Perhaps it seemed like a wise decision at the time, but Freetown's airport being on the other side of a huge bay, one of the deepest natural harbors in the world, is primarily horribly inconveniently located.
Whities flying in or out of Lungi international airport typically either take a chopper into town, for which the going rate currently is 120 USD, or one of the water taxis, each of which still charge a painful 40 USD, one way. Alternatively, one could drive around the bay, perhaps an eight hour ride, or take the government-run ferry from the far side of town. Cheap, but known for its prevalence of pickpockets. And, on a regular day, coming from or going to our side of town, from the ferry, typically takes a good 90 minutes, any time of the day.
Going out of our way, the day before our flight to Gambia, we wanted to buy tickets for one of the water taxis, only to find that, on a Saturday, none of them service our Asky flight departing at seven in the evening. Then, the last few months, Saturday mornings have been used to clean up downtown Freetown, in preparation for next week's independence celebrations. During cleanups, it's said that cars spotted downtown on a Saturday morning are stopped by police, their boots filled with sludge being collected from the city's gutters.
Pedestrians, found downtown and not part of the cleanup team, are beaten by police into submission. Or, at least, that's the story.
So, not wanting to risk catching a late, potentially delayed, ferry, we had to get to the far side of town by taking the long way around, crossing the Freetown peninsula, then heading back into town. To catch our seven o'clock flight, we decided to leave at nine thirty in the morning, to get to the airport, perhaps some 25 kilometers away as the crow flies.
Arriving at the ferry, the departure area was actually surprisingly pleasant. Complete with several rather nice cafes, serving both decent coffee and excellent sandwiches. And perhaps because either most people were afraid of the city's cleaning crews or because this was a Saturday morning, the ferry itself was also enjoyably quiet. The crossing was good, the taxi ride to the airport on the other side a breeze, while we saved ourselves some 70 USD in the process.
Clearly, when flying in or out of Lungi and having to cross town on a weekend or holiday, taking the government run ferry is more than good enough.