Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Touching down at Lunghi International 17.00 PM late afternoon. Our contact has shown his presence, and we are whisked through Immigration, Customs at an unusual speed, considering the location we are in.
Chauffeur, car awaiting us in the Parking lot and we take off to cross the Lagoon that separates Lunghi International to Freetown. Once we arrive the Hovercraft Ferry docked at the port, we take seats in the reserved space. And this moment I catch the striking image of the young kids sitting on the craft’s deck sideways from the main cabin. I hadn’t noticed them when we entered the Hovercraft
You feel the sadness, the endless misery, the emptiness in their faces, the pain that those kids had gone through, for they are victims of Fodeh Sankoh’s Rebel Militias. A senseless, barbaric horde of brutal criminals, enjoying the pains inflicted on the little kids, maiming and injuring those for live. I recall the looks in those eyes as if occurring today. An everlasting impression one can not forget, for those kids were without arms, or wrists.
Fodeh Sankoh, the main Rebel 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.
After the Ferry ride we continue to Freetown where another car waits to take us to our hotel, the Cape Sierra, the only decent place run by an Italian businessman. During the war the hotel became a command post for the Rebels, then for the troops of the O.A.U , the CIA, the U.N. All were crammed in this hotel.
Upon arrival we are greeted by the Italian owner, who arranged our contact in Sierra Leone. We are here to negotiate a business deal with an International Company to sell our Packaging Products.
The room is what one would call “a room with a view”, overlooking the Emerald sea, about hundred meters below us. Really magnificent to see the waves breaking below your window.
After dinner at the Continental Restaurant we meet other guests, amongst them one who works for the U.N.H.C.R. We get to know the Soldiers of Fortune who are present, ex French Legionnaires who now do covert operations for the CIA. One guy in particular arises my interest, I am told he is a Helicopter Pilot, a real 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 pulls his hand out fast, giving the impression something bit him. The girls all 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. All laugh after the girls reappear, and punish him for the scare he put onto them.
We retire late that evening and sleep with the waves beneath us battering the shore.
I wake up by a strange noise, coming from the sea. It is dawn, just before 0600 AM, and I hear a whining sound approaching the Hotel, very rapidly. I am up at once, a relict of my Army training, rush to the window, just in time to see a Bell Military Chopper approaching, skimming the sea at full speed. As the Helicopter approaches, it suddenly lifts up at right in front of my room. I hear the Rotors whipping the grey morning sky. Hovering left sideways, backwards – like a swing in a Fun park – the Chopper lies almost idle in the air for a second or two, then drops back over the sea and disappears on the Horizon. The howling of the Turbines still in my ears, I see the face of the Pilot and recognize the daredevil of the previous night at the bar. A stunning display of Piloting skills, dangerous – yet done with precision which leaves no room for error.
When I walk down for breakfast I am told this is his way of waking up the other guests lodging at the Hotel.
next : Business and Departure .
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