The flight from Dakar to Freetown seemed to be full of Sierra Leonean Americans - and what a combination, the loudness of Americans (sorry about the stereotyping) and the exuberance of Sierra Leoneans making it feel like some kind of noisy school trip. As we landed safely at Lungi Airport there was not just applause but whoops of joy and a few shouts of "Praise to the Lord!".

The airport was complete chaos, but not in the intimidating way of some African airports, more that people were more interested in getting home to see their families than in bothering to follow the few rules that seemed to be in place. It wasn't helped by a power cut that left us in complete darkness for about ten minutes.

It took about an hour for our luggage to come out, even though we were the only plane to have landed during that time (you wonder how they would cope with two aeroplanes arriving in quick succession...), and there was a lot of laughter and shouting as people jostled for position by the conveyor belt. However when the luggage came, those at the back would just shout out, "That's mine - the red one" and it would be picked up and passed over peoples' heads towards its owner.

Once through the airport you have various options as to how to get into town. I was taking the helicopter so walked to the 'Helicopter tickets' counter and handed over my $80. My ticket was not given to me but to a young man beside me: "this man will take you to registration" I was told. I refused to let him take my case (I've done this before and remembered that the helicopter office was somewhere very near) but I could only follow behind him as he sped off with my ticket.

In the office he got it stamped, and returned it to me, telling me proudly that he had got me onto the next flight. Then he stood there waiting for a tip. Only ten minutes later the luggage was all carried out and loaded onto a trolley. I followed it, not wanting it out of my sight as it sat unguarded outside. Then one of the luggage handlers turned to me: "I want a tip" he said. I asked why. "Because I looked after your luggage for you". I laughed and told him that it was his job, for which he received a salary. Lungi airport is the worst of any in West Africa for requests for "tips" (excluding Nigeria, of which thankfully I have no experience), but at least it is always done with a smile, and no-one refuses to stamp your passport if you say no. In fact I left the airport for the helicopter with a big smile on my face. Sierra Leone is truly one of the friendliest countries I know.

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