Days and Nights of Freetown – Hovercrafts, Irish Bars and Motos

Jan enjoyed my company that day and we vowed I would do it again sometime while I was there.  We could not explore alone the next weekend though as several of the project staff and visitors such as myself agreed we would have a beach day at one of the resorts.  I had actually been part of the scouting party that had found this place on a previous visit.  On my second trip I had attended a workshop for the project along with many of the organisations that were partners in the programme.  For a week it had been good fun.  We’d had several crazy nights out after the day’s work was done.  One night we went up to Country Lodge, supposedly the best hotel in Freetown, and sat drinking and eating well into the night.  When we tried to negotiate a taxi to take us back to our accommodation, we found the drivers were all out to fleece us so we ended up grabbing a number of motos, the little motorbike taxis that flit around the streets.  Expressly forbidden by most development agencies in Africa given their reputation for young drunk teenagers being the main source of riders, I found the experience invigorating and our driver (along with  myself, a colleague and her laptop sandwiched between the two of us) got us down the hill, dodging the potholes, in double quick time.

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Country Lodge

At the end of the meeting a couple of others stayed on.  I had still two weeks or rainy Freetown to look forward to, and one of the other stayers, Ezra, and a fast talking South African guy into media, Stevan, had decided to explore for a couple of evenings.  We started in a bar which became a regular for me, Alex’s, down on the little peninsula in Aberdeen.  It was tucked in the nook of a bay and was a great place (when the weather was not raining) to eat on the terrace.  A flame thrower would sometimes entertain us from the beach below the terrace, and one time our dinner was disturbed by a horrendous noise coming in from the sea.  A hovercraft came into the bay. I’ve talked already of the difficulty in getting across the lagoon from the airport to Freetown, and for a time one method had been a hovercraft.  It was certainly a quick method of getting across but the service had stopped after a near sinking out in the sea in 2007, caused by multiple failures from bad maintenance.  Old romantics of Freetown had tried to restart the service while I was travelling to Freetown.  I was happy with the Pelican but wondered what it was like on this service.  My only experience on a hovercraft was a brief but exciting journey across the Solent from Ryde on the Isle of Wight to Southsea.

The noise was deafening as a hovercraft came into the bay.  All you could see were fuzzy strip lights through a haze of spray and the band stop playing and conversation came to a halt until this noisy creature got up on to the hard in the next cove and shut its engines down.  Unfortunately I don’t think the service lasted.  There were still issues with the maintenance of such a sophisticated piece of kit in the middle of Africa.  Next to Alex’s, indeed part of the same business, was O’Casey’s Irish bar.  This was a lively night club and I did come down on another trip and soaked in some lively dancing drumming and music.  Alex’s has closed down recently which is a shame, but I did enjoy my visits down there.

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