Countries Visited

Svalbard Spain United States of America Antarctica South Georgia Falkland Islands Bolivia Peru Ecuador Colombia Venezuela Guyana Suriname French Guiana Brazil Paraguay Uruguay Argentina Chile Greenland Canada United States of America United States of America Israel Jordan Cyprus Qatar United Arab Emirates Oman Yemen Saudia Arabia Iraq Afghanistan Turkmenistan Iran Syria Singapore China Mongolia Papua New Guinea Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Malaysia Tiawan Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Laos Thailand Myanmar Bangladesh Sri Lanka India Bhutan Nepal Pakistan Afghanistan Turkmenistan Tajikistan Kyrgyzstan Uzbekistan Japan North Korea South Korea Russia Kazakhstan Russia Montenegro Portugal Azerbaijan Armenia Georgia Ukraine Moldova Belarus Romania Bulgaria Macedonia Serbia Bosonia & Herzegovina Turkey Greece Albania Croatia Hungary Slovakia Slovenia Malta Spain Portugal Spain France Italy Italy Austria Switzerland Belgium France Ireland United Kingdom Norway Sweden Finland Estonia Latvia Lithuania Russia Poland Czech Republic Germany Denmark The Netherlands Iceland El Salvador Guatemala Panama Costa Rica Nicaragua Honduras Belize Mexico Trinidad & Tobago Puerto Rico Dominican Republic Haiti Jamaica The Bahamas Cuba Vanuatu Australia Solomon Islands Fiji New Caledonia New Zealand Eritrea Ethiopia Djibouti Somalia Kenya Uganda Tanzania Rwanda Burundi Madagascar Namibia Botswana South Africa Lesotho Swaziland Zimbabwe Mozambique Malawi Zambia Angola Democratic Repbulic of Congo Republic of Congo Gabon Equatorial Guinea Central African Republic Cameroon Nigeria Togo Ghana Burkina Fasso Cote d'Ivoire Liberia Sierra Leone Guinea Guinea Bissau The Gambia Senegal Mali Mauritania Niger Western Sahara Sudan Chad Egypt Libya Tunisia Morocco Algeria
Map Legend: 28%, 75 of 263 Territories

Monday, June 7, 2010

Our camera goes to Cameroon

Our entrance to Cameroon (Cameroun if you are French speaking) was relatively straight-forward: take a shared taxi down a bad road to the border town, walk across the border, take a taxi down an even worse road to our destination for the day. The woman at the Cameroon crossing made the saddest attempt ever to collect a bribe when she said to Tara: "Looks like those mosquitoes have bitten you a lot. For a small bribe, I could make that stop." In the meantime, she was processing our papers with efficiency, so maybe she was just joking. Then again, this was Cameroon, where nearly all the local police are corrupt...

Now, to the pictures. In the North of Cameroon, we went to the area called Ring Road, which is a bit of misnomer since it has probably been at least 10 years since the road actually went in a complete ring. We got a driver for the day, which wasn't much more than unreliable public transport, and were off to see the famed waterfalls near Wa. The area is all very green grasslands. Here is a picture from the road.
Our driver had driven between cities many times, but had never actually stopped at any tourist spots, so he got to see some new places. It meant that when we got close, he would have to start asking locals where to go. In this case, he paid some woman with three small kids to get in the car with us and show us the way. Funny since you walk 10 feet off the road and then see the huge overlook and falls.
Much of the area is used for farming, with the lowest, wettest parts of the valley used for growing rice during wet season. Some of the valleys are just overrun with beautiful grass, though. This valley had a mix of both.
After the Falls, our next stop was palace of the Fon of Bali. A Fon is basically a king with additional magical powers. Namely, he can become any animal he wants, can send magical forces to fight or kill others, and is nearly omnipotent (though not omniscient). He has dozens of wives, and inherits the wives of his father, though his mother becomes essentially the queen if alive rather than a wife of her son... They wouldn't let us take pictures in the palace, but it was really more like 100 huts for all the wives surrounded by a wall. Outside was this "talking drum", which is used even today to send messages over long distances to neighboring villages, which can then retransmit them as needed. Much like telegraph operators.

Our taxi driver liked us so much (or was fishing for a tip) that he took us to a lovely lookout over Bamenda, the city where we were staying. Here we are with the city in the background. The sun is bright--thus my squintiness. After this, he also took us to meet his sons and see his house. Like so many places in the world, he lived in a tiny, two-room, cinder block house, but somehow can afford satellite television.
As it turned out, the taxi driver told us that it was Independence Day. The 50th, in fact. We missed some of the pageantry while at the Falls, but did catch the fireworks that night.
Next, we made our way to Limbe, a beach city on the coast. We had thought about hiking Mt. Cameroon, but it was rainy and we weren't really up to a multi-day hike. In a moment of sunshine, we visited the local zoo, which is run by the Pandrillus organization that we visited in Nigeria. They do a good job. Here is a mandrill, which is doesn't look like we will see in nature. Looks like a drill with more color.
The tourism office in Limbe is called the Fako Tourism Office. Would you use the Fako office to book your travels? We might have had they actually been open.
While visiting the botanical gardens, where we refused to pay extra to take pictures, I managed to discreetly take a picture of this lovely bird. Can't tell you what it might be, so we'll call it a robin redbreast. Hey, it definitely has a red breast.
The coast of Limbe looks out towards Equatorial Guinea. I had dreams of visiting, but these dreams were quashed when we discovered that the National Park has been closed and that having a map in the country can land you in jail.
In Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, and a nice city other than that it was without running water for the entire time that we were there, the Social Security building seems to have cancer. I take it to be a political statement about the cancer that Social Security is on the system.
Across from that building is the bank building with African themed murals covering it. Very interesting to look at, but we would have never trusted them enough to use the ATM there.
From Yaounde, we continued to Kribi, another beach town. They have a waterfall that they claim is the only waterfall to empty directly into the ocean. Unfortunately, it actually empties into a river several hundred feet from the ocean and we have been to other falls that do empty into the ocean, but a nice thought.
Cameroon is a bilingual country with part of the country speaking English, but most speaking French. This often leads to funny translations like this sign. We couldn't agree more, though we aren't really sure what a canker worm looks like.
From the Kribi Falls (called Lobe Falls), we took a boat ride to go to the local Pygmy village. I had been getting excited about seeing Pygmies for at least a month. Unfortunately, when we showed up, rather than being greeted by Munchkins with spears, we were greeted by some people about Tara's height who were really angry that our guide didn't bring them any cigarettes and wouldn't give them money because the chief was away. At one point, a guy did hold a spear threateningly at the throat of the guide. At this point, we had to run away, jumping in our boat as the guide pushed it offshore and started paddling quickly while looking back to see if they were following. Sadly, that meant no pictures, but it would not have been a good picture in any case.
We walked the 5 miles back from the waterfalls to our hotel along the beach. Most of it had nothing around and made for a pleasant swim.
From Kribi, we decided to go south to Campo-Ma'an National Park, where we would pay motorcycle drivers to drive us many hours across the park, from where we could get transport to Gabon. This was based on my conversations in Yaounde with the Communications Director for the park. Only later did we learn that Communications Director is really just a propaganda minister. We did convince two of the official park guide/motorcycle drivers that this was a good idea,though. The first day, we drove about 90 minutes to a eco-lodge, where they told us they had people all the time, only to confide that this meant at least once a month. On my night walk around the lodge, I found this praying mantis.
And this cicada.
And this gecko.
This is what the path looked like in good condition. Unfortunately, the torrential downfall that began shortly after this prevents me from showing you what the "trail" looked like when it consisted entirely of 8 foot tall weeds and no visible path. What to do but drive the motorcycles right at them? Tara and I cowered behind the drivers to avoid being hit in the face, but nothing could prevent the deluge from soaking us (and most of our stuff). After about 7 hours, we made it, having heard many animals, but seen only animal poop. Because of this, Tara now supports the burning of the rainforest.
In southern Cameroon, the police are very corrupt, with all the local police examining the smallest details of our documents looking for things that could create "fines". We never paid any, but it was a real pain. The national police at the border were very friendly, though, and spoke good English.

Cameroon was a very green country, and we generally enjoyed it. The people aren't quite as friendly as Nigeria, but were mostly nice. Kribi had nice beaches, and Yaounde was a lovely city. Worth the visit, and some people even speak English!

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