language a meeting of 200 adults and children was finally over. We were led outside to see the meagre facilities that the children have. An outdoor kitchen, a makeshiuft garden and basic matresses to sleep on. They have big plans to build a 2 storey shelter with electic light, running water and flushing toilets. It will cost $100,000 to build. Heaven only knows where they will get the money…

After a rock star style fairwell we left this project in a thoughful mood. TIA.

Video Vault Update

Last modified on 2007-11-18 22:30:25 GMT. 4 comments. Top.

You can see the latest videos of our journey now on the Video Vault page. These clips are also being hosted on MySpace at www.myspace.com/hullfreedomtrail

Day 23 Update – November 17th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:45:48 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Finally, things are slowing down for us. Today was principally a rest day with many attending a lively Evangelical Methodist Church complete with reggae music and the afternoon spent at one of Sierra Leone’s lovely beaches. It’s ironic to think that with a place so ravaged by war that the beaches remain unspoiled…

Day 24 Update – November 18th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:46:07 GMT. 24 comments. Top.

Freetown

Today is Monday and we lose a second load of Trailblazers – Anna, Justine, Mark, John O, Ali O, Steve S & Bas. This leaves just Jonathan, Mike James, Andy Paxton, Kayla, Kayleigh, Sammi, Ian, Nick, Becca, Steve Tong and Claudio to finish our filming work here in Sierra Leone before we fly back to England on the 23rd November.

This morning, Claudio and a small team went back up the mountains to film more of the ‘Primed’ project, not before spending the night before until 3.30am searching for street children with the AMNet team. After lunch and the frantic dash for the airport coach in the centre of town, Jonathan, Andy P, Steve Tong, Sammi, Becca, Ian and Nick paid a visit to a Catholic Convent school near the centre of town.

This school holds a nasty surprise. It is a surprisingly nice school. Made of concrete painted bright blue with a lively population of over 1000 girls all dressed in bright blue pinafore dresses, public school hats, white ankle socks and smart black shoes. Quite different to how many of the population appear. We were holding a ad-hock briefing session to a number of years groups in the playground under a sheltered area. Around 500 girls arrived as we stood on a staged area and preached about child trafficking and child prostitution. Imagine our surprise when we were told by AMNet that over half the population of the school are actively involved in prostitution in order to fund their school fees. After the session was over we were inundated with requests for more help. How ironic and quite disturbing…

Now we have lost both our photographers back to Blighty, for the last few days of the trip this will have to be a text only blog. So apologies for this. Maybe Mark and Justine can upload some more images from the UK when they are back.

For the next two days we are going up country to Makeni and Karbala to film some more gritty sequences for the film. I’ll let you know how we get on!

Photo Update (from the UK)

Last modified on 2007-11-22 23:37:54 GMT. 4 comments. Top.

The following photographs are from the vehicle hand over ceremony on Saturday (17th November) hosted by The St. George Foundation (one of the recipients of the vehicles). We were treated to a performance by a traditional African dance troupe with music. The vehicles drove forward from their hiding place with lights flashing and horns sounding to a huge round of applause, bringing a lump to all our throats.

Most of the remaining team spent a relaxing afternoon on the most beautiful beach with members of the agencies receiving the vehicles, where they helped us take a well earned rest.

On Monday our paramedic Alison Olner handed over medical supplies to a free medial centre which served the whole of Sierra Leone and our fireman John Olner handed over a vital piece of vehicle cutting equipment that had been donated, to the fire service.

The ferry port on the way to the airport was full of rusted abandoned old ferries and other boats.

Justine

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Day 25 Update – November 19th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:46:33 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

Freetown

Today a small team of us went to Makeni which is a town in the northern province of Sierra Leone. HANCI have a project there that principally helps rehabilitate young girls who are victims of rape either by rebels during the civil war or shortly afterwards. We were interested to see how HANCI is going to use the vehicles we have supplied to them.

It’s a 3 hour drive to Makeni on mainly good roads. When we finally arrived we took a small trip over some of the rough roads that exist around the region and were greeted by nearly the entire population of the project in full voice assembled in a small covered area near one of their shelters. It seems to be a tradition here that everyone greets so-called ‘important’ visitors with songs and it’s really touching and humbling to be treated this way. Faced with a sea of black faces old and young, Jonathan attempted to say something meaningful and intelligent to the assembled crowd. He’s not certain whether he achieved this though.

Afterwards we took a tour around their facilities. They do great were there in sometimes difficult conditions. The clinic was quite a surprise for some, with very basic facilities and quite poor hygiene. There was a small cat sat on the doctor’s chair and it was commented that it’s unusual to see a cat ‘that big’ because usually the kids catch and eat them…

HANCI’s primary role is to counsel the young people there and they do a fantastic job. This was born out by the fact that we spent several hours interviewing some schools girls with their children and the grace and strength with which they described the horrors that they had endured was simply awe inspiring. All of them are true heroes.

After we had finished filming, we drove on even further North to a place called Kabala. This is in the highlands of Sierra Leone and has much reduced humidity levels. We came across a small guest house with basic facilities (it had a flushing loo!) and stayed the night.

Day 26 Update – November 20th 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:46:48 GMT. 8 comments. Top.

Kabala

Still split into two teams (one in Freetown and one in Kabala), we woke in the guest house and after a simple breakfast of bread coffee, drove into Kabala to a Muslim Agricultural School. One of our recipients, AMNet, works here to provide support for the girls who are suffering in a similar way to the girls at HANCI. It’s amazing to be able to rock up at a school completely out of the blue and assemble a collection of girls who are willing to talk on camera about a quite sensitive subject. It would never happen in the UK…

Becuase these girls are attending full time education, asking them in front of their friends is a more delicate task. We gathered them together in a small concrete classroom that appeared to be an unfinished construction site but we were told was the biology lab. Interviewing them one by one soon revealed a darker side to their lives. Many of them recognised the value of their education and that was the reason why they attended, but so many of them were concealing a darker side to their lives which included being orphaned but also many of them were forced to ‘work’ in the evenings to pay their school fees and some had to abandon their children (some as young as 4) during the day just to attend the school.

Time and time again we are coming across these stories and situations. On the surface, Sierra Leone is a beautiful place with friendly people, but many still bear the scars of a brutal recent past. Also, we have observed some attitudes we believe are holding this country back. Especially in the cities there is a culture of laziness, with many of the young people expecting handouts or help from the outside rather than a determination to fix the problems for themselves. This country has everything. Everything grows here, it has a high mineral wealth and a favourable climate and on the face of it there is no excuse for the poverty that prevails except the attitude of some of the people. Let’s hope the new President can stir within the people a culture of self-help rather than rely on handouts…

Day 27 Update – November 21st 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:48:43 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

Grafton, Freetown

Today was the final day dedicated to filming for the documentary. We travelled to the St. George Foundation’s facilities in the Grafton region of Freetown. This is up in the mountain behind the city and necessitates negotiating yet another rough and rocky track. Our mission was to film some of the stories of the boys and girls who now live their.

Sammi ,Steve Tong and Claudio spoke at length to a girl and a boy who’s stories are too graphic and strong to communicate here. Both Sammi and Steve found this time with the children especially moving. Later they travelled to the places were the boy and girls used to live and ‘work’ before St. George rescued them. Horrible places. St. George really has given them a fresh start in life and a chance to salvage what is left of their childhood.

Later in the day, the staff and friends of St. George as well as the other recipients produced a meal for us and kindly gave us gifts to take home. It was a time for reflection for many and a chance to think about what we have achieved and the difference we have made to each project, not only with the gift of a vehicle, but in morale support and with the opportunity for them to work together.

Day 28 Update (The Final Day) – 22nd November 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:49:17 GMT. 7 comments. Top.

Freetown

Well, well, well, the final day! I’m sat in the reception of the hotel with a flakey internet connection sweating (literally) over this final post. I’m reciving texts from my wife saying that it might snow in Hull… bonkers! It’s around 30C already and it’s only 10.00am.

Today we pack, shop for gifts, deal with the paperwork for the vehicles and make our way towards the 2.00pm rendezvous for the coach to the airport. Here, you have to catch a ferry to the airport at 4.00pm and get there at 6.00pm for a 5-6hr wait for the night flight to Gatwick. Then we are catching the Hull Trains service from Kings Cross to arrive in Hull around 12.20pm on Saturday. A fairly straight forward day on this crazy adventure called The Hull Freedom Trail…

On behalf of all the team I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their prayers and support throughout our journey. This won’t be the last entry into the blog but it will be the last from Freetown. Further updates will come along regarding the documentary as well as news from the recipients as time goes on.

See you on the other side…

Jonathan

Day 29 Update – November 23rd 2007

Last modified on 2007-12-16 22:49:42 GMT. 4 comments. Top.

We’re sitting around in the customer lounge at King’s Cross Station waiting for our train to Hull. Something bizarre has happened though, it would appear the government has ordered a large freezing device to be situated over the whole of the city of Freetown. I’m fairly sure this must be the case because when I awoke this morning (or was it yesterday morning) I was sweating profusely just packing my things into my bag. All we did was step onto a plane, sit around for a few hours and get off again. Now everybody has turned all pale and miserable, someone has tidied up the streets and turned the freezing device on. Weird.

It’s quite disorientating when you travel. Sometimes it can take as long as three weeks to get somewhere, sometimes only a few hours. Today it has taken only a few hours and the landscape has changed dramatically and so have the people. We’re all looking forward to seeing family and friends and the young people are enjoying the facilities of modern living, such as their merbile ferns and aye-pods. They talk constantly of soap operas, McDonalds, hot baths, proper food (pizzas!) and their own beds. Some things never change.

Today we said good bye to Claudio and Mike James. We are all excited and apprehensive at seeing our loved ones. A month away from home is a long time for all of us and it was quite a surprise to see frost on the cars in the car park of Gatwick at 5.00am this morning and a Christmas Tree!

Of one thing there is no doubt, we are all changed in some way by this journey. For some people the change is obvious and for others the changes will be more evident in their actions and words in the future. We are sure that the aid we have given has been received with open arms and that is is aid of true value and worth but also we have gathered compelling evidence that modern day slavery exists in all of North West Africa and indeed the practice is rife and we know that we have produced a documentary and the material for a book that will display this in an engaging and understandable way and we look forward to sharing that with you when they are finished.

Jonathan

Day 29 Update 2

Last modified on 2007-11-27 13:10:53 GMT. 2 comments. Top.

As the train to Hull arrived at Hull Station around 12.20pm, we were surprised to see a party of friends and family greet us. The Mayor of Hull, Mitch Upfold and Richard Skogg were there to congratulate us on our achievements. It was great to see some of the other Trailblazers and share some of our experiences with them. Most of all it was nice to be home again and reflect on our time away and see the people we dreamed about on our journey.

Thank you to everyone who came…

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