A Travellerspoint blog

Free in Freetown

Surprising joys in a big city

sunny 32 °C

I am absolutely loving our time in Freetown which surprises me a little as I wasn't really keen to spend much time in the capital and I'm not generally a fan of the big cities when I travel. I couldn't say what makes this place different, perhaps it is simply the fact it IS so different from anything I have encountered. My mind tries to make comparisons, and there are indeed some similarities to what I have seen before but on the whole it just doesn't compare. I have seen people carrying goods on their heads before but not towering pyramids of plates with coal, not things the size of two bean bags! Today I saw a lady that put me to shame, she was carrying a bub on her back in a lappa (piece of material long enough to make a wrap skirt or wrap to carry a baby in), was obviously pregnant and carried a large dish of food on her head and there I was sweating away with Joseph in the Manduca on my back! I have gotten lots of giggles at the strange device I use to carry him and I will get someone to show me how to use a lappa but for now, the carrier is an absolute blessing on the hilly, barely there footpaths!

One of the biggest surprises has been how much I love the food! I've tried a whole assortment of traditional dishes from groundnut stew to cassava leaves, plantain and fu fu. All of it delicious! It's hard to describe, the dishes are not quite curries but they are spicy and and a similar texture though without any creaminess. Binch was my favourite with black eyed beans, sweet potato and plantain,  plassas came in a close second, served with rice, it covers all the leaves and it looks like stewed spinach but tastes a whole lot better. Joseph has enjoyed the food too, some of it he turns his nose up such as the doughy but plain fu fu, other things he laps up, particularly plantain which is a bit like banana but has to be boiled or fried, and anything with a bit of spice!

I have become somewhat obsessed with checking out women's hair and trying to work out whether it is their real hair or a weave, I'm mostly wrong! It is hard not to feel like an ugly duckling here, the women are stunning with flawless complexions, immaculate hair, perfectly pressed clothes and make up that stays on their face instead of streaming down their cheeks! My poor hair is a mess, it is so thin post joseph so now its a limp ball of frizz, perhaps I need a weave!  The bright colours and beautiful patterns on fabrics here make me smile constantly, I can't wait to go buy some and get some clothing made. Wish me luck braving the markets, hoping the hotel manager will have time to come along and help me haggle!

We have had some issues with changing money here which I should have anticipated but I was being too tight not wanting to lose money by exchanging into US dollars first then Leones. Unfortunately on the weekend no one wants to touch our money which left us relying on a contact and having to accept a lower rate anyway! Hopefully come Monday we can find a bank willing to deal with the dirty Aussie dollars at a fair rate! 

 Joseph is still travel super star though it can be hard giving him enough space and freedom to explore. He had a complete melt down yesterdayafter deciding to skip his nap and try to push on through. Thankfully Sierra Leoneans are much more child friendly than Australians (not saying Aussies don't like children but it's rare for someone to hold a door for a person pushing a pram and even rarer for someone to provide practical assistance in a tantrum situation rather than giving that disapproving look and tut tut sound, but I digress). Abdul's driver and helper took us down to Lumley beach so we could walk in the breeze and let little Jojo sleep on my back. Even before that though, people everywhere have played with him, helped us out by holding him or distracting him, letting us go first etc.  It is refreshing and makes it glaringly obvious how little Australians think of or accommodate children. There might be great playgrounds, activity centres etc, but it's like they prefer kids to be segregated, not in places frequented by adults such as shops, restaurants, transport. 

The plus side of Master Joso's melt down was it took us to Lumley beach, a pristine stretch of sand and turquoise water lined with a couple of bars, a handful of beach chairs and filled with plenty of children playing soccer, dancing and building castles! Apparently on Sundays and on holidays it is jam packed and you can barely move but we had plenty of space to wander around in awe. I had a ball with the children who spotted my camera and started calling out "snap me, snap me"! A group of three soon swelled to a crowd of fifteen children all posing, laughing and talking about the half white/half black baby asleep on my back! The sea breeze, laughter and walk was just what I needed to shake off the frustrations that come with interfering with a toddlers urge to explore and experiment! I can't wait to see more beaches along the peninsula! 

Apologies for the lack of fluidity in the blog, I'm grabbing little snippets of time to piece it together when I can. I really want to keep a record though,for myself, for anyone that reads it but most importantly, for Joseph who may not remember this trip down the track!

Posted by T.L.C. 00:07 Archived in Sierra Leone Comments (1)

Journey to Salone

Four planes and a speeding boat!

sunny 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.

Posted by T.L.C. 13:17 Archived in Sierra Leone Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 7 of 7) « Page 1 [2]