Sierra Leone - Nicest country in West Africa

The ride from Conakry to the land border at Guinea and Freetown took 4 hours. The streets were well and after the issues in Guinea, it was good to arrive at the Sierra Leone border. However, after stamping out of Guinea I was in the situation that I will not be able to re-enter Guinea and now mandatorily need that Sierra Leone visa on arrival.

Visa on arrival is not granted always. So if I won't get it I will be in trouble, as being stuck between two West African countries without permission to enter, is bad. I heard different stories that this situation might occur because of several reasons, like frequent border closures, the mood of the immigration officer, or simply because some officers want some extra money. They will play with the patience and time of the traveler.

The immigration offices of Guinea and Sierra Leone are in the same building. I got the exit stamp from Guinea and 40 meters further I met the officials from Sierra Leone.

It met the first Sierra Leone immigration officer and got a friendly:

Welcome to Sierra Leone, how are you?

Unfortunately, at this moment they did not know that I had arrived without a visa.

The one passenger from the same car coming from Conakry and going to Freetown, Amadou, an old local from Sierra Leone, said he would help negotiate in case any problems occurred. He seemed to know several people here in the immigration office and maybe his presence made the officers not ask too much about me. It seemed Amadou also just wanted to continue the ride as fast as possible and arrive in Freetown. Because if I had to wait, the passengers in the same car would also have to wait.

The visa on arrival at Land Border

I was led from one room to the other to say hello to the person sitting in there (No idea why!) and in the third room an immigration officer was waiting at the desk.

Now, this is the moment, will I get the visa on arrival, if so, will they ask for extra money or make other problems?

My request for a visa on arrival was acknowledged without much of questioning or strange comments.

She got out a book and entered my details with a pencil. She asked for the 80 USD (official visa fee) and then pulled the stamp and even wrote an official receipt. That seemed to be it. Maybe I was lucky today, they maybe didn't want to have a foreigner around because they said the president of Guinea is expected to arrive at this border at any moment and they need to prepare things.

Nobody asked for more money. Nobody asked strange questions. When I returned my passport, the officials just wanted to know what I was up to and even gave me some tips on what to visit in Sierra Leone. 

They said goodbye with another joyful "Welcome to Sierra Leone!"

Continue to Freetown

The drive from the Guinea / Sierra Leone border to Freetown will take another 3.5 hours on the best road. Nice landscape.

All streets were in perfect condition. Several checkpoints along the way to Freetown. They only ask for seeing the passport but no one asked for money.

After 3 hours we approached the outskirts of Freetown and slowly towards the city center.

We arrived in the afternoon at 15:30pm in Freetown Western Area.

In this area is the official taxi and bus terminal. I changed money and then took a KehKeh (Sierra Leone naming for TukTuk) to Aberdeen, which is located at the western end of Freetown and directly at the beach and the stony coast.

The city was in rush hour at this time.

Day 2 - Sightseeing in Downtown Freetown

My hotel was 20 minute drive from Freetown downtown, where the main markets and all the businesses are.

The cotton tree is the biggest tree in Freetown and is very old. It's visible from far away.

Even though also here in Freetown the markets are filled with African chaos and noise. 

But I found the city in general pleasant, especially the driving through the hilly roads with the green mountain area in the background.

The markets are noisy, but it wasn't an annoying and stressful noise. But maybe because I visited in the morning. 

Here it's possible to change money and the only two shops to register for a new sim card.

Around the police clocktower is the main market area and so the busiest streets.

I didn't take pictures of them, but the people with amputated limbs are visible all around Freetown. When wandering the streets and looking at people, it's obvious that many of them who are now similar age as I am, have been child soldiers and forced into the civil war 25 years ago.

The national museum in Sierra Leone has some interesting artifacts.

Opposite the museum is an open area museum that has even more art that describes the history of the country.

I've been told that there is a great view from the mountains all over Freetown. 

The best lookout which is not too far away is at the University of Freetown. I took a Kehkeh (same as a TukTuk), the ride was fun. From up there, the view is indeed spectacular.

The area isn't meant to be the safest, which doesn't make sense as it's the university. But they told me not to leave the campus area as there are people hiding and chilling in the bushes. And sometimes they attack strangers.

From there I took a motorbike to the "Peace Museum". It's the museum that memorizes the happenings of the civil war.

It was officially closed today due to Saturday but they still let me in.

I was a bit disappointed as the artifacts were not many. Nevertheless, I was surprised by them as they showed stuff like machetes, empty bullet shells, knives, some kind of human bones, and the clothes of soldiers. A bit strange this exhibition.

Day 3 - With Tricycle around West Sierra Leone

It will be an all-day KehKeh ride all the way down to Bureh, which is the last and nicest beach or bay of the peninsula.

The driver said it's okay to pay per hour which is like 4 USD per hour (50 SL), including fuel.

Basically, I could let him drive wherever I want and so I asked to first drive up the highest point in Freetown (well, initially it was his suggestion so I didn't say no).

Sadly, the highest point around Freetown is a hill that is covered with mobile antennas and the view was just a mess with fog.

But the ride was still nice, especially since it was fresh and cold up there. 

So this highest point was near "hill station" where a few years ago there was a heavy mudslide from a mountain that killed hundreds of people.

From here it continues all the way down the mountain.

The streets are crowded and people doing their daily business. Nice to watch it.

Further down the roads and to the first beach. I didn't expect the beaches to be so nice and also they are all looking completely different even though they are not that far apart.

The first beach was Lumley beach in Lakka.

Continue on the streets to the 2nd beach.

The road there is not finished and is maintained and built by locals. By stamping small stones in the dirt the profile of the road is created. Accordingly, everything is shaky and when driving on these side streets.

The second beach was called the 2nd beach and that's its real name. White sand, green jungle and the dark clouds above the mountains make this place truly spectacular.

The ride was great, and the scenery of the landscape wonderful. Sierra Leone is a wonderful country. I would say even the nicest country all over West Africa.

Bureh is about 1.5 hours away from Freetown.

After another hour it went towards Bureh Town and Bureh Beach.

Many expats here, although they are mainly from Lebanon who are close their stores in town on weekends and go to this remote beach. 

Now all the way back to Aberdeen, 1.5 hours by Keh-Keh.

The driver brought me back to the Hotel in Aberdeen. In total it was 7 hours of driving. A total of 7 hours of tuk-tuk for just under 30 dollars. So 50k SL per hour. Very cheap.

Day 4 - Around Aberdeen

I strolled around the Aberdeen area. Typical African artifacts are scattered all over the place.

Organizing the trip to the airport...

I needed to organize for the next few days and prepare the documents or registrations for border crossings. Like, as organizing the trip with the ferry Seacoach to the airport in Freetown.

To get to the airport its necessary taking a taxi and drive for 3 hours along the mainland, or taking the ferry from Aberdeen across the ocean to the airport. 

It's quite an effort and the ferry costs 45 USD and the ride itself is 45 minutes. Although from there its necessary to wait for designated buses and get to the airport.

Aberdeen, the best place in Freetown

In the evening it's safe to walk along the beach in Aberdeen. Many places to have dinner.

Day 5 - With the ferry to the airport

I had to be at the ferry station around 13pm, even the flight departure was at 19pm. It seemed like a long time for the "trip" with the ferry to the airport, which is supposed to be 45 minutes. But they do this in case of engine failure, so they can organize a replacement ferry.

Seaoach ferry has A/C and is very comfortable. There were no waves. On the other side, when arriving people are unloaded and then have to wait for the bus in some kind of pavilion.

It's a strange way to get t the airport but it seems to be standard procedure since... always.

The bus picks up the passengers and drives through the settlements where people are living and do their washing and cooking. A load of 4 buses per flight drives through the settlements on these dirt roads, all between the local bush houses. But the locals probably just got used to it - and it's probably a matter of time until they get displaced from here to give space for bigger roads for tourists.

The international airport is old and small, but at least it has a good A/C. It's fine to wait and I was happy to board the plane and depart on time towards Monrovia, Liberia.

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