Pickett Hill, situated in the Peninsula near Waterloo, Western Area in Sierra Leone is a 855m (2,805ft) mountain rising above sea level and the highest peak in Freetown and the 13th highest mountain in the whole of Sierra Leone. The Peninsula in Freetown is the only part of West Africa where mountains rise high above sea level giving the capital (Freetown) and the surrounding its magical landscape.
Hiking on the mountains along the peninsula can be an amazing experience especially when coming from Coba Wata (a village of about 50 people when coming from Waterloo). The way from Coba Water gives travelers a combined experience of both the mountain and pre-colonial life around the Peninsula. Just at the starting point in the village, there are series of traditional and cultural practices.
Though a majority of the village’s inhabitants are Muslims, one can still see traditional huts used as shrines where the villagers often seek protection from their gods. Coba water is the last existing village when climbing Pickett Hill but there are other villages-though no longer in existence, that still have some significance in Sierra Leone’s history.
Like Yankeh Soko for example was a village named after a famous and popular herbalist-Yankeh Soko who was very popular within the Western Area. Yankeh used Cut-Nose devils to heal people during her days. It was believed in those days that women should not see the Cut-Nose devil and she being the only woman to have seen and worked with the devil makes her even more powerful. Other villages along the mountain trail include: Magbatha, Kissi Gim, Masophe, Monomor Resting house (Built by the Portuguese around 1700 for travelers between Waterloo and York. It also used to host security personals that used to escort people between the two villages in the 1800s and 1900s) and a few other sites. Even though these villages no longer exist, there are still remains of the lost villages as well as sign posts and road signs.
The three hour experience to the top of the mountain can be both fun and challenging. Even though a path was created to make hiking easier, one will need to be extra careful when moving around. The path is created between thick layers of forest which makes it a haven for wildlife.
Sightings of monkeys jumping from one tree to another is possible along the way and one should be careful of breaking dry or weak branches which can fall on people if not seen.
The way up to the mountain takes long sweaty hours which mean one will need sufficient water and/or food. It is also important to wear long trousers and boots which will help prevent one from minor bruises and stop you from slipping.
Despite the challenges to the top of the mountain, there are some interesting sights too. Different bird species and butterflies can be seen along the mountain trail. There is always the sound of a bird singing either closer or far away or the sudden flap of another bird’s wings taking off from a branch. The smell of fresh flowers is sure to awaken the sense of smell.
The path having old villages along the way, there is always a hunger for fruits since there are fruits like mangos, guavas, oranges and other trees like cola nuts, bitter kola and ginger plants. And when one finally makes it up to the top of the mountain, the long tiresome trip is automatically forgotten. The amazing view of the Freetown peninsula spreading from York to Waterloo will magically fall around. Whether on a hot sunny day or cloud hours, there is a sudden emergence of a minute fog rising above the mountains fading away in a magical form. The air on the top of the mountain is fresh and soothing. The view around can be a breath-taking view. The journey up to the top can be truly memorable if one was fit enough to make it to the top.