Archive for the ‘Cameroon’ Category

Bamenda to Yaoundé

Russell writes 15/2/11:

Our Bamenda story continues with the eventual arrival of my parts order from the UK. It took about 4 days to get into Douala, Cameroon, but it then takes another 5 days to come up the road to Bamenda! It had been a frustrating wait for a ‘customs delay’ and promises of ‘it will be there tomorrow’. We find, particularly with the African women, that they like to have a job but don’t like to work, but women who work for themselves usually work very hard indeed. Customer service was probably not an African idea, but thankfully we get there in the end and are able to move on.

Mohammed sad to see us go

I was a little apprehensive about the engine re-assembly and finding some random screw or washer left over, but actually, Lucas, Mohammed and Darren did a very good job. Everything was washed in petrol and looked like new and within a couple of days it was time to fire it up. Ok there were a few teething problems, but putting our heads together we got round them and even discovered the more likely source of my fuel problem, the filter. The bark of the exhaust note was greeted with joy all round, then with a touch of sadness as our new Bamenda friends realised it meant our imminent departure. There was also a mixture of feelings for us, we’d stayed long enough in one place to make some friends and now the road south beckoned.

Lucas, Mohammed, Mark, Darren, Russ & Cathrine

The night before we left our usual gang gathered together for a last drink and a fish and chip meal. Mohammed was proudly wearing his new Africa Orbital T-shirt, Lucas full of importation ideas, Catherine smiling all night and Mark saving a nice bottle of red at his place for us after. The next morning we made everyone breakfast before a group photo and saying our goodbyes. It’s good to know we made an impact in the lives of the people we met, and we leave with new friendships being formed in our wake.

Kribi Beach

Oh the road feels so good! Off to Yaoundé for a spot of visa shopping and time is ticking, we have visa expiry dates to keep an eye on. We collected the DR Congo visa on Thursday and as embassies don’t work on the weekend we took off to Kribi beach for a last chance dip in a warm sea. Dan and Anika, a young German couple overlanding in a camper van took us with them to the beach and we enjoyed their company for the weekend. With Darren’s new deluxe omelette, Anika’s delicious tagine, warm sea and hot sun we certainly had a nice time on the coast.

Daniel and Anika

Back in Yaoundé for more visas, we had a few problems from an unusual source. The campsite, Foyer International de l’EglisePresbyterienne, where we left our bikes and some luggage, had agreed to keep our things while we were at the beach, for free. But really alarm bell should have gone off when we hear the landlady charging 200 CFA for a bucket of water (the water was off). We’d heard of 20 CFA for 25 litres… We’ve found that people who are funny about money are exposing a serious character flaw. Sadly this was true of the people here. Not only did they want to charge us but refused us our belongings when disputing the extra charge. But Darren was having none of it and valiantly fought for the traveller’s justice. Things soon spiced up after Darren removed our belongings and she came at him with a machete and baseball bat! Needless to say the police were called and Darren spent the rest of the day giving statements and trying to get our point across while I stayed with all our kit which was still at the crazy woman’s campsite. Thanks should also go to Steffen, a Canadian VSO staying there, who was a great help translating and mediating for us. Thankfully the police didn’t take her too seriously and the British High Commission advised us not to worry asthey would step in if needed. With our last visa being collected today thedoors are now open all the way to Cape Town! Next stop the equatorial jungle of Gabon!

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We’ve put 3 posts on at the same time. you may want to scroll down and read them in reverse. Remember you can clic on pics to enlarge and leave your comments as its always good to hear you feed back… Cheers, enjoy our story so far

Russell writes on 31/1/11:

Can we put it together again?

There are many things on our trip that are challenging, some are down to rider error, route choice etc. but other challenges just seem to come upon us. My bike’s mechanics being one of them. I’d been suffering from poor fuel consumption since Ghana and advice had been not to leave it in case things get worse. We’d tried looking at the more obvious things first, hoping to avoid the scary prospect of taking the engine apart, but unfortunately, the scary day came. Bike mechanics of this kind is over my head completely, and even beyond Darren’s considerable competency, so I employed the services of Lucas, a local ‘big bike’ mechanic.

The special BMW tool

We’d been careful to select a skilled, knowledgeable and experienced guy, who didn’t have any ‘bush’ mechanic about him. However, this is Africa and if you don’t have the correct BMW tool, a lump of teak will do just fine!

So now my engine is in pieces all over our dorm room floor waiting for parts to arrive from the UK. The worrying thing is we’re still not 100% sure we’ve found the source of the fuel problem, just a couple of small things that may have contributed to it. We will put it all back together this week and hope our changes improve the fuel consumption, but if not, our next BMW Motorrad is Windhoek, Namibia!

Mohammed

Our time in Bamenda has given us a chance to explore the area and to make new friends. The Baptist Mission rest house where we are staying has a mechanic and workshop on site where we met Mohammed, his 14 year old apprentice. He’s a lovely kid with a great attitude, hungry to learn and eager to help us in any way, including laundry, shopping and making us Fufu meals. He’s also been a great help to us with the mechanics.

The Fon's place

He’s never been far from Bamenda before so we took him with us to do some sight-seeing. He’d also never been on such a big motorcycle before so with the 3 of us astride Darren’s bike we took off to see the palace of one of the most powerful Fondoms in the area. On one evening Mohammed took us out to a bar where we were able to relax in front of a Manchester United FA cup game and a couple of beers. A little ‘luxury’ we’d been missing ever since the UK.

Buying the yoghurt

 He doesn’t get the chance to visit his family much so we took him to his home village some 30 km away, where we shared a meal and cup of red Cameroonian tea with his mother, grandmother and siblings. Afterwards he took us up the mountain on a horse, bare-back, to see the spectacular Cameroonian mountain vista. We’re here in the dry season so the Harmattan blocks a lot of the view, the rainy season is the best time to visit Cameroon, but that would make travelling on dirt tracks very difficult for us.

Darren in full flow

On the way back Daren enjoyed the bare-back gallop, and Mohammed took us to buy some cheese and yoghurt. The people here are of Fulani origin and traditionally rear and herd cattle, so it was nice to sample some of the local dairy products.

Harmattan

It was lovely to take some time and get involved in local culture, however, we don’t wish to get too involved, his mother was apparently very impressed with us and seeing as she has a couple of unmarried daughters, it was time to leave or stay forever…we will finish our mission I think!

There is a post just published before this one by Russ. You may want to scroll down to view it first. Also remember you can click on the pics to enlarge. Good to speak to you guys from CLC earlier

Written By Darren 28/1/11. Photogaphy by Darren

We said our goodbyes to Des and his family and hit the road again, easing the growing itch in our feet and our need to press on. Our route was via Takum and thereafter, on rough tracks, south towards Bissaula. Before Bissaula we camped off the track after following a small path for a km and finding a peaceful spot to hang our Hammocks and get a restful sleep (the last peaceful night for a while). Not long after starting our dust eating day, before reaching the police post at Bissaula, I lost view of Russ who should have been in my mirror. I rallied back as quickly as the road would allow, for it was likely he had had a fall. I reached him soon. His bike was lying on the floor facing the wrong way and Russ was sat on the verge holding his leg with grimace in his face. Again, not that long after the previous injury had healed, he had fallen on the same ankle. It predictably started to swell as it had before and again Russ was in a familiar pain. Ouch.. Prayers please.Fulani Wommen In Nigera, on their way to market

It was another 50km to the border on a gradually disintegrating track and over river fords. Eventually by lunch we forded the river that divided Nigeria and Cameroon. The Vegetation had started to become more lush and the relief, mountainous. Africa as it seemed was changing again and signified a new chapter in our journey was about to begin. On the far bank of the river (Cameroon), we prepared lunch after having bathed in the cool mountain water. I shared out some shampoo with a local Fulani woman. I don’t think she had experienced shampoo before and was quite impressed with how it cleaned her and her child’s hair! Will offer some shaving foam next time.

Crossing the border

Clean, fed, happy and relaxed we continued unaware of ‘God Almighty’ around the corner.

'God Almighty' This pic doesnt show the angle nor how loose it was

 God Almighty is the name Russ gave to the mountain track which was the first to defeat us. A section over about 80m was

at about 45 degrees steep and full of loose rock. Fully loaded I managed so far until the front wheel went in the air and bike followed to the floor. I picked it back up but every time I tried to ride up the back wheel traction would fail and I’d only manage to slide backwards.  With Russ’ help we managed to get the bike the few more meters where there was a slightly flattened section about a third of the way up. Then some Kids appeared and offered their help. On top of their heads they carried Russ’ Panniers and luggage to the top and Russ took on the first part of ‘God Almighty’. It started well but after only a few meters the track claimed his attempt too. At this point some men had appeared. The Kids took, to the top, my luggage and us guys spent an hour slowly pushing my bike to the top. Absolutely exhausting!  A short rest and we returned for Russ’ bike until eventually we found ourselves so grateful to be at the top and with bikes in one piece. Down the other side was as steep and braking almost impossible as the bike would slide. Still, it was so much easier and with concentration, quickly achieved. Good bye to the guys and onwards in to the ‘Grasslands’ of Cameroon.

Fulani crossing the border

Not sure why they are called the grasslands. It was a mountain range which has a road circling it known as the ’Ring Road’. It was this ring road that we were trying to get too and the most northern town of it had immigration. The Grasslands area was also historically and presently, where numerous Fondoms (Kingdoms) have been forged. Each one different in size but with a degree of autonomy within Cameroon, followed a similar monarchy structure as to what we know. We never made it to immigration but a few hours short we stopped at a village where we were welcomed and invited to sleep the night. We chose not to take some ones bed but camped in the palace compound and entertained the villagers by simply being ‘white’.  The Fon (King of that particular Fondom) wasn’t at home that evening for us to greet but other villagers we did. One of these introduced herself as Princess Helena. She turned out to be such a laugh and good fun to spend time with. This was probably because she was more confident with us than most.

Pulling water for princess Helena and the white me

 The children that night sang us songs. Beautiful voices with one leading and all the others following in cannon, the children sang church hymns translated from their own tribal tongue.

Bye bye to princess Helena and all, including the Fon who had returned, and we were on our way again. The roads remained challenging but the mountainscapes were fun and picturesque to traverse. We finally stamped into Cameroon and headed South West down the ring road. The roads did not improve but proved to continue to be the most difficult on our journey so far. Large rocks, deep dust and washed away parts of the track that had formed deep gullies, continually threatened to throw us from our bikes, which they did on the odd occasion. It continued like this until we reached Nyos Village where a paved road took us up to Lake Nyos. Here there was a small military camp that had been there the last decade since a gas eruption in the lake claimed 1700 lives below. Their job was to ‘guard’ it. It was quite odd with a fountain in the middle that was allowing the gas to escape. We camped with these guys that night and they turned out to be helpful in collecting fire wood and water. Even our washing up was done for us. The Rest of the way (about 50 miles) was easier with parts of the road tarred. We soon arrived to Bamenda city, 1234m up with a cool mountain climate.

The 'Ring Road'

 And it is here we are again stuck with maintenance issues. At least Russ will get time to rest his ankle and we can wash the red dust from our kit.