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Ω2

Cameroon: Africa in miniature!

Entering Cameroon we were looking forward to visit the mountains in the Northwest Province and the notorious Ring Road! Indeed, the scenery deserved all the difficult time that we had due to the rainy season in these countries. We had missed the mountains so much, as well as the cool weather! After having spent so many months melting under the sun, we stayed in Bamenda a whole week, just to remember how it feels like to sleep under a blanket! My God, what a bliss…

How could I resist taking a dip in Lake Awing, located on an altitude of 2,080 meters (6,824 ft)?

How could I resist taking a dip in Lake Awing, located on an altitude of 2,080 meters (6,824 ft)? (Photo: Caroline te Pas)

   Along with our friendly hostess, Caroline, we made quite a few excursions in the area around. We visited lakes, waterfalls, lush mountains, as well as a few traditional palaces of different tribes. In the Northwest Province, they have a profound respect for the chiefs, who, even today, hold strong power over the tribes. When somebody meets a chief, handshaking is forbidden. He must clap his hands three times and then talk to the chief. Some of these chiefs have hundreds of wives! In these countries polygamy is quite common. Some women have kids of different fathers, while they raise them all by themselves, as many men do not live with the rest of the family.

Each and every one of the 61 elaborated columns of this building, where the nine wise men of the kingdom of Bandjoun gather, is distinct.

Each and every one of the 61 elaborated columns of this building, where the nine wise men of the kingdom of Bandjoun gather, is distinct.

   Riding on the Ring Road we were crossing through lush, enchanting mountains… On one side we could see waterfalls while on the other we enjoyed the views from above! Heading to the south, we went to Douala in order to meet up with an old friend of mine, Dawn. She is an American teacher who works around the world. Six years ago she had hosted me in Kyrgyzstan. We had kept in touch and I knew that now she is teaching at the American International School of Douala. So, we could not miss the chance to meet again.

The sun sets behind Mount Cameroon (4,095 m / 13,435 ft), the highest mountain in West Africa.

The sun sets behind Mount Cameroon (4,095 m / 13,435 ft), the highest mountain in West Africa.

   From Douala, we made a two-day excursion to Limbe, in order to enjoy the black, volcanic beaches on the foot of Mount Cameroon. In the morning we were swimming in the Atlantic and in the midday we were already on the lower part of the highest mountain in West Africa, which reaches 4,095 meters (13,435 ft). In Limbe we were hosted by Ebai, a friendly local guy who rents a small room and insisted to leave it all to us while he would sleep over a friend of his.

Some of the tens of fishing boats that moor in Limbe.

Some of the tens of fishing boats that moor in Limbe.

   Having arrived back to Douala on my motorcycle, we were stopped by some municipal policemen, who are scattered around the city and stop the passing drivers, sometimes even by force, in order to gain some money out of them. We were lucky enough not to have to bribe them, as we played fool tourists. Mysteriously enough, however, my motorcycle would not start… I thought he was probably annoyed by the cops too. So, I took him in the shadow, let him cool down a little bit, but he turned out to be really stubborn. We had almost arrived at Dawn’s, so I decided to start pushing him. Of course, it took me more than half an hour in order to cover these two and a half kilometers (1.6 miles).

Christina is training for cowgirl!

Christina is training for cowgirl! (Photo: Caroline te Pas)

   I thought that maybe the engine was overheated in the traffic jam and some valve had remained open. Indeed, using the kick-starter I could tell that the compression inside the cylinder was not enough. Strangely enough, though, the clearance in the valves was the right one. I changed sparkplug, fuel filter, even carburetor! The engine, however, would not start. Inside the carburetor I noticed pieces of soot.

   I could not understand what was going on and my only chance was my mechanic in Greece, Dimitris Katigiannis from NRG. He opened the box with his magic tricks and picked out the one that worked for us: he told me to increase extremely the clearance of the valves and push the motorcycle in order to jump-start it. At last, I could hear the familiar music of my engine again! I restored the clearance of the valves at the right level, changed the oil of the engine and since then everything works properly again. Maybe it was some piece of dirt after all, keeping one of the valves open.

The school bags of the pupils in the countryside are made out of bamboo and they carry them hanging against their forehead.

The school bags of the pupils in the countryside are made out of bamboo and they carry them hanging against their forehead.

   Arriving in the capital of the country, Yaoundé, we met up with Dawn who had caught a bus from Douala. For a weekend we became part of Ascovime, a volunteering group of doctors and medicine students who visit remote villages and offer their invaluable services to those in real need. As we weren’t qualified enough, we took on the packaging of the pills in the right dosage.

   When we completed our task it was time to visit the operating theater. It was nothing fancy: just a room with four walls, a small table to place the tools, a bed for the patients to lie down and lights powered by a generator. No need to say that inside the room you could see all kinds of insects flying around, while from time to time some geckos would make their appearance on the walls. Africans, however, adore geckos, as they eat the insects.

Hundreds of patients arrive from the nearby settlements in order to get examined free of charge by the volunteers of Ascovime.

Hundreds of patients arrive from the nearby settlements in order to get examined free of charge by the volunteers of Ascovime.

   It was our first time watching a surgery taking place and it was quite shocking. 70 % of the operations carried out in these countries are in the abdominal area. Africans use to bend their back without bending their knees at all. In these way, during the hard agricultural work, the belly is the one to take all the pressure, which creates a lot of problems there. Although adults were being operated under just local anaesthesia, there was not even a whisper coming out of their mouth. Georges, the Cameroonian founder of Ascovime, kept operating during the whole night, as the patients were too many. He was working sleepless for more than 48 hours! This is something that he does three out of four weekends every month, while during the week he is working at the main hospital of the capital. This man is really extraordinary and we feel really honoured to having met him. He totally deserved being awarded from CNN as one of the ten heroes of our world.

Georges is a true hero... For two whole days he was operating sleepless and without any profit every villager that was in need!

Georges is a true hero… For two whole days he was operating sleepless and without any profit every villager that was in need!

   When we returned to the capital, unfortunately something bad happened. We were by Christina’s motorcycle on our way to Yoann’s place, where we were being hosted. I was the one driving while Christina was sitting behind me. It was dark and it was raining. On some main square we got trapped in the traffic jam. I heard Christina shouting and I asked her what was the matter but she would not reply. Then I saw somebody running through the cars and the crowd and I began to realize what had happened. Christina told me that somebody was picking her backpack and when she took notice of him, he started running. She was laughing because her backpack is always in such a mess that it is hard even for her to find anything in there, let alone for the thief. But he who laughs last, laughs best… Christina didn’t know that the camera was in her backpack. Unfortunately it was not there any more! The thief had already snatched it and obviously he was not running empty-handed…

In the capital's downtown traffic is often chaotic. It was there where somebody took the opportunity and relieved us from our camera :-(

In the capital’s downtown traffic is often chaotic. It was there where somebody took the opportunity and relieved us from our camera 🙁

   It is the third time during the trip that Christina is being mugged. In Western Sahara and in Ghana we had managed to find the little thieves and take our cell phones back. This time, however, there was not much we could do, so I don’t have my good photo camera with me any more… Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean that you will be left without photos. We had to buy a cheap camera but its quality is obviously much lower.

Yaoundé is one of the most pleasant African capitals we have visited, built on seven hills.

Yaoundé is one of the most pleasant African capitals we have visited, built on seven hills.

   It was time for the hard road to the two Congos. The next two months are expected to be the most demanding of our trip, as we will have to cross the vast jungle through some harsh off-road routes, where some of the most corrupted policemen of our world flourish… The road was tarred until Sangmélima but from there dirt, turning into mud when it’s raining, was abundant.

Cooking under the starry sky in the jungle...

Cooking under the starry sky in the jungle…

   It was there where Christina found her race: the Pygmies! They are some friendly and welcoming natives in these areas, most of them on Christina’s height. She was delighted to meet them in person without having to look up to see them! After two days in the verdant jungle we reached the border with Congo. We were leaving Cameroon, having spent 39 days in this beautiful country, that finally took the second place in our heart, after Guinea of course!

 

Here you can watch the video about our trip in Cameroon:

Soundtracks (Cameroonian music):
Francis Bebey – Bissao
Henri Dikongué – We nde mba
Balafons & African Drums
Francis Bebey – Akwaaba
Francis Bebey – Guinea
Francis Bebey – Di Sengi

 

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