Four planes and a speeding boat!
08.04.2014 - 09.04.2014 33 °C
What a journey it has been, this is our fourth flight since leaving Melbourne Tuesday afternoon and it is now four am Thursday morning (home time)! Joseph has been a travelling star, as I expected, but its still a mammoth ask and change in routine for him! We have gotten through by tag teaming, catching a bit of sleep where possible, decent in flight entertainment and plenty of beer and wine to make things fine! All of our transfers have been quick but the last one in Accra was almost too quick! We had a three hour stopover planned which should have been fine in spite of needing to collect our bags and check in but our flight from Dubai was delayed an hour and the bags seemed to take forever. the check in gate was due to shut at 2pm and at 1:45 we were still staring at the same few bags going around the carousel! Thank goodness for the super helpful airport assistant that power walked us through the steps involved! Before getting our bags we had to register our passport details with the visa counter, once we had our bags it was a race out past immigration and customs, as our buddy hastily explained we were transit passengers as we whizzed by, then through some side door that we sweet talked our way passed, out onto the road and back in through the main entrance to the check in counter with six minutes to spare! Getting through immigration without our helper was interesting, we had to convince them that we really had just gotten off a flight and hasn't been visiting Ghana illegally! After all the frantic running around and stress that we would be stuck there for a few days, our flight didn't leave until well after three anyway! Perhaps that's what Hazel meant when she told me about GMT - Ghana Maybe Time!
Our flight to Freetown stopped in Monrovia, Liberia to set down passengers, refuel and do something to the wheel. I confess to knowing very little about Liberia but it was beautiful flying over, so lush and green with bodies of water winding throughout and patches of rich red soil. The airport was like nothing I've seen, it was tiny with only three small planes, all labelled UN, and some fire engines set up with staff on the ready (a little disconcerting but all they did was help refuel and check our plane). Around the airport were what seemed to be shanty towns full of little houses made from corrugated tin sheets and further away still were more low density housing areas much more like what we are used to in Australia. As we approached Sierra Leone cloud cover prevented me from seeing a lot but upon descent I saw that same patchwork of lush green with that rich red soil cutting through in the form of roads and built up areas. Lungi airport was small but much bigger than Monrovia, there was a proper Tarmac with a couple of runways and a few commercial airlines. It was remarkably organised inside the terminal, perfect lines for immigration, a straightforward move over to the baggage collection point and a short walk out into the car park and taxi area. Where Freetown airport proves a little tricky is that its built over the other side of the water from the city requiring a ferry trip, four hour car trip or a sea coach taxi. Given how late it was we took the half hour sea coach, forgive my boating ignorance, ill describe it as a small passenger jet boat! I have to be honest, I was petrified coming across, it went so fast and the water was so choppy, it felt like we were speeding over bumps and I'm not sure if the fact it was pitch black made it better or worse. At least Joseph slept the entire ride, I can't imagine keeping him still. Guess ill find out on the return trip!
Our arrival was mostly uneventful, our suitcases came and Joseph's car seat arrived in the next boat, our lift, Ismail's cousin, arrived and gave me a giggle as him and Ismail tried to work out where he other was, speaking on mobiles not even five metres from each other! I have met Cecilia and Yayae, two of Ish's sisters and thy are simply beautiful, inside and out. They have made us feel so at home here, as has Abdul, our man of many talents with a heart of pure gold. We are staying with them all at Abdul's house but I think we will move to a hotel as the electricity fluctuates a lot making it unbearably hot at night with no fans or air con. Perhaps if it were just Ismail and I it would be ok but Joseph struggled with heat and both of us copped too many Mosquito bites for my liking despite using repellent. Maybe we will just have a couple nights in a hotel to recuperate from the flight and then return to the house. The breeze is beautiful and breaks the heat up nicely. I'm writing this section on the verandah with Joseph napping in his kinderkot, windows open and breeze going through. It was too hot inside and this is the perfect spot to put my feet up and take a breath after the madness to get here! The others are off buying a cow, sheep, fish, chicken and drinks in preparation for the ceremony to be held in honour of Ismail's mum on 20 April. Sounds like she was an incredibly loved and admired woman given the anticipated numbers coming to pay respects and celebrate her life. Everyone that tells me about her lights up when they speak. They talk of her infectious laugh, her many friends, the kindness she extended to all and the strong person she was.
It still saddens me to the absolute depths of my being the circumstances surrounding our trip. I had been so looking forward to meeting Iyesha, to get to know the woman Ismail so loved, to miss out by just six weeks seems a cruel blow, I can only imagine what that timing must have felt like to him. Deepening the blow of course has been the loss of my father. I never for a second thought it was his time. I thought I'd be in Sierra Leone struggling to find ways to contact him regularly to reassure him that we are safe, haven't gotten Ebola and are being well cared for. Life had other plans, here we are, a week and a half late after my father's funeral and in the midst of planning the funeral of Ismail's mother. Looking around at the barbed wire, the lack of electricity, running water and paved roads it seems so selfish to say it isn't fair but that doesn't stop me from feeling the sadness of it all.