Looking at “where can I fly from here?” in Ouagadougou, Sierra Leone was the winner. With an online visa application process through a travel agency and COVID testing on arrival, it was my best destination for flight options.
The airport is insanely far from Freetown itself, In fact, it’s on the other side of a bay. You can drive 4-5 hours. You can take a slow boat for cheap. Or you can take a fast boat for more. The locals on my flight looked at where my hotel was and the fact I’m a foreigner and strongly recommended I do the fast boat, which docks much closer to my hotel. Even though it’s a “fast boat”, the ride was more than 30min.
By the time I took the van to the port, boarded, rode the boat, got off, found a taxi to my hotel, and checked in, it was time for a late dinner and sleep. Despite the fact the hotel restaurant had some vegan options on the menu, the kitchen said no to my first request! They told the waiter it was too late and too much effort for the Indian dishes, so choose something else. Spring rolls? Kitchen said no, again. They told me to have a vegetable pizza. “Veggies, minus cheese” is the most boring pizza and not something I order without death by starvation being an imminent prospect. I pushed back – is the kitchen open or not? The spring rolls don’t take much effort, tell them to make it. I got my spring rolls and the saltiest soy sauce in history to go with it.
The next morning, I was up early to walk around. I headed away from town, to the lighthouse.
These statues under construction look awesome. The people working on them were NOT HAPPY that I took pictures of an unfinished work. Oops.
I spent over an hour at the lighthouse. You can’t go up in it, as the stairs are busted and not safe. However, the guy who lives next to it spent a lot of time telling me about the history of this area. It was a major spot for the slave trade, but the local government doesn’t want to put any kind of memorial or restoration work into it. Slaves captured across western Africa or captured inland were brought here as a final collecting point before putting them on boats to the Western Hemisphere.
In fact, these rocks were carried by the slaves when they were forced to build a dock for the boats to use for loading them onto the ships for their miserable new lives. It was fascinating to hear, as sad as it is.
Back on the main road, I caught a tuk-tuk into the center of town. At the cotton tree, I checked out these outside displays at the museum (inside was closed).
Walking around some more, I came across this church. As I was using the mandatory hand wash station to go in, I heard people whistling and trying to get my attention. I always ignore these people. Inside the church, some guy tapped me on the shoulder and said the police want to talk to me. OK, that I guess I have to respond to.
Some old guy drinking coffee on a bench showed me a police ID (not wearing a uniform) and told me he saw me taking pictures of the church.
Him: “Who gave you permission to take those pictures?”
Me: “I didn’t know I need permission…”
Him, absolutely freaking out now: “Of course you need permission!! You know I can’t come to your country and just take a picture of a church on the street!!”
Me, calm: “Sir…you can do this in my country.
Him: “That’s a lie! You delete that picture right now or I will have you arrested! I want to see you delete it!!”
I deleted it and walked away, exiting the area quickly without looking like I was running. Joke’s on him, because he obviously knows nothing about technology. The pictures on my phone just went into the “recently deleted” folder, and I recovered them with 0 effort.
Later on, I confirmed with multiple sources that I can, in fact, take pictures of this church, and the guy is just a jerk. I diffused the situation, because I knew he was too stupid to check my “recently deleted” folder and make me erase that.
From here, I made multiple requests to get a ride to the train museum. Surprisingly, the tuk-tuk and moto taxis have absolutely 0 idea this exists. I finally had to show a guy where it is on the map and just say “take me here” to make it work.
I found the museum super interesting.
Since the railroad is no longer running, there’s a scrap yard outside breaking down train parts and salvaging what can be used for other things. Sad.
Back at the roundabout near the museum, I caught a tuk-tuk and it crept at a snail’s pace through the main market. The market stretches for blocks and blocks, gotta be a mile or more. You can buy anything here, and the traffic is insane.
Sierra Leone doesn’t have a lot of flights. One of the places they do go regularly, though, is Liberia, and that is a country with VERY few flights. When I decided to go to Sierra Leone, I put in an application for a visa to Liberia. Unfortunately, it dragged out too slowly.
I needed to leave Sierra Leone the next day, because staying another day would require me to do another COVID-19 test. Looking at the flight options, pretty much the only place I A) could go and B) hadn’t been before was Benin.
I booked a flight for the next morning to Benin, coordinated with my hotel for the fast boat in the morning, and ate dinner. I got my first choice this time!
3:30am pickup for the fast boat was rough. In fact, they showed up to pick me up while I was still asleep, since the hotel had said 4am pickup. Brush teeth, get dressed, grab backpack, goodbye.
At the airport, I picked up my negative test results from arrival 2 days before, checked in for my flight, and was off. I liked Sierra Leone. I’ll go back to see more some day.This entry was posted in Africa, freetown, sierra leone