Cameroon - all Africa in one country. So we read about Cameroon in the tourist guides. Indeed, diversity is great - there are over 200 different languages and ethnicity, mountains and rain forests, beaches and lakes ... everyone can find their paradise here.
We crossed the border in Banki and the first car that took us along the dirt empty road. We drove directly to Marua, from where we had to get Cameroon visas. The driver - Amadou- the first Cameroonian we met, invited us to sleep in his house and treated us with a delicious traditional dinner. He lives in a large house with a beautiful yard with fruit and palm trees and gave us a room with a bathroom. Marua is clean and friendly city, very different from cities in West Africa. There were big streets with sidewalks and trees on both sides, making a shade throughout the day. There were even trash containers and garbage trucks. But the most picturesque is the river, which passes through the city and in the dry season was completely gone. Its dry sandy bed had turned into a long football stadium. Like in Valencia, where we saw how people moved the river and turned the old bed of the river into playgrounds, here, naturally, the river turned into a playground during the dry season. People were exercising, running and mostly playing football. Some made the laundry in deep holes where there was water.
|the dry river|
|the dry river|
We took our visas in Marua for 80 Euro per person, but to our great disappointment, they gave us only one month visas, totally inadequate for this large, diverse country. No time to waste, we immediately went to the nearby mountains Mandara, and left our backpacks at Amadou. We hitched until Mokolo and from there we walked miles on foot along the dirt road through villages in the mountains. Here the mountains are not very high-to 1000m but are very picturesque. There was almost no traffic and the only way was to take a bike or walk. We walked five days in the mountains around Rumsiki and Koza. The mountains were beautiful, but very dry. In northern Cameroon is still savanna with few trees and yellow grass and it was the end of the dry season. There was no water found in nature. In some villages did not even have a pump. Where was the village pump, filling 12-13 liters and wore them with us. But even so did not have enough for a whole day. So you could not spend a lot of civilization, had to pour water at least 2 times a day.
|foot water pump, typical for the villages here|
We went back to Marua, said goodbye to Amadou and we headed south. There were 1500 km to the capital. On the exit of Marua 2 women picked us up - the first women who picked us in Africa. He driver was called Vanya – Cameroonese with a Russian name. They dropped us 20 kilometers after Marua and there we had to spend the night. It was a very flat, dry field, almost no trees, nowhere to hide. We walked over one kilometer off the road, but still we could see clearly the cars and people. Finally, we put the tent near a haystack hoping that nobody will see us. In the evening, however, just when we were finishing dinner, five men with machetes approached us. We were quite scared and armed ourselves with our only knife. They asked us why we are there and said that we should go with them in the village to talk with chief. We told them that if we cannot sleep here, we will immediately move, but they did not want us to go, they just wanted some present. We explained that we have no present, no money and the only thing we have to give them is a smile and positive energy. Finally they asked us to write down our names and addresses and left us with the promise that tomorrow we will visit their village. We felt relief when they went away, but still we didn't dare to put on our headlights all evening. Fortunately everything was fine and in the morning we left before they came again.
For all day we managed to hitch over 500 km to Ngaundere with 2 cars and one truck. We stayed in the mountains near the city. The next day we waited 3-4 hours on the road without any success. The road was not paved and the traffic was very little. We did not have much time because of the visa and decided to take the train to the capital Yaounde. From here tarts the only train in Cameroon, which travels every night for Yaounde. We decided it would be a good adventure to catch the first African train in our journey and the next morning we would be in the capital. After 5 hours waiting for tickets at the last minute we got 2 tickets 2nd class. We could not believe that so many people travel every day, although the tickets were not cheap at all. Among the great fuss and thousands of people we threw our backpacks in the luggage wagon and climbed. Luckily there were seats for everybody, but so close against each other that people in front of you constantly kick you. Sleeping was impossible, but at least we had fun. Salesmen yelled constantly offering all sorts of things - from cosmetics an food to medicines and cures. At all stops throngs of people crowded the windows and offered local products, even in the dark hours of the night. Each stop had a different specialty - here only bananas, then local honey ... and everybody in the wagon was buying the product.Sometimes the train would leave without people to manage to get the change or the purchase. At 5 am a pastor came with cassette recorder and started screaming really loud telling people to pray. Then he played gospel and yelled at everybody to sing. That lasted about half an hour, but nobody paid attention. At least the train was relatively fast and after about 15 hours we arrived safely in Yaounde. We had an arrangement with two Brazilians from CS- Pablo and Livia who hosted us for a few days. Here we applied for Gabon visas which cost us some more 80 euros per person. Visas now became unbearably expensive, as if these countries do not want foreigners. But there was no way to escape from ths system no matter where we went. We all live in it.
Along with Pablo and Livia we met other Spanish-Portugal-speaking people, went to some reggae concert and a expatriates party. The next day we headed to Mt Cameroon - 4090 meters - the highest in West Africa. For a long time we had not seen a big mountain and we were very eager to go trekking. We left quite late - at 15.30 o'clock, but luckily we immediately hitched a direct car to Douala for 240 km. The driver was called Ahmed and spoke English. He was impressed from our journey did not stop questioning us about our experiences. Finally, he wanted to drive us the next day to Buea - the village from where the trekking to the peak starts. He said he worked in the tea factory near and would be happy to show it to us. We slept in Douala on couchsurfing with Florent, who also brought us to some concert this time with local music. In the morning we called Ahmed and he came to pick us up. He drove us around Limbe, then showed us the tea factory Tole and left us in the tourist office in Buea, where we had to take a guide. In the beginning we did not want to take a guide. Until now we never had a guide, but later we realized that here it was really necessary. Without him we would have been lost in the jungle and would not find the water points. At least we did not to pay for porters, who were also required, but we explained that we could carry our own backpacks. They gave us a guide named Fritz for 4 days and the next morning we headed up the mountain. We knew that here it rains a lot year round, so we were prepared for all conditions. The locals call it "mountain of thunder”. We had jackets, rain ponchos, warm clothes, all the food for 4 days and plenty of water. Although the mountain is wet and rainy, there were only two water points throughout our four days trekking. Our guide however was not so well prepared. He had no tent or sleeping mat, not even a jacket, and when it got cold he put socks on his hands and something like a swimming cap on his head. Climbing the Guinness route was pretty steep and difficult with the backpacks. In the morning we walked in the hot rain forest and in the night in the high bare mountain was almost below 0ºC. The difference in temperatures was shocking and we had to put all the warm clothes on. We were to sleep at the second shelter in a tent at 2800 asl. There we met a group of Canadians who made an attempt for night climbing at 1.30 at night, but returned failing to reach the summit due to the cold. They walked back down the same path and over the next three days we didn't met any other people.
On the second day we reached summit. We were high above the clouds and the sun was smiling at us - something not so typical for this mountain. At the top was terribly cold and windy, but even there was still grass and vegetation. We descended at the other side of the mountain through rivers of cold lava. The steep slope, studded with small black stones was quite slippery and we started lava-boarding down for the faster moving and more fun. We ran down turning left and right, falling down and getting up to continue again. We walked for 10 hours, we saw the craters of 1999 eruptions and in the evening we arrived at the Man Spring - the last shelter and water point on the way. We rested there happily as we thought that the toughest part of the trekking is over. The next day, however we had 10 hours descending through the thick jungle, which proved more difficult than climbing to the top. We walked on in the wet ground in small, overgrown path made by poachers. The last tourists passed from here 3 months ago and in some places the trail disappeared, swallowed up by jungle, and Fritz had to make the way with his machete. Walking was slow because of the many obstacles – fallen trees, high vegetation and slippery mud. Our feet were totally wet only after the first hour walking through the wet grass, and in the evening they looked like large mushrooms. We were supposed to see forest elephants and chimpanzees, but we only saw fresh elephant dung. Fritz told us we should arrive at 16.00, but at 17.00 we were still walking through the dark forest that looked endless. “Are we close"- we asked more and more often. "No, we are far” - Fritz answered each time. Just when we thought to stop somewhere to sleep, it started raining heavily. There was no where to hide and we decided to walk until dark. We had many blisters on the feet from the 3-day walk and we were all over wet. The path became even more slippery and we were falling in the mud very often. Here in the rain no shoes can save you. Finally we got to the sleeping point around 19 o’clock and it turned out that there's nothing there. Just a small space in the bamboo forest. Not even a shed to hide from the rain. The forest was quite wild. Because of lack of water and difficult access (the nearest road is 8 hours descent) there were no people. The rain continued in full force and Fritz was trying to make a fire. He stood in the rain without a jacket and did not even had where to sit. Fortunately he made the fire and soon it stopped raining. We gave Fritz gave a survival foil, which protects from moisture and cold and a jacket and told him if there is rain to come to our tent. We survived the night and morning, 08.04, Lora's birthday, the sun smiled at us again. After a long struggle we managed to light a fire with wet bamboos and dried our clothes and shoes. Today we had to get to the ocean and we were already dreaming about the warm beach.
craters of 1999
he path through the jungle often became very overgrown
The day went well from the beginning with a birthday breakfast with the last bread and chocolate and after 3-4 hours walking through the jungle, we reached Bakingili-a village on the coast with beautiful black volcanic beaches. On the way to the beach we were stopped and told that there were male and female beach. They would not let us together and we went on for 50 meters where it was neutral territory. It was a wonderful beach with palm trees near the water and fine black sand. But it was not good for camping because there were fishermen and local drunks. We parted with Fritz and continued to Limbe, where we had a meeting with Hannes from Germany and his Cameroonese friends Flora and Bantu. There we celebrated with the local palm wine. The evening ended with a reggae concert, where as we entered the band began to play Happy Birthday. It turned out that there is another birthday in the bar, but still was a good gift.
|With Fritz after the trek|