Freetown to Monrovia via Bo

DO NOT PUPU HEREFreetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, is a teaming urban jungle absolutely packed with people, street stalls, and vehicles. Poverty is visible everywhere but the million inhabitants are cheerful. I felt quite comfortable wandering around on my own, even in the reputedly perilous east end. A number of notable monuments built by the British remain in central Freetown, including the Law Courts, St. George’s Cathedral, and Old Wharf Steps. As in Monrovia, numerous fruit bats roost in huge trees in the middle of town.

I stayed at Andy’s Hotel, 31 Wilberforce Road, near PZ Turntable in the market area, where I paid 90,000 leones (US$21) for a large single with private bathroom and fan. My favorite Freetown hangout was a colonial-style bar overlooking Government Wharf, and I enjoyed my best meals at Café de la Rose near the SLRTC Bus Station and in the Parliamentary Restaurant.

While in Freetown I made the pilgrimage to hyped Lumley Beach, one of the last places where I’d want to spend a holiday. Too many disoriented people hanging around Lumley for my taste and the pricey hotels looked surprisingly downmarket. A more rewarding excursion was to the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary in the hills beyond Regent. It’s easy to get there by shared taxi from near Government Wharf, covering the last 30 minutes on foot. Tacugama shelters around 130 chimps in various large enclosures and is well worth the US$10 admission. You’re asked to call the day before to announce your arrival (if you don’t have a phone, any shopkeeper will help you make the call for a small fee).

After five nights in Freetown I set out on the long trek back to Monrovia with a morning SLRTC bus to Bo, Sierra Leone’s second city. I checked into Hotel Sahara (75,000 leones single with bathroom): Adequate but nothing special. The main streets of Bo are lined with the premises of diamond merchants. I didn’t like Bo quite as much as Kenema or Freetown, although the bar at Hotel Sir Milton was just fine. Needless to say, I spent much of my time in Bo behind Sir Milton’s bottles. After a night in Bo, I caught a shared taxi back to Gendema, walked back over the bridge to Bo Waterside, Liberia, and took another shared taxi (front seat!) to Monrovia. Frankly, I was glad to be back.

To/from the airport: The cheapest way to get from downtown Monrovia to Roberts International Airport to take a shared taxi east to ELWA Junction (half a dollar) where you should be able to hire a taxi direct to the airport for US$7. In the other direction, motorcycle taxis in front of the small market opposite Roberts charge about US$10 to Monrovia. Otherwise, lots of drivers will be willing to take you to your hotel at US$20 for the car or proportionately less if you’re willing to share.

(This is the third and final installment of my trip report on Liberia and Sierra Leone. See also Liberia and Sierra Leone Travel and Monrovia to Kenema OverlandI’d be pleased to respond to emailed queries about my travel experiences in these countries. Just use the “Contact Us” link at the top or bottom of this page.)