Car, boat, bus, plane

I had used one of my ‘thank you’ rewards from Delta for my loyalty and countless trips. It is good for a one way upgrade to business class. It is supposed to get you all the way to your destination but the award program of KLM is not aligned with that of Delta, so when I connect in Amsterdam for the KLM flight the business class deal was over.

I was glad that I got the B-class seat as I was feeling increasingly lousy as I boarded the plane. As soon as we were airborne I put my seat into sleeping position and didn’t wake up until we arrived in Amsterdam. I kind of sleepwalked to the lounge in Amsterdam and slept there as well until it was time to board for Sierra Leone and then I slept some more.

I arrived around 10PM at the hotel in Freetown. The trip from the airport to the city is quite an adventure. I had heard about it (it involves a bus and a boat) but never experienced it. My Sierra Leone colleagues had given me detailed instructions and everything was exactly as described: someone with my name on a sign handed me a boat ticket and took me to the bus stop. I boarded the bus and gave my suitcase to an attendant. The bus drove for a while and then dropped us off at the beach where a simple concrete structure with plastic chairs served as our way station. We hang around until the boat returned from the other side of the lagoon and we filed on board, all 40 or 50 of us.

We squeezed into seats around tables as you expect on a yacht and the 45 minute trip started. It was all very congenial – for a brief moment we were a community with a shared goal: getting to the other shore and either to home or to our place of assignment. Total strangers started sharing why they were on the boat. It was really quite nice, and not the pain in the neck I had expected. It is true that the bus and boat trip added another good hour and a half to arrival time (and thus also to departure time), but if you are not in a hurry (and I had slept a lot) then it is OK.

The Radisson Blue in Freetown is, as it claims, an iconic hotel; I have been in other so-called ‘iconic’ hotels that didn’t seem very iconic to me (maybe they used the same advertising agency). The hotel has carpeted floors which I think is insane in a climate with 80% humidity. Everything was musty, a smell I stopped noticing after a couple of days. My clothes were also always damp.

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