Thursday, June 30, 2011

Cameroon 2

The last two weeks in Cameroon slipped by really fast. We stayed three days in Limbe in the small room of Bantu. Bantu was one of the coolest rastaman we met in Africa. He made beautiful things with natural materials and was preparing his art cafe named 'Bantu Coffee Nzimbistic Art Garden' with enthusiasm. Unlike most people here, he was not obsessed with money, he had never tried alcohol or cigarettes. We could honestly talk to him about many things. We met also a rasta policeman (already retired after 30 years service) who smoked big blunts, rolled in notebook paper all day longHe was a big reggae fan and had a huge collection of DVD-s, more than 10 different pairs of Nike trainers and a red sports convertible. We visited a reggae concert and a funeral in the house of Bantu. Here funerals are done every year after the death and usually are big feasts with music, drinking and eating all night. 
Limbe is a beautiful town with many beaches around. People speak English in this part of Cameroon which was wonderful for us. Here, unlike other countries, no one is bothering us for money and gifts. People are just smiling and greeting us and almost everybody is shouting to Evgeni: 'Jesus! Jesus! '. In some villages the children stared with long drooping jaw, as if they had seen a ghost, wondering whether this is really Jesus. Otherwise people live better lives here. Land is fertile, there is water, there are many fruits and fish and there are not really hungry people. However, the extremely popular 'bush meat' or wild animals meat is being sold everywhere along the road cooked or as a whole animal.There were many poachers and people are eating everything that moves in the forest - monkeys, antelopes, squirrels and even elephants. There was no control over this
God with us communications. Similar inscriptions are common here - on shops,cars or buses. 
We headed back to Yaounde to get our passports from the Gabonese embassy. The hitching was relatively good on the main road Limbe - Douala - Yaoundé. A Mercedes 320 with a businessman working with oil picked us.  After we explained that we travel from Bulgaria to here by hitch-hiking, he asked us the usual questions: 'Why? What is your profit from this?". We replied that our profit is experience, knowledge and wonderful еmotionsThis is the difference between white man and black man - he replied: A white man can do many things without money, but the black man will do nothing if there is no profit." Unfortunately a lot of people here were thinking this way which made us wonder why he was giving us a ride for free and wouldn’t he ask for money after all, although he drives a new, shiny Mercedes. The hitching up to now actually went quickly and we never paid. Usually we asked whether it is free beforehand and if they want money, we just kindly refuse. Most people, however, could never understand what was hitchhiking, although they picked us themselves. When we explained in details how we came to here from Bulgaria for free –without bus, taxi or airplane they thought we were lying, or we were crazy.Free? In Africa? It is not possible! " 
The conversation with the businessman continued like this: 'I want to take a woman from Bulgaria' - he said. He already had one, but wanted to have at least 4-5. Although people here are Christians, polygamy is very popular and there is no limit of women one man can 'take'. There were enough rich men having 50 women. 'How much a woman in Bulgaria costs? " - Asked the businessman. 'It’s free' – we answered - 'Love does not cost money'. This really confused him, he thought for a moment how it is possible and said - 'But if you didn’t pay for your wife, then how would you know that she belongs to you?" '”She doesn’t belong to anybody. She is a completely free individual just like you'. This surprised him even more and he concluded that white women and black women are different.  After some time, as we expected, the businessman asked for money. We told him once again that we travel only by hitch-hiking and if he does not want us, he’d better stop to get off and continue with someone else. He did not want to stop and said we would pay less than normal. We insisted that we would not give a single franc. Despite all our explanations he hadn’t understood that we came all the way to here by hitch-hiking, for free. He asked us: 'If I leave you here, how will you continue? By walking? " Finally, after we patiently explained to him once again that we travel everywhere like this, he agreed not to take money from us. The rest of our trip he was talking about God and his church. Here, everybody attended some church different than any other, with different perception of Christianity. Most people were very religious, prayed regularly in their church and we were asked about our religion almost every day. According to the businessman God loves only us, the people and everything  else he made for us to use it. He gave us the animals to kill and the forest to cut it down. The idea that animals can finish and that some of them are already extinct or endangered due to human activity, was totally unknown here. The same applies for the large hundreds of years old tropical trees that are being cut every day. Equatorial forests seem so vast and endless, that people don’t see anything wrong in cutting them. Almost no one has even heard about the importance of these forests for our planet. But when people are hungry, they dont think about endangered animals and forests. The sad thing is that even rich businessmen dont think about it. Everyone thinks only about money.

with Tita in Yaounde
With another car we reached Yaounde and when we got the passports the next day, we were unpleasantly surprised. It turned out that our monthly visa for Gabon, for which we paid 80euro per person had almost expired. It started from the day we applied not the dates we had requested. The visa for Cameroon was also not enough. There were so many beautiful places here, and our visa already ended. We tried to extend it, but it was too expensive.
In Yaoundé, we
stayed at Tita a Portuguese, working in the European Commission here. She received us hospitably in her home and even helped us change the dates of Gabonese visa. She had traveled a lot and we shared a lot of experiences. We visited a three-day reggae festival, a djembe party and celebrated the birthday of Evgeni with Tita and and her friend Rizbo at home with homemade cake. Rizbo was a hip-hop singer and was very funny. We met also many reggae artists and reggae fans here. Yaounde attracted us like a magnet and without noticing 5-6 days have passed. We had great fun here, but the visa has almost expired and we had to head to Gabon. 

First we went to Kribi for a few days where the best beaches here are. A number of beautiful lagoons with mango trees, palm trees and other plants growing from the sand. The most amazing thing here is the waterfall Lope near Kribi, which falls directly into the ocean from the flowing river. For the first time we saw a river ending with a waterfall into the ocean. We slept a few days in different bays in the tent and from time to time we walked for water and food to the village. There were many 'campsites', which represented a wooden shed without water or electricity where some local people live offering food and security. We met a rastaman with a beard who invited us for free to pitch our tent in his garden on the beach. He had made a paradise place with lots of flowers, fruits, palm trees and a small wooden cottage just a few meters from the ocean. He was living real simple life and looked very happy. He said he did not want to travel anywhere – here is his place. He brought us mangoes from the forest and a strange fruit, tasting like a potato but growing on a tree in the form of a big green ball.

Lope Waterfall

in the magic garden on the beach
some of the flowers in the rastaman's garden
С нежелание си тръгнахме от градината на растата, но от визите ни оставаха 2 дни и имахме труден път до границата. Трябваше да изминем 170 км черен път преди да се включим в главния път за Габон. Първата нощ спахме в началото на черния път в гъстата, тъмна гора, пълна с комари и насекоми. На другия ден след цял ден стопиране успяхме да изминем 80 км с няколко коли и камиони. От време на време имаше някое малко селце в гората. Видяхме пигмеи и други месни племена. На следващия ден визата ни изтичаше и трябваше до 18 часа да сме минали границата. А ние бяхме на безлюден черен път на 100 км от главния път и на 200 км от границата. Станахме рано, но до 10 часа не беше минала нито една кола. Бяхме решени да хванем какъвто и да е транспорт - платен или не, за да не изпуснем визите. Пътят беше бавен и трябваха поне 3 часа до разклона. Накрая мина bush taxi (така наричат споделените таксита в Африка) с 9 човека вътре, един на покрива и толкова претъпкан багажник, че стоеше отворен. И все пак спряха и настояха да ни качат. Казахме им, че няма място, но за bush taxi-тата винаги имаше място за още един. В случая бяхме двама с две големи раници. Казаха, че няма да има друга кола до вечерта и решихме да се натоварим. В горката Toyota Corolla станахме общо 10 души вътре и двама на покрива. Евгени отиде на покрива, където пътуването беше най-комфортно. Вътре бяха 4-ма отпред и 6-ма отзад. Шофьорът седеше в ъгълчето на седалката си и се присягаше вдясно за волана и скоростите. Багажникът беше отворен докрай с нашите раници, вързани с въжета и на това отгоре качихме още двама души по пътя. Така станаха 4-ма на покрива и 10 вътре - абсолютен рекорд за една кола и при това пътят беше брутален. Преди полицейския пост за града слязохме да преминем пеша, за да останат в колата само 5-6 души. Разбира се, всичко това ставаше пред очите на полицаите, но такива бяха правилата тук. С облекчение слязохме от Тoйота-та в Еболова, където се включихме в асфалтовия път за границата и продължихме да стопираме. За пореден път се убедихме, че стопът е много по-удобен и бърз от платения транспорт в Африка. В Eболова напазарувахме и хапнахме набързо и продължихме да чакаме на пътя. Чакахме повече от час, но накрая стопът се отпуши и с две коли стигнахме на границата точно на време- към 16 часа - 2 часа преди да ни изтекат визите.We left the garden of the rastaman unwillingly, but we had two days left and we had a long way to the border. We had to travel 170 km dirt road before we joined the main road to Gabon. The first night we slept at the beginning of the dirt road in a dense, dark forest, full of mosquitoes and insects. The day after we were hitching all day to travel 80 km with several cars and trucks. Occasionally there was a small village in the woods. We saw pygmies and other tribes. The next day our visa expired and we had 18 hours to cross the border.  And we were on a deserted dirt road 100 km from the main road and 200 km from the border. We started earlier, but up to 10o’clock not one car has passed. We were determined to catch any kind of transport - paid or not, in order not to miss the visa. The road was slow and we had at least 3 hours driving to the main road. Finally a bush taxi (shared taxi) with 9 people inside and one on the roof stoppedThey were completely packed up with luggage and people but still they demanded to take us. We told them that there is no place, but the bush taxis always had room for one more. In our case we were two with two large backpacks. They said no other car will come until the evening and we decided to jump in. In the poor Toyota Corolla we became 10 people inside and two on the roof. Evgeni went on the roof where the journey was much more comfortable. Inside there were 4 people in front and 6 at the back. The driver was sitting in the corner of his seat stretching his hands to the right to reach for the wheel and the gears.The boot was fully open with our backpacks, tied with ropes and on top of that we picked two more men on the road. Thus we became 4 people on the roof and 10 inside - an absolute record for a normal car and the road was brutal. Before the city at the police post we had to get out of the car and walk while only 5-6 people remain in the car. Of course, all this was happening  in front of the eyes of the police, but such were the rules here. Finally after three hours we reached Ebolova and got off the taxi with relief. Here the paved road started and we continued hitching. Once again, we were convinced that hitch-hiking is much more convenient and faster than the paid transport in Africa. In Ebolova we waited a long time on the road, but eventually two cars took us to the border at 16,00 o’clock - just in time - two hours before our visas expire.

Free Rototom Reggae Festival, Udine, Italy, June 2010

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