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Saturday, June 2

Camerain

Brett: We entered Cameroon on the infamous Ikom-Mamfe road. We had heard many horror stories about how bad this road can get in the rainy season, so we were really nervous when it started raining heavily the night before we crossed the border! The area around Mt Cameroon is one of the rainiest places on earth, with an amazing 10,300mm/10 m of rain a year (as a comparison, London gets 575mm and Joburg gets 825mm a year). We had heard of people taking 3 days to cover 70km along this road, so with our expectations set, we headed to the border. The border itself  took 1h40 with no issues (although there were about 10 steps to get through it and there were tons of irrelevant questions, the answers of which were painstakingly written out on a torn sheet of notepad and dutifully put in a drawer when left the office. The bridge across the river that forms the border is very pretty, and then we reached the muddy roads… We were driving along them expecting them to suddenly turn terrible, but they were actually in really good condition with lots of 2 wheel drive cars coming the other way. Apparently the road was graded a few months ago at the beginning of the 3 month dry season. There were 2 short muddy sections that would have needed some skill in a normal car, but otherwise it took us only 2 hours. There was a lot of work being done on a new tar road too, so not long until a legendary road disappears.

As we were making good time, we took a short cut heading south and didn’t go through Mamfe. The roads here were a bit worse, but trucks were still getting through. The scenery through the forest was fantastic with huge trees and dodgy wooden bridges over little streams. We came to a section here two trucks had obviously tried to pass each other going the opposite way, and one had slid off the road and fell onto its side. It must have happened 5 minutes before we got there. There were people helping and fortunately nobody had been hurt, so they waved us through the tiny gap between the two trucks and we went on. Everyone would shout White Man! White Man! as we went through the villages, but with none of the aggression that we had in Nigeria. About half way along the shortcut, Mike and Emma’s radiator started leaking and we did a temporary fix to get us to Nguti. We found a mechanic, but just before he started working on it the heavens opened in one of the heaviest downpours we have ever seen. We all dashed through to the front verandah of a little shebeen where all the locals were camped out waiting for the rain to stop. It rained heavily for about an hour so we sat around chatting, drinking beer, and eating boiled eggs with chilli sauce and roasted mielies. (Brett had ventured out to see what else there was to eat, but the only other thing he could find was a stew of what looked like monkey hands!). Finally the rain stopped, and we moved onto the nearby Bemmas Hotel ($16) where we took a room because of the rain. The mechanics had the radiator sorted shortly after dark.

We headed south, with the roads starting as tar with deep potholes across the entire road, before changing to good dirt roads. At one of the big muddy patches on a very scenic dirt stretch, one of the wheels on the landy fell off. We had gone ahead and came back after a while to find Mike and Emma standing ankle deep in mud, looking fairly amused. The vibrations had worked the bolts loose on the spacers - the only damage caused was a leak in the brake line, which we only discovered later, and they had even retrieved all of the nuts. We spent half an hour in the sticky mud jacking the landy up and putting the wheel back on, but it was easy.

We reached Buea and the first ATM - rural Cameroon is less developed than we expected. We had originally planned to climb Mt Cameroon, but the whole mountain was covered in dark clouds and we didn’t fancy hiking for 3 days in the rain without getting a view past the clouds. Instead, we took a shortcut to Limbe on a potholed track which was a steep, narrow and bumpy, but very scenic, winding through brilliant tea plantations.

Limbe town is pretty, but some of the beaches aren’t great, with a port and oil rig taking the prime spots. We stopped at the campsite at Mile 6 beach but it looked pretty dodgy and locked up, so we drove on to Mile 11 Beach and camped at the lovely Seme Beach Hotel ($5pp). The camping is in a great spot under some trees and quite private from the rest of the resort - it felt like a luxury as they have free internet and a good restaurant on site. The beach is great for swimming and visually stunning, with black volcanic sand. I did the normal oil change (last one before SA) and checked all the bolts thoroughly to make sure we didn’t suffer the same fate as the Landy!

We headed into town for a bit of a shopping excursion and found the brilliant Victoria Bakery where we stocked up on doughnuts, bread and cake. We got a few essentials at one of the supermarkets in town and some fruit and veg at the little stalls along the road. We went to the Limbe Wildlife Centre ($6pp) (aka the Zoo) where we started off with lunch at the fantastic Arne’s/Chellas Restaurant. We ate like absolute pigs but still couldn’t finish our massive burgers and pizzas - so nice to have western food for a change. Hanging near the bathrooms is a collection of fantastic conservation posters written in Pidgin. The Wildlife Centre is very interesting and has many species of monkeys that we haven’t seen before. They have kept the original zoo cages where the animals were kept until the place was taken over by the same organization as runs the Drill Ranch in Nigeria – it was quite sad to see the sign near two of the cages, one about 3m x 3m x 3m, and the other about 60cm x 1m x 1m. The sign said that these were the largest and the smallest of the original cages in the zoo – one of the first Drills they had kept was housed in the smallest cage for 4 years, unable to turn around because he didn’t have enough space! On the way back to the hotel, the Landy radiator started acting up again, and we limped back, stopping every few kms to top up the radiator water and performing “heart massage” on the pipes to try to get the water circulating.

Mary: We had started off at the campsite being very neat (as usual) but it didn’t last (as usual) and by Sunday we got stuck into the massive pile of dirty laundry and gave the car a good tidy-up. Unluckily for us, Sunday turned out to be the main day that locals come to Seme Beach from town for a day out, so we had plenty of spectators wandering through our washing lines and admiring the cars.

The drive to Kribi was easy and the roads empty and very good. We were stopped twice by cops who told us that having a right hand drive car in Cameroon is an offence, but they eventually gave up. The trick is to make it clear that you are a tourist and just travelling through the country, and that it’s allowed under those circumstances. Kribi looks different to what I expected - the sand is golden, the water is almost a greeny-brown, and trees grow right up to the beach. The sea was so warm we needed to get out of the water to cool down a bit and the waves were very small - lovely. The whole place is really relaxed, with a few cool looking rustic restaurants on the beach. We camped at Tara Plage ($10), which is run by very nice guys. They have a fantastic restaurant (one of the best of the whole trip) with delicious tender steak on skewers, and baracuda cooked in a cream sauce…

Driving into Yaounde is very scenic as it is not that built up. The roads don’t make much sense on T4A because of all the hills, so it is fairly easy to get lost coming in. We camped at the Eglise Presbyterian ($11) on the hill, next to the water towers. The camping is on a nice grassy lawn and the owners seem more used to overlanders than anywhere we have stayed in the last month. The whole town had a great feel and was very relaxed. We walked into the centre of town to DHL and were delighted to find our passports with the 30-day Angolan Visas from London and a brand new Carnet from Joburg waiting for us – a nice early birthday present for Brett. Our Carnet was due to expire the next day but contained the entry stamp in to Cameroon – since we were leaving after the Carnet expired we needed to get stamped out of our old Carnet and into the new one. We walked around a lot trying to find the Customs office and eventually found the main Customs building in the suburb of Bastos. It turned out to be the wrong building, but the helpful lady told us where we needed to go. We took a taxi to the Central Customs Office next to the goods railway cargo area. The guys there were again very friendly (very common in Cameroon) and happy to help us get the Carnet stamps transferred. It took 10 minutes and we came back to find our taxi driver snoozing in the back of the taxi. In Yaounde the taxi drivers are very chilled and don’t even try to rip you off. We spent the afternoon back in the suburb of Bastos where we had found a great pizza place before meeting up with Mike and Emma in their hotel for a drink.

Brett: My birthday started with pancakes and a couple of calls from family. We had a really relaxed day, venturing out to get some cake at the brilliant boulangerie down the road and to use the internet cafe. It had been raining when we were at out, and when we got back, we realised that the storm had been so severe it had ripped the tin roof off the mission school as well as flipping our tent closed, soaking our mattress and sending all the tent poles flying in various directions. Once the storm had passed we had cake with candles, and champagne, before heading out for some excellent Chinese food at Chez Wou. It rained heavily through the night and we ended up packing up in the rain in the morning - well, our charts do show the rains getting much heavier in June and they were spot on!

2 comments:

  1. Lovely post!
    Good to know you din't have problems in the Ekok-Mamfe road.
    Congratulations Brett
    Pepe Yanes

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey!, I've forgotten to congratulate you for the 30 days Angola Visa. That is really an achievement!!!
    Well done!

    ReplyDelete