Siaka Stevens Stadium, Freetown, Sunday 16 February 2020 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has heartily welcomed the nearly 700 excursionists from over 80 countries, in 210 cars, 52 motorbikes, and 20 trucks and buses at the conclusion of the ‘Budapest to Bamako Rally’ that ended in the Sierra Leonean capital.
“We note that through your curiosity of the unknown, you have identified with causes that we care about too. We have identified education as a core priority and we are pleased that participants will be donating educational materials. We are also pleased that our concerns about the effects of climate change align with the outcomes of this B2B rally,” he said.
Participants of the rally, especially Hungarians, handed over 5,000 bags donated by pupils in that country to the Free Quality Education initiative in Sierra Leone, which provides for access and learning materials to over 2 million children in pre, primary and secondary schools.
The President said that he was also informed that participants had planted hardy Neem and other fruit trees around the Masiaka area, in the north-western part of the country, adding that that would not only provide foliage cover, improve air quality but it would also be put to medicinal and other uses like providing real cash for villagers for many years to come.
“We are pleased to share our peaceful country with you over the next 4
days, when, I am informed, you will be here. Let me tempt you more.
“For hiking and cycling enthusiasts, we offer you Leicester peak, Regent, Gloucester Saddle, Mount Auroel, and many more jutting hills that form an unbroken chain around the peninsular of Freetown. While at that, you may want to enjoy dramatic views of the sprawling city below from East to West or look out into the vast Atlantic. Truly breath-taking,” he told the visiting tourists.
President Bio also told the gathering at the national stadium where the rally was concluded that for those who fancied ecotourism, less than 30 minutes out the country offered the world-renowned Tacugama Chimpanzee sanctuary, a site associated with Dr Jane Goodall and one of the world’s foremost conservationists.
“You will meet friendly Western Chimpanzees in their natural habitat. Or you may want to enjoy the serene and balmy golden sunset on one of our pristine beaches at Lakka, Hamilton, No, 2 River, Sussex, John Obey, Tokeh and more. The lazy waves and the glorious evening scapes at those beaches have been voted among the Top Ten in Lonely Planet.
“Or probably dip into local culinary favourites that leave a unique taste and memory with each savoury bite. Or better still fresh seafood directly from the Atlantic Ocean to simmering fires along some of our beaches.
“Or just to tickle your wild side, there are excitingly noisy evenings with everything from casinos, live bands, local acts, to club anthems at several entertainment centres along the Aberdeen and Lumley Beach areas.
“Or, if you are not for partying, why don’t you try new adventures by hopping on a boat to Banana Island or one of our other pristine Islands where you may either dip your feet in clear blue waters and get lost in the mystery of our tropical islands…Or just go boating away or jet-skiing along the shallow Atlantic coastline…Or maybe do some snorkelling or fly-fishing…or just lose yourself in the serenity and the chirping birds and unique flora and fauna or even butterflies that adorn the landscape with even more exquisite beauty,” he said.
He also told them about Bunce Island, where they could see the remains of a seventeen-century fort where slaves were held for centuries before their perilous journey across the Atlantic, adding that with those remains of the slave fort and imprinted canon pieces they would be transfixed that the deep secrets of the Atlantic still maintained on its coastline.
The President also disclosed that: “…if you fancy even more historical sites…the slave steps… or visit the historical Cotton Tree that provided foliage for the first arrivals in 1787…or the national museum just next to it… or the Maroon Church built out of hewn stone in 1808 that ties us to Jamaican and Nova Scotian maroons forever… Or the historical building in Cline Town that housed the first University in West Africa, Fourah Bay College…or Fort Thornton upon which, my office, the State House stands”.
He said the small West African nation also offered history from the unique blend of modern and historical architecture in the wooden and tin-shack houses that were unique to its capital, Freetown. He assured that the state was going to preserve and maintain them because they were a unique part of what it had to offer.
Hungarian Honorary Consul to Sierra Leone, Jihad Eter, thanked the President for attending the landmark event, saying that that was a manifestation of his quest to rebrand Sierra Leone under his New Direction Agenda. He said that the event was also a sign that the country was peaceful, stable and ready for business. He also assured that they would continue to foster bilateral relations between Sierra Leone and Hungary within the framework of economic diplomacy.
Coordinator of the Budapest-Bamako Rally, Andrew Szabo, said that they were happy for the warm reception since their arrived in the country, adding that despite having gone through a lot, Sierra Leone was able to rise up and was now a stable nation with fantastic people.
Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, Madam Memunatu Pratt, said that she was excited about the President’s commitment to the growth of the tourism industry in the country. She added that because of collaboration, they had been able to position tourism as a centre of the New Direction Government. She noted that the country was peaceful, stable and was now a destination for tourism.
Said to be Africa’s largest charity rally and the longest run of the B2B so far, the transcontinental caravan brings 700,000-900,000 Euros worth of aid to West Africa each year, according to the organisers, who aimed to offset carbon emissions by planting some 2000 fruit and medicinal oil-producing trees.
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