Freetown, Sierra Leone

A room with a view - Freetown, Sierra Leone

We touch down at Lunghi International Airport 5.00 PM late afternoon. Our contact is present, and they usher us through Immigration, Customs. All happens at an unusual pace, considering the location we are.

Our Chauffeur and car are awaiting us in the parking lot. We have to cross the lagoon that separates Lunghi International to Freetown city. Once we arrive at the Hovercraft Ferry docked at the port, we take seats in the reserved space.

During boarding I catch the striking image of the young kids sitting on the craft's deck. These kids sit sideways from the main passenger cabin. One can sense the sadness, the endless misery, the emptiness in their faces. The pain that those kids had suffered is undescribable. They are victims of Fodeh Sankoh's Rebel Militias.

A senseless, barbaric horde of brutal criminals. Those who enjoy the sufferings inflicted on the little kids. maiming and injuring those for life. I recall the looks in those eyes as if occurring today. An lasting impression one cannot forget, for those kids were without arms or wrists.

Freetown  Freetown  Freetown  Freetown  Freetown  Freetown  Freetown

Fodeh Sankoh, the Rebel leader who never admitted to his crimes, his guerilla fighters would ask his captives the gruesome question: 'Short sleeve or long sleeve ...'. Any comment would be superfluous. To describe the agony suffered by those who fell into the hands of their captors will be imposible.

After the Ferry ride, we continue to Freetown city. Another car awaits to take us to our Hotel, the Cape Sierra Hotel. This is the only decent place run by the Italian businessman, Paolo.

During the war the Hotel became a command post for the Rebels. Afterwars it was HQ for the troops of the O.A.U. Now the C.I.A., the U.N. staff cram in the Hotel.

Upon arrival at Cape Sierra the Italian owner welcomes us. We are here to negotiate a business deal with an International Company.

The room is what one would call 'a room with a view,' overlooking the Emerald sea, about hundred meters below us. It is magic to see the waves breaking below your window.

After dinner at the Continental Restaurant, we meet other guests. Amongst them one who purportedly works for the U.N.H.C.R. . We also get to know Soldiers of Fortune. Those who are present, some ex-French Legionnaires who now do covert operations for the C.I.A.

One guy, in particular, arises my interest. A Helicopter pilot and French Legionnaire, and his actions show he seems a crazy guy. French, in his mid-forties, you can see that he is different from the others.

He appears with a Jute sack in his hand and removes the thread that is tight around its neck. The bar dames are all too curious and come all to see the what's in the sack.

Reaching into the sack, he withdraws his hand shockingly fast. He gives the impression that something bit him, like a snake or some sort of other creature that lurked inside the sack.

All the girls present scream and run in all directions.

He repeats the whole show a few times, much to the amusement of all present. The spectacle ends when he empties the sack, and nothing appears.

They smack him on the back for the scare he put onto them. We retire late that evening and sleep with the waves beneath us battering the shore.


Cape Sierra Hotel, Freetown - NEXT MORNING

I wake up by a strange noise, originating over the sea. It is dawn, before 06.00 AM, and I hear a distinct whining sound approaching the Hotel fast.

I am up at once, a relict of my Army training. I rush to the window in time to see a Alouette Military Chopper approaching fast. Flying low over the branding sea at full speed, towards the Hotel on the cliff top.

The whining sound of the Alouette howls in my ear. A mere 200 m from the window the pilot changes its course, ascending at 90 degrees and turning left sideways.

I can make out the pilot's face as clear as the night before, by now he seems right in front of my room, hardly 100 m in distance. It all looks like a big stunt.

Flying sideways like a swing in a Fun park, the Chopper hovers for a second or two in the air. After its fast lift, it finally drops back to skim over the rough sea only to disappear in the sea mist.

The Turbines high pitched whining still in my ears, I see the face of the Pilot. I immediately recognize the daredevil I saw the previous night at the bar. A stunning display of pilot skills. Dangerous but done with a precision that leaves no room for error.

When I walk down for breakfast, other guests tell me this is his way of waking up the other guests lodging at the Hotel. Later: More : Flying over the Mangroves near Lunghi airport with a MIG 8


dream of shangrila