Freetown International Airport
Inside the ferry lounge I ask one very English looking gentleman if I can squeeze my bags in near his table and sit on my rucksack. Gordon kindly insists I sit with his group and they all shuffle up so I can have a seat with them. I am dripping with sweat like I just ran a marathon. I feel a great sense of relief that I have made it here with all of my stuff. The hardest part of my journey back to the UK is over.
Gordon is a top man. A former Crawley Town footballer, he is now a pastor and is doing some fantastic work in Sierra Leone with the Sierra Leone Mission. He has visited the country on a number of occasions, this time with a group of young adults, who have all been doing some excellent work on the peninsula for the past couple of weeks. No way would I have had the courage of these young eighteen- and nineteen year olds of coming out to Sierra Leone, or its like, when I was their age. They make excellent company for the ferry ride over from Freetown.
One share taxi ride later and I have reached Freetown International Airport. I have somehow managed to make it all the way here from Charlie's house in not much more than two hours and at the total cost of six quid.
OK, so there is the small matter of arriving at the airport almost nine hours ahead of my scheduled flight departure but, not to worry, I am content to have made it here in plenty of time and can spend the afternoon sitting outside in the shade, chatting to a dozen different African characters as well as three or four of the lovely Sierra Leone Mission people.
Actually, it is quite a scene at the new, very modern-looking airport: there are gun-toting soldiers and smartly dressed body guards all over the place, while helicopters are buzzing in and private jets departing.
"That is one hell of a private jet," I comment to one of my new friends.
"Yes, that was the Nigerian president flying out after the inauguration."
Gordon kindly invites me to join him and the Sierra Leone Mission people for dinner in departures. Very good company, several hands of cards and a last couple of Stars help the hours to pass quickly.
It is so bright, modern and 'un-African' inside the airport terminal that I am already feeling a disconnect with Africa as I board the Gambia Bird flight to London. It is almost as if I have already left the continent behind before the plane has even taken off.
We depart at midnight. I am so fatigued that I feel no sense of goodbye; no sadness that a brief but significant chapter in my life is just finishing. If anything, I feel rather numb.