Cameroon's Story

Trip Start Apr 11, 2009
Trip End Jan 08, 2010

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Flag of Cameroon  , Centre,
Monday, June 15, 2009

Having done little research for this trip (I suppose that's what happens when you only decide to come 4 weeks prior to departure!), I expected every country to offer new surprises. However an unexpected surprise for me has been the difference between neighbouring countries within a short distance from the border. After several days bushcamping and driving through north-east Nigeria and enjoying such joyous waves and excited responses to our truck, it was a stark contrast to the Cameroonian reception. It seemed almost immediate that locals stopped enthusiastically responding to our waves, with only glum stares in return.

Houses and dress also changed. From mainly concrete and tin houses in Nigeria back to traditional mud huts in Cameroon. The round huts, with pointy grass roofs, seemed to be organised in clusters and sometimes compounds, which were different in size and number from previous countries...each new country offer slight differences in building design in the rural villages. Clothes have also changed slightly over countries. Although most countries since Mali have featured brightly coloured fabrics with bold designs, the wearing of the fabric changes in each country - in some, like Ghana, men and women have tailored clothes made from the same fabric, whilst in Cameroon it appears that only women wear the traditional fabrics and predominantly in tent dress style (highly unflattering, unlike most other countries in which the women have either wrapped or tailored the cloth to show their curvaceous figures).

Our first major town, Garoua, proved a disaster for me - I lost my only pair of prescription glasses, I got sandals resoled which promptly fell off within an hour and I bought a watch which broke within 10 minutes....however it was all made worthwhile on the way out of town when we discovered men that have a pet wild hippo (yes! that's correct,over the past 16 years some local mad men had trained a hippo, the biggest killer of humans in Africa). The hippo lives with 12+ other wild hippos in the river and surrounds. At first we just stood on the riverbank in shock as one guy swam out to the hippos and stood less than a metre from the herd to feed the friendly one by hand. They then organised local small fishing canoes to ferry us across to the shallow waters where the hippos were hanging was scary, exciting, unbelievable and complete madness!! Some of our group got to feed and pat the hippo before he eventually got fed up with all the attention...and besides, I think the other non-trained hippos were getting a little fed-up too - time to get out of there!!.....only in Africa!!!

The northern region provided some beautiful green scenery, with distant mountain ranges and rolling green hills transforming into equatorial jungle.

The road between the northern and southern regions proved very neglected, which meant for slow progress toward Yaounde, the capital in which we required 3 visas (our final visa stop until Ethiopia - yay!). Although the dirt road was littered with huge pot holes, the true challenge for Chris was to keep the truck from sliding into the water channels gouged into the side of the muddy tracks. We passed several trucks who had toppled over recently - overloaded and traveling too fast (typical of most trucks we've seen in every country, which are obviously required to carry too much, too quickly over inadequate arterials, and in fact, damaging the poor quality roads by their overburdens). We did slid into one "gutter" trying to pass another truck who had stopped for the rain the evening before, which took some mud digging and "weight management" (all standing over the wheel in the back of the truck) to relieve our precarious angle to allow us on our merry way.

Yaounde provided an opportunity for some to leave the group to hike Mt Cameroon, whilst others like myself, took the opportunity for some serious internet and rest time...I definitely felt I needed a break to reinvigorate my enthusiasm for these travels...week 15 and counting....the daily rain provided a good excuse for most to get a hotel with WiFi access. Malaria case number 2 - Sarah- was diagnosed.

A depleted truck left Yaounde to spend a couple of days toward the beach resort town of Kribi. On the way, we stopped at a primate sanctuary where we literally got to come face to face with monkeys, baboons, mandrills and gorillas!! The sanctuary rehabilitates and breeds endangered primates, which are enclosed in large jungle areas by electric fences. At one enclosure I sat within 50cm from the gorillas on the other side of the thin electric wires - it was one of the most intense and moving experiences of my life to look in the eyes of a gorilla at such close range....

The road to Kribi proved quite hazardous, as recent rains had turned the track into a slippery mess. At one point, we slid off the road into the jungle at a precarious angle, taking ourselves and locals 5 hours and finally a passing truck to get us out. Kribi beach provided another opportunity to chill out, catch up on washing (of clothes and ourselves)....some time to prepare for the weeks of bushcamping, no showers and rough traveling ahead in Gabon, Congo, DRC & Angola.
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