Going Solo in Freetown - Sierra Leone

The churning sounds of the helicopter propeller hit my ears, long after I've been clutching on to the slightly crumpled flight ticket, indicating a price of USD 70, sitting in the hot and humid waiting bay, wondering if the helicopter in Sierra Leone would look as flimsy as my colleague described to me. I was quickly ushered towards an old and weather-beaten helicopter sitting in the middle of a brightly-painted circle, and I pulled my hand luggage along, hoping I would have no difficulty dragging it up the vehicle.

As I got closer, it suddenly dawned upon me that I would have to balance on the precarious-looking makeshift steps, made from some rope and planks, in my business suit and leather pumps, and somehow load my 7kg worth of luggage up. I hardly fancied the ridiculous sight, and smiled sweetly at the black attendant to my left, and pointed to my silver luggage, hoping he would catch my hint. Well thankfully he did, and I just had to concentrate on not missing a step as I dragged myself up into the helicopter.

The helicopter actually looked a lot larger in the interior; it could contain slightly more than 20 people at one time, with two benches lined on each side of the helicopter, and the passengers’ baggage placed in the centre. I quickly found a seat, hesitated whether to fasten my seat belt, when an opposite passenger passed a remark that it wouldn’t matter in a vehicle like this. If we go down, we go down. I kind of agree as well.

Soon, I could feel the helicopter levitating, and when I looked out of the window, I could see Lungi International Airport behind me, and the river separating the coastal town of Lungi and Freetown ahead. The view was so mesmerising, that I momentarily forgot the thoughts of the 2007 helicopter crash report I read about haunting me while I was in the waiting bay.
Oh well. This was supposed to be a short ride anyway.

During the first few minutes of the flight, I was thinking that my fellow passengers and I looked like a platoon of soldiers being transported to a strange land. Instead of army uniforms, we were dressed in business suits, but we looked rather uniform anyway. It seemed many people were travelling Sierra Leone on business, as the economy started to develop again after the years of civil war which had stripped the once prosperous African country of its pride and riches.

I was starting to relax and enjoy myself when all of a sudden, the whole helicopter started to vibrate. I’ve been through turbulence before, but this was a little too violent for my liking. The noise from the helicopter blades grew louder and louder, and I threw a quick glance out of the window. To my surprise and immense relief, we were actually alighting and drawing closer to ground.

When the helicopter finally landed safely on the ground, there were several sighs of relief from my fellow passengers, and hands scrambling to unfasten seat belts. I had a tingling sensation of having just had a little adventure, and was rather excited to see what awaited me in this part of Africa.

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