So we had a day or two of meetings in Freetown and at the STEWARD office in a pleasant villa perched high above the city. The house was on two levels; most of the offices were upstairs along with a kitchen, a small study/library area and a large meeting room with a huge wooden table in it. Downstairs was a simple entrance; on one side a reception area and on the other some steps down to the former garage, now converted into an office space, which Kofi and I were to use. I was interested to see that a rather grand chair and large pristine desk had been placed in it just for my use – considering I was going to be only visiting for about 12 weeks out of the next 18 months, it seemed like an excess but it was on offer so I did not refuse. The echo was bad in here and Kofi liked to keep the AC on ice cold, so when he spoke to me in his thick Ghanaian accent it often took me a couple of times to comprehend what he was saying.
We obtained a pile of Leones for travel – dollars not often used out in the villages. The exchange rate for Leone was about 4500 to the dollar. A ten thousand Leone note was the largest denomination; just over 2 dollars. So you can imagine for a week’s trip you ended up with a lot of currency. Many people just carried it around in black plastic bags. I split mine up all over my person and locked baggage and hoped I could account for it all by the end of the trip. I was fortunate that since Kofi was living there that he could sub me if I was short, and he quite appreciated having the dollars in return as he could make use of them when he was travelling, and it saved me going through various methods, legal and illegal, to obtain local money.
Stephanie urged us to be checked out the Hill Valley early so Hugo and I spent a late evening sorting our bills out. We had a reasonable breakfast and were all ready to go at 8am. Nothing turned up. At 8.15 we phoned Stephanie; she wondered why we had not been collected by one of the rental drives. A few phone calls and half an hour later, Stephanie and Annie turned up with Haba in the STEWARD vehicle. The rental driver had got lost and could not find the Hill Valley Hotel; one of the most prominent hotels in western Freetown. We had not started and we had lost almost an hour.
We were driven not through Freetown but up the hill past the presidential palace and the US embassy to a filling station high in the hills. Everyone else was already at this rendezvous point and we spent a few moments rejigging some of the luggage (ensuring that whichever vehicle you were in you had your own luggage in case we got separated).