Driving in Freetown.

I conquered one of my biggest fears today – driving in Freetown.
Driving in Freetown is not for the faint of heart – and my heart is very faint – so faint, it can barely generate a pulse!
The city is congested – there are cars, Okadas (motorcycle taxis), a new 3-wheeled contraption that I don’t know the name of, people, multiple stray dogs, and occasional cows. Very few of the players follow the traffic laws – if you are bold and aggressive, you can move forward. If you are timid, forget it! The main roads and highways are great and there has been tremendous development over the past 5-10 years, with great roads throughout Freetown and all the way to most of the other cities. That amazing development mostly applies to the main roads though, many of the side roads are unpaved and pretty difficult to navigate.
I left Freetown as a child so I never drove. I have driven for 26 years in the US, in all kinds of roads and highways, but when I get to Freetown, I am paralyzed by fear and refuse to drive.
That’s an ok plan for short-term visits, but since I am living here, I figured I needed to drive.
It didn’t help that my mother the Queen – who has not touched the door handle of a car, let alone the steering wheel of a car in recent history – also implored me not to drive because of all the reasons why I might get into an accident.
It didn’t help that I am staying at my mom’s house currently and that the road to her house is arguably THE WORST road in all of Freetown.
I am not kidding – her road is the worst! I’m talking tight gentry worst! It is in hill station, a community perched high up in the mountains of Freetown, with cool sea breezes and breathtaking views of the Atlantic ocean, but Oh Woyang – the roads can be tricky! Her house is off the main road, down a side road where a short paved segment gives way to a dirt road with giant boulders and potholes that meander down a steep cliff – and of course, her house is the last house down the road, the one that is perched most precariously. Reaching out to the Atlantic ocean while hugging the mountain.
When driving to her house, you are rocked from side to side down the bumpy road before reaching the final incline that leads to her house – an incline where you feel like your car might just drop off the mountain at any given time.
Given all this, I resolved not to drive while staying at her house – the driver would take good care of me – I would postpone driving until I moved to my house which has a reasonable, drivable road.
Cue my unsuccessful attempts to do early morning jogs in the neighborhood and the annoying reminders from well-meaning aunties accosting me with the loving greetings – “you don fat oh!”
Great! Thanks, well-meaning aunty. I really love receiving “you don fat oh” greetings!
The bottom line was – I needed to put in my 5 mile jogs at Lumley beach on the weekends and the driver doesn’t work on weekends. So with encouragement from my husband Shekou who always believed I could drive, my sister who is a returnee who is actually thriving without a driver, and my step-dad who believed I could do it, I drove today.
I woke up early, got in the car, drove up the bumpy road, got stuck in the steepest section, changed gears and figured out I had to zig-zag to keep from skidding, and made it to the main road. I then drove the 10 minutes to the beach, expertly navigating the 2 roundabouts. It was wonderful – Shekou, you would have been proud of your faint-hearted wife!
Now, let’s not discuss that there were very few people, cars, and dogs on the road on a Sunday at 7am – driving is driving, and my accomplishment stands!
I am a Freetown driver – well at least a Freetown weekend driver, because I have no intention of driving during the week, when the real action happens!

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