Cameroon


31 January 2009 - Kribi - added by Steve

Thinking the hotel marked on our GPS was near the border we decided we'd head there to allow an early crossing into Cameroon. When we arrived at the border post we realised it was in fact in Cameroon, but decided to press on and cross in the evening, hoping to get to the hotel before night fell. Border formalities proved to be painless until the official at the final immigration check asked to see our insurance. Having managed to cross into Nigeria without being robbed blind, in our exuberance we'd forgotten to get insurance, and had actually crossed the entirety of Nigeria without any! (Sorry Mum!) When the border guard realised we didn't have any so the fun began... or so we thought. In fact he was just concerned for our dealing with subsequent checkpoints, and with no insurance broker at the border post, was unsure as to what to do. After phoning around he eventually arranged for us to meet someone in a town several 100kms down the road. He wrote his and the insurance broker's details on a photocopy of my passport to show at checkpoints, hopefully allowing us passage safe from vast fines! Finally all the arrangements were in place and we were free, in pitch dark, to negotiate our way down the potholed track that led to the hotel we were aiming for.

Early the next morning we started on the infamous road to Mamfe. Widely regarded as the worst road in Africa, I concur! Luckily we crossed in the dry season, which meant the 60kms only took us 5 hours! In the rainy season it is not uncommon to take a week! Nonetheless there were still mud holes so deep that once Songololo was inside, someone on the side of the road wouldn't be able to see her at all! We came across 3 bogged-down cars blocking our path, but luckily Songololo's huge winch put paid to them and we were able to make progress, albeit slow. It was in the mud that Songololo truly came into her own... sections were so bad that local "entrepreneurs" had cut tracks into the bush along the side of the road, charging a toll for passage! Low-first with the diff-lock on, we chugged straight through the mud hole, much to the consternation of said entrepreneur!



At great length we made it to Mamfe and turned south onto a timber road heading towards Mount Cameroon. We wound our way through the most incredibly beautiful rainforest, coming across a tiny settlement perhaps every 30kms or so. The timber road was rough going though, and after several hours of bouncing around we were dreaming of tar. When the tar finally arrived it lasted for mere kilometres before disintegrating completely into a potholed sun-baked dirt track which was a corrugated nightmare to drive on, and for Roxy, worse than the Mamfe road! The road seemed interminable, but we eventually reached a checkpoint, sure sign we'd arrived at our overnight destination, Kumba. When the policemen asked to see our insurance my heart fell... surely now the fun would begin! I tried to pass him our Carnet de Passage, but he wasn't falling for such a lame trick. Eventually I showed him the border guard's details and explained we were due to arrange insurance the following day. I was sure this would not work. Suddenly a huge grin broke out on the policeman's face... the border guard was his brother! After asking after him he wished us a safe journey and allowed us on our way! After having started at day break, and arriving in Kumba as night fell, a full day of driving had allowed us a monumental 240kms of progress!

Arriving at the hotel in Kumba we explained we wanted to sleep inside Songololo, and were merely looking for a secure place to park. The initial quote was 25000CFA (almost 40 euros!) which had me spluttering! We negotiated down to 5000CFA, a far more agreeable price! Buggered, we fell to the beers and slowly unwound the hard driving, chatting with who we thought was the manager. Turns out he was just a guest, but had taken it upon himself to set the price for parking, hoping to make a commission on the side no doubt! Upon retiring to Songololo to prepare dinner we suddenly had an unexpected guest, the "manager's" tipsy 18 year old prostitute who begged us to take her with us to South Africa! It took some doing to get her out of the truck, but not before she'd cooked herself 2 eggs which she didn't eat!

The next day we finally managed to sort out insurance and continued south, hoping to reach Limbe, a beautiful coastal town below the slopes of Mount Cameroon. After a religious celebration went wrong and a local drowned, our accommodation choice, 6 Mile Beach, had been indefinitely closed, and we found ourselves on the hunt for a new place. We moved on to the Botanical Gardens which has a small hotel inside nestled on the sea cliffs. Unable to drive under the low entrance gate we parked outside on the cliffs overlooking the sea, truly magnificent! It was here that we met Danny, a lone Swiss traveller who is exploring Gabon and Cameroon by public transport - hardcore! We explored the local area, visiting a stunning crater lake formed from a long extinct volcano, and a beautiful old lighthouse, now defunct and being taken over by the surrounding jungle. Unfortunately we were to leave Limbe without ever getting to see Mount Cameroon, which stubbornly refused to emerge from beneath it's covering of clouds.



We continued down the coast to spend a night in Kribi which is an incredibly beautiful beachside village, before taking another really rough road through the jungle en route to the border. Going was slow, hampered by the bad state of the road and numerous deep mud holes. In one such mud hole we met an oncoming truck vastly overloaded. As it crept past us it lurched sideways going through a pothole and gouged a huge scrape down the side of Songololo and smashed a hole into our bathroom window. We were gutted, after surviving virtually unscathed thus far our beautiful truck bore its first significant scar! Soon after this the heavens opened and the rain turned the already difficult road into a slippery nightmare. After nearly sliding off the side of the road into the surrounding jungle we decided to wait out the rain. It soon cleared up but the roads were still hopelessly treacherous. We limped into the nearest village and asked to stay the night off the road. We spent the night next to a beautiful colonial-era building beneath the towering trees of the jungle, relieved to have survived the road thus far and appreciating the breathtaking surroundings.



The entirety of our last day in Cameroon was spent battling terrible roads as we made our way further south towards Gabon.



Comments:

1 .
Nice one guys, glad you are coming along alright. Well written articles your sending out here!
Wayde - 19 Feb 2009, 12:42

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