[ Koidu Town, Sierra Leone ]
My planned route out of Makeni was a deliberately challenging short-cut through the dense forests and primary mountain range of central Sierra Leone–the Loma mountains. For some reason though, despite my long rest, I found myself struggling with even the most moderate obstacles of the first couple of days. The signs remained mild: general weakness and cold-like symptoms. Still, when on Day 3 I passed a small health post, I decided enough was enough.
With a finger-prick and two drops of blood I had my diagnosis: malaria.
I was given a three-day course of anti-malarials, seven days of antibiotics, paracetamol for the fever, and some iron supplements. Since I still felt passably well, I had a big meal, took the first course of anti-malarials (Artefan 20/120), and kept riding.
Spectacularly BAD idea, in case you’re wondering.
Within about an hour (mid-nowhere) my arms and the backs of my knees started breaking out in hives. My heart was racing, and I had the energy of a salted slug. I imagined the Grim Reaper emerging shortly from the woods, looking at me; drooling. I stopped repeatedly to rinse the growing rash with cool water and calm the itching, and eventually made it to another village. Shockingly, there was a health post here, too–nearly as large as the previous one. I stopped, told the nurse in charge what had happened, and asked to rest there for a while.
Four days and five nights later, I left.
The first two of those days passed in a miserable, fevered blur of semi-consciousness and hallucinations (not the good kind). The two women who run and live on the premises–Hannah and Sarah–were my guardian angels–keeping me fed, hydrated, and medicated. Each night my body went through two hot phases where I completely soaked my clothes and bedsheets in sweat, and at least round of shivers that locked my body in muscle spasms for the better part of an hour. It was ridiculous.
We hypothesize based on the severity of my response to the meds that I had full-blown symptoms at least as far back as Fria, Guinea–when I thought I had a severe cold. Meaning I likely contracted the parasites in early June.
Whatever the case: malaria isn’t high on the Fun List, if you’re, y’know, looking for something Fun To-Do in Africa. It’s also not an Oh My God The Sky Is Falling experience, and the only thing I’d do differently (or recommend to you) is to go visit a health post for ANY flu-like or cold-like symptoms. All tests and treatments are free and easy, and if you catch it early it’s No Big Deal ™–unless you’re a pregnant mom or a baby, that is.
Malaria-free Greetings from central Salone,