Cameroon has it all, from alluring beaches to dramatic landscapes, to include west Africa’s highest peak (Mount Cameroon, 4095 m). We encountered some of the roughest roads to date but luckily, the rain abetted so no strenuous efforts were made to free the truck from some of the muddiest bog holes. We started our Cameroonian adventure celebrating Becky’s birthday in the friendly border crossing village of Ekok, followed by surviving tortuously hilly terrain and dismal road conditions to Mamfe. A series of bush camps brought us to idyllic Limbe, where we made our way to the nearby town of Buéa and trekked up Mt Cameroon and watched the local youths parade the streets of Limbe celebrating “Youth Day”, a National holiday. Applying for onward visas required a detour to Yaounde which unfortunately proved to be a crime ridden city with several attempted pickpocket attempts on various members of our group, as well as a successful daytime market robbery. We escaped the capital city for the lovely beach resort town of Kribi where wonderful seafood complete with a waterfall plummeting directly into the ocean awaited us. Overall, it was a pleasant couple of weeks spent in Cameroon which has much to offer visitors.
7 Feb: The Cameroon side also wanted to see all of us, and the female border official was especially nasty to everyone. The only person she loved was Lars (her sister lives in Norway) so she shook his hand and flirted outrageously with him. She was also a bit kind to Sara and Norma, but was downright rude to everyone else. The money changers at the border were offering crap exchange rates (3000 Central African CFA for 5000 West African CFA even though the official exchange rate is 1:1), so we opted to hold onto our money. We had a short 150 meter drive to our hotel for the night, the Boston Complex Resort Inn. After setting up our tents, we walked back to the border to change money. Well, rather Luke changed money for us (900 CFA for 1000 CFA) and we stopped in a nearby bar for group drinks (each beer was 600 CFA). The locals were fun (especially Jackson) and we had a good time chatting it up and drinking the afternoon away. Robby befriended a guy named George who told him he earns his living by buying cheap fuel in Nigeria and smuggling it into Cameroon to sell at a profit. The street meat vendors were making brisk business selling delicious skewers of meat to hungry overlanders. Eventually, we all wandered back to the hotel campsite for pre-dinner drinks (Becky’s b-day/new country party was in full swing). Despite their earlier promises, the hotel provided neither power nor water, so Nancy had a full on argument with the owner and demanded a refund. We kept drinking until dinner was served and it was a yummy meal of beef with pesto. For the brave souls who ventured into the bathrooms, they came back reporting that there was no water to flush and the doorframes had been built way too low to accommodate anyone over 5’7”, so lots of sore heads were a direct result. The after dinner party continued on the truck and Bree broke out birthday balloons for Becky (thanks Bree!) which subsequently were given the throng of kids hanging outside the truck. Jackson gathered the group around to make a special speech on how he had a special Birthday song for Becky and what did he sing but the traditional “happy birthday” tune…hilarious! Good times were had until 11 pm when we called it a night.
8 Feb: Breakfast was at 7 am and boy was it an early morning. A highly irate Mad Dawg Chris was perturbed by last night’s festivities and the resulting beer/trash spillage and poor Hoff got blamed for the incident. Nancy was the first one to wake Hoff up asking him to clean and mop the truck floor, and then Ruth was sent for him. Finally at breakfast, when Hoff still hadn’t been on the truck to help clean up, Mad Dawg went off on him and demanded that it be done immediately (i.e. before Hoff had breakfast). What a mess! We left promptly at 8 am and drove on some rough dirt roads before stopping for lunch near the town of Mamfe. Our lunch spot was in a construction zone where workers were building a new road and we ate a simple pasta salad for lunch. Simple consisted of spaghetti, carrots and cucumber. After lunch, Becky’s group had to go cook group shopping in Mamfe. Unfortunately, the selection of fresh fruits and vegetables was pretty dismal especially since it was already afternoon. Also, since Nancy had purchased a surplus of sweet yams, the cook group had been given a reduced amount for spending (only 7000 CFA as opposed to 12000 CFA) and had to make do with the scant funds. After stocking up on some vegetables and fruit, there was just enough money left over to get 1 KG of meat, which was a pricey 2500 CFA/KG. Everyone else had wandered Mamfe in the quest of ice cream and after an hour here, the truck loaded up and we were off. Shortly after departing Mamfe, the roads took a turn for the worse, and our bumpy ride started. Finally! The legendarily bad roads that Cameroon is so famous for were finally surfacing, and we all were eager in our excitement for the truck to get stuck really good at least once. Chris was ever the cautious driver however, and he would often stop the truck to go recon the potential potholes or walk the water holes, so the truck didn’t get stuck once. A local was walking along the side of the road carrying a pangolin and we suspected it was bush meat for supper? By 1700, our drive day had come to an end as Chris pulled into a rustic bush camp near the town of Bakeba (according to Tim’s GPS) where the friendly locals came up to engage everyone in conversation. Becky’s group made sweet yams served with a beef stir fry of cabbage, green beans, onions, and garlic along with a side of tomato and carrot salad but the flavors all clashed, especially since the sweet yams didn’t mix well with the stir fry mix. It was an early night for all as a brief rain storm had us seeking refuge in the safety of our tents.
9 Feb: Breakfast was at 7 am and we were on the road by 8. The road was dirt for most of the morning, with some large holes in the road. At one particularly bad stretch, Chris had everyone pile out of the truck to gather rocks to fill in a great big hole so that we could continue. The only excitement this morning was when Frans, who had his headphones on, pointed his SLR directly at an angry man who obviously did not want his photo taken. Since Frans was oblivious to his anger, the man picked up stones and threatened to throw it at the truck, causing Chris to get involved. A quick verbal warning was quickly yelled out to Frans who finally put his camera away but he received a vicious verbal lashing from the angry farmer. Chris was upset too so he pulled the truck over and lectured all of us, telling the group that photo etiquette in Africa dictates if someone asks you not to take their picture, comply! Frans pleaded ignorance due to the fact he was jamming to his music and Chris was having none of it, telling him that situational awareness would prevent another such nasty incident from occurring in the future. Lunch was by the side of the road before a massive bridge that seemed to go on forever. It was quite picturesque with a waterfall in the distance and despite Chris’ earlier warning not to take photos of bridges in Africa, the entire truck went snap happy during the bridge crossing. During the afternoon drive, we crossed several small bridges that were just big enough to accommodate the truck. One wooden bridge looked quite fragile and Chris and Nancy walked the length of it to gauge whether it could support the weight of the truck. Everyone held their breath as we quickly drove across, as the bridge did not look stable at all! We bush camped at a nice spot named Kumba about 60 KM from Limbe, complete with palm trees and large dugout wooden canoes. Tim, Lars and Pam made a chickpea-coconut stew for dinner, which made for a pleasant vegetarian meal. Poor Becky was feeling it though several hours later as she sprinted through the woods with toilet roll in one hand and shovel in the other.
10 Feb: Breakfast was at 7 am with a departure at 8 am. Truck space was tight as Chris had loaded the back of the truck with extra logs for firewood. Since we weren’t too far from Limbe, we pulled in around 10 am and parked next to Limbe Palace Night Club. We had the morning and afternoon free until 3 pm, with one hour truck guard shifts. Nancy advised that Cameroon is a country where it is absolutely essential to either carry one’s passports at all times or else to get a certified copy (stamped at the local police office) of our passport and Cameroon Visa. We also were in dire need to withdrawing Central African CFA, so our agenda was cash withdrawals, passport certifications, and cook group shopping in that order. Becky and Lucky pulled the first truck guard and at 11 am, and the boys attempted to withdraw cash from the ATM with differing results of success. For some reason, Mastercard is not accepted on the west coast of Africa. Luke’s Visa card worked with no issues, but we were having no luck from any of the ATMs at withdrawing our funds. Nancy had given Robby’s cook group some funds to go cook group shopping, but since they didn’t have to cook until tomorrow, there was some indecisiveness as to whether to shop today or tomorrow. While the boys were faffing around as to whether or not to shop, they did learn that the only place in town to exchange money was at the Express Exchange on Church Road, which was offering a rate of 646 CFA for 1 Euro. We had Euros to exchange, but wanted to double check on whether our ATM card would work or not and figured we could come back here later if need be. After backtracking back into town, we stopped by the tourism office to find out if they knew of any place where we could exchange our west African CFA into central African CFA and the crafty manager immediately offered his assistance. Perhaps we were just weary with almost a week’s consecutive bush camping but the manager seemed so helpful and we were a bit too trusting. After exchanging our CFA for us at a dismal rate (9000 CFA for 10000 CFA, exactly what the border guys had offered), the manager told us that he could assist in obtaining our passport certifications. He warned us that if we were to do so directly with the police station, we would have to pay a 5000 CFA “bribe” and he could smooth things for us since he was the Fako Tourism Office manager, etc, etc. We blindly gave him photocopies of our passport and Cameroon visa page along with 5000 CFA (to pay for the 1000 CFA stamps) and expected to get 3000 CFA back in change. He asked us to return in 30 minutes time to pick up the passports so we figured we had enough time to head back to Express Exchange to get our Euros changed into CFA (Nancy had told us we needed 120000 CFA each for Gabon and DRC visas). However, once we got back to the exchange place, it was crowded and the cashiers were being none too helpful. They refused to take any Euro denominations lower than 50 Euro notes (20 Euro bills were not accepted), and by the time Lars reached the front of the line, they refused to exchange 50 Euro notes, demanding 100 Euro bills! Despite their signpost indicating that they exchanged US Dollars, they refused to touch those either, so it was extremely frustrating dealing with them and we walked out angrily in disgust. The boys decided that they would attempt to do cook group shopping, so they left Becky to handle the passports at the tourism office, where she was in for a nasty surprise when the manager sprung a 5000 CFA “bribe” fee after promising that if we went through him he would alleviate the need to pay such a fee. It was quite a horrible feeling to learn that we had been taken by the tourism office, and we vowed not to give them any more of our business and to steer any potential customers away from such a disreputable place. Simply an awful organization…do not visit the Fako tourism office in Limbe as they will attempt to rip you off! Becky was keen on checking email so she headed to what had been touted as the best internet place in town (next door to Victoria Bakery at the Bifunde Center) but it was dismally slow and expensive (400 CFA for 30 minutes). In the meantime, Robby’s cook group had opted to shop tomorrow so he had found out first hand from the Fako tourism office of their deceit, and he was extremely upset by the manager’s lying ways. By the time we linked back up, it was 3 pm and we discussed the passport rip off situation and Robby was determined to get our money back. However, it was too late to take action since the office closed at 2 pm and the manager had told us that tomorrow was National Youth Day, an official holiday that his office would be closed for. While we were still stewing from this experience, everyone gathered at the truck for the short drive to Miramar Hotel, which was a nice place right by the waterfront. Unfortunately for us, the hotel grounds came with only one shower (to be shared amongst the 22 of us) but at least there were multiple toilets. A swimming pool was available for use at the rate of 1000 CFA per day. We were shown where we could set up our tents and since rain looked impending, we pegged down the side of our windows. Becky’s shitty day was continuing from bad to worse. She already had a very negative impression of Limbe from the tourism office and getting sexually harassed on the walk from the internet café back to the truck, and while she was washing a load of laundry by the tap, an inebriated hotel guest approached her and tried to engage in conversation. She tried ignoring him at first and then rudely told him to leave her alone as she was having a bad day. This set the man in a rage and he became aggressive, causing a security guard and Robby to intervene. Later the guard apologized to us as he explained the guest was not only drunk but high and he was quickly escorted off the grounds. After doing a load of laundry, we took a quick shower and hung out by the truck trying to decide if we were up to doing the Mount Cameroon trek. After hemming and hawing, we finally decided to do the 2 day trek after Lucky explained that there was no difference in the 2 or 3 day trek (and actually the 3 day trek would be harder since it was about 20 KM longer) and both groups would actually summit at the same time. Bree, Luke and Kendra made yummy beef/noodle stir fry dinner. A group went out after dinner for drinks and dancing and when they returned early in the morning, the entire campsite was awoken by a frantic Hoff trying to find Ruth. After sending out a search party, she was found (thank God) passed out on the road leading to the Botanical Gardens…what a scare but so glad that all was well and she was found safe and sound.
11 Feb: Breakfast was at 8 am and afterwards, we hung out waiting for Benji (our Cameroon liason) to show up. By 9:30, we were sitting around the campsite getting a briefing from Benji on Mt Cameroon and afterwards he addressed our expectations, concerns and questions. Robby had to go cook group shopping afterwards with Dowelly and Hoff, so Becky tagged along. Just as we hit the main road in town, Dowelly realized he had forgotten his ATM card so he rushed back to Hotel Miramar to get it while we all waited for him in town at the tourism office. It was obvious that today was a national holiday, as the streets were chock full of school kids in their smart school uniforms. Youth Day Festival was indeed going on in full swing as we couldn’t really walk down the street without bumping into marching groups of children, who were rehearsing for their grand parade later in the morning. Dowelly finally returned and we headed towards the New Town Market, wondering if any of the stalls would be open today, given that it was a national holiday. We needn’t have worried, as there were several vendors at the market with produce for sale. The boys had decided to cook up ginger lemon chicken for dinner tonight, and it didn’t take too long to get all the necessary ingredients. The best buy of the morning were delicious plantain chips, which were sold for 100 CFA per bag. There were plenty of live chickens for sale in the market, but due to the heat in Limbe, the boys were only willing to buy a freshly slaughtered chicken if they could put it on ice. However, they stumbled upon a store that sold frozen chicken so problem solved. We all stocked up on extra bottles of water for our Mt Cameroon hike (apparently getting fresh water on the mountain might be limited) and caught a taxi back to the hotel for 500 CFA. At the gate to the Miramar, the security guard was having a hell of a time keeping the youngsters from stampeding the grounds to use the hotel’s swimming pool. There were hundreds of them, each paying a whopping 500 CFA for the privilege of using the swimming pool. Since we were keen on lunch, Dowelly joined us and we headed over to Victoria Bakery but didn’t find anything that interested us, so we walked further on to see if anything caught our eye. Eventually we settled on a restaurant on the roundabout that served up pork chops, steak and chicken and stuffed ourselves. It was nearing 3:30 when we returned back to the hotel, so cook group didn’t have much time to goof around before having to start on dinner. While Robby was busy preparing dinner, Becky packed her bag for Mt Cameroon and after dinner had been served, she helped cook group clean up while Robby packed up for the early morning trek. We both crashed early in anticipation for tomorrow morning’s trek despite the partying going on next door.
12 Feb: We were up early (0530) for a 6 am breakfast and had some last minute packing to do for our trek. Luke earned lots of laughter for his daisy duke style trekking shorts, which would have been better suited for a girl, and he quickly got the nickname “Lara Croft”. The kitchen supplies had been evenly distributed up so each of us grabbed our respective lot of food (tuna, corned beef, pasta) along with a bowl and eating utensils. Our respective bags each had to weigh under 15 KG so that our porters could carry them up the mountain. Benji showed up at 7 am and apologized for being 30 minutes late. We loaded up our bags and drove towards Buéa which was about an hour away. It was a tight fit in the van, especially after we stopped to pick up Benji’s girlfriend who crammed into the van with us to hitchhike her way to Buéa. Since we were all so well hydrated for the trek, all of us were bursting at the seams and rushed to the roadside to pee once we arrived to the start of our trekking point. Our porters were ready and waiting for us in a huddle, and they immediately eyeballed our large packs and started gauging which ones were lighter and calling dibs on which one they wanted to carry. We were astounded that the majority of them were trekking in flip flops and Lucky dared anyone from our group brave (or foolish enough) to trek the mountain in flip flops to earn 5 Euros…there were no takers. The porters weighed each pack to ensure that all of them were 15 KG or under and some weight had to be redistributed as they added our sleeping tents and their own gear to our packs. Once it was all sorted, we met our respective porters (Becky got Lucas and Robby got Francis) and started our hike. Our guide, David, told us that it would be 2 hours to reach Hut 1, our first resting point. From there, we would have another 1 hour to an intermediary hut where we could take a break from lunch. And after lunch, it was a further 2-3 hours to reach Hut 2, our final resting point for the day. Today we would do a total of 10 KM uphill, and based on previous experience, it would be sufficient as the Guinness Route was all uphill. Our initial trek took us through the uppermost part of Buéa village, past a military barracks and through farmland. We later learned that the military complex that we had passed by housed the current champion (and strongly favored future champion of the 26 Feb race) of the “Race of Hope”, an annual 37 KM extreme race up and down Mt Cameroon. Apparently, the most recent winner was a soldier who resided at the military barracks, and trained daily up the mountain, often making the run to Hut 2 twice or even thrice daily. The man was a myth and a legend, and we were awed when later that morning we saw him sprinting past us like it took no effort whatsoever. Absolutely amazing! For the rest of us mere mortals, we simply took one step at a time, tackling the sharp incline and wheezing at the sheer exertion of each meter change in elevation. The first two hours weren’t too bad, although everyone agreed that the route was much more challenging than we had anticipated. Everyone was drenched in sweat and had consumed tons of water as we had been forewarned that the only water point was at Hut 1, which was only a mere 2 hours into our trek! Armed with Dowelly’s water purification tablets, we filled our now empty water bottles with mountain river water, a mere trickle, and duly waited the required 30 minutes before gulping the water down. We had another hour to go before reaching the pre-designated lunch spot, and it was a grueling final 10 minutes up a lava field to reach the hut where we hungrily dove into our tuna cans and made tuna sandwiches with some pretty awful French Bread from Victoria’s Bakery…what a letdown on the bread! Something obviously went wrong with the batch of bread Chris had bought from the bakery this morning as it normally is very good. After stripping down and letting our shirts air dry, we reluctantly gathered our day packs and mentally prepared ourselves for the final 2 hour trek up to Hut 2, our final resting point for the day. The path from the intermediary hut up to Hut 2 was the toughest of the entire route, and for every 10 to 20 steps we’d take, a short breather would ensue, making our progress up the mountain very slow indeed. We met two tourists coming back down from the summit of the mountain who were training for the upcoming Race of Hope, and they assured us that we were tackling the toughest part, but once we overcame this hurdle, it was a sure thing to reach the summit. Several other trekkers who were making the return trip offered up words of encouragement and kept our motivation level high. By 3:30 pm, all of us had reached Hut 2, where the early arrivals had settled down to air dry their sweaty shirts and remove their sweaty hiking boots to be replaced by flip flops. Robby kept looking out for his porter and had to wait over 2 hours for his large pack to arrive before he could change out of his clothes and into something more comfortable. The breeze from Hut 2 was wonderful, although it started to get a bit chilly as the day wore on. Our group (in addition to us there were Lars, Matt, Bree, Mike, Chris, Dowelly, Lucky, and Luke) of 10 were joined by several South Africans who were on a 3 day trek up Mt Cameroon. Hut 2 became a cozy atmosphere as we reveled in the distance we had all accomplished today and prepared our campsites for our sleeping accommodations (there were several flat areas to erect our tents), before preparing for a hot dinner meal of canned meatballs and pasta, which was surprisingly yummy. After getting briefed by the 3 day guide, Hans (as we later found out that David, our guide, had to return to Buéa to retrieve something so in essence he climbed the route twice in one day!) that our wakeup was at 0530 for a 0630 departure to reach the summit, we all retired to our tents for a bit of rest. The boys tent (Lars, Luke, Matt and Dowelly) complained that the high altitude was contributing to their numerous farts and they giggled well into the night.
13 Feb: Our alarms sounded way too early at 0500, and we were up for breakfast at 5:30 am. Since we had already discussed that we would have to climb to the summit (approximately 4 hours to reach 4095 meters) and return back to Hut 2 for lunch, there was no need to break down our tents. However, Bree and Mike had to tear everything down since they were the only 2 trekkers continuing on for the 3 day trek of Mt Cameroon. After consuming some lukewarm chicken noodle soup for breakfast, Becky donated a bottle of water so that milk could be mixed for the muesli breakfast eaters and by 6:30 am, everyone was ready to go. Our guide, David, was in a hostile mood as he lectured everybody that we were over 2 hours late, with the expectation that we were to rise at 4 am, summit by 8 am and return down the mountain to catch our ride home by 4 pm. Chris was having none of it and an angry argument ensued with Chris getting the last word in that if David had a problem with it, he should take it up with Hans as we were all following our marching orders from Hans, who was the last guide to brief us last night. It was an ominous start to our morning, and David immediately set a grueling pace up the mountain to make up for lost time. Our group quickly split into numerous splinters, as the fasters and stronger trekkers kept up with David while others opted to go their own pace. Thankfully, there was enough light to see the trail and the path was clearly marked, so it really wasn’t necessary to have a guide hold our hands up the mountain. We were making good time and just over 2 hours up the mountain, we reached the last hut, Hut 3, and realized that we had only 45 more minutes to go! Whoppee, it was with excitement that everyone realized the summit was in sight, and the remaining distance was quickly covered by our entire group. We took a group photo to commemorate the moment, along with a couple of our own silly poses and happily headed back down the mountain after bidding farewell to Bree and Mike. Backtracking downhill was easy at first with a relatively smooth path down an easy gradient and we made good time returning to Hut 2 in time for lunch, which consisted of tuna and corned beef sandwiches and dried noodles. The toughest part of our downward trek was ahead of us, as we didn’t realize just how steep the terrain was from Hut 2 back down to the intermediary hut. Becky lost her footing and the volcanic rock was immediately unforgiving, shredding her palm to bits and causing blood to freely flow before Dowelly’s bandage came to the rescue. After seeing how easy it was to lose our footing, we took it easy going back downhill, causing more of a strain on our muscles as we struggled to remain in control the entire route downhill. Everyone complained of bruised toes and it was a constant battle to shuffle our weight from the tips of our toes to the edge of our heels, all the while keeping our balance on tricky terrain. Chris made the comment that it was actually more difficult, physically, to descend than it was to ascend Mt Cameroon and, given the choice, he would rather summit again than have to face the arduous decent. We all quickly grew to agree with his assessment, as the toughest part of our day commenced with everyone struggling to keep control from careening down the slopes of the mountain. Everyone knew that once we reached Hut 1, the steep gradient would be over, so it was a struggle to keep our footing on the downward route. The porters were in their element however, as they literally hopped their way down the mountain looking as agile as mountain goats and shamed us all in the process. In freaking flip flops no less! At Hut 1, the entire group gathered and we swapped our respective horror stories of going down the mountain. Everyone was aching tremendously, and we realized we had a further 2 – 3 hours of torture to reach the base of the mountain. With trembling calves and quadriceps muscles, we slowly plodded down the mountain and eventually reached the meeting point for our return pickup by 5 pm. Everyone was thrilled the ordeal was over, and it was a joyous moment as we thanked our incredibly hard working porters and happily tipped them (Lucky and Robby donated their baseball hats to their respective porters) before taking a final group shot to commemorate our accomplishment. And then it was over…the van drove us back towards Limbe and Chris was able to convince our driver to stop at a nearby store so we could stock up on cold beer and Smirnoff Ices for celebratory drinks on the return ride. We pulled into the Hotel Miramar parking spot to see a hardworking Nancy making us Guinness Beef for dinner, and called dibs on our respective showers. Everyone was aching and complaining of how much it hurt to even walk and we realized that we would have several more days of muscle soreness before recovering completely. Dinner was amazing (thanks Nancy) and we all crashed immediately afterwards, happy to hear that breakfast was at 8:30 am since Nancy was giving us all a bit of a lie-in for the morning. Pure bliss and our Mt Cameroon group all concurred that while extremely challenging, we wouldn’t have missed climbing Mt Cameroon for the world. We also agreed that we would never again try to summit as once was truly enough!
14 Feb: Happy Valentines Day! We had left tubs of laundry to soak the night before, and got up to do a bit of scrubbing before breakfast. Nancy brought out a huge vat of chocolate spread for breakfast and we munched on toasted French bread and delectable pineapple before noticing that Africa Trails was pulling up into the Hotel Miramar parking lot to join us. 50 people to share 1 shower and 3 toilets…we didn’t like those statistics but were happy to get a chance to know the other truck a bit better. After breakfast, we finished our laundry and were told by the Hotel Miramar employees that due to construction work in the back yard, we would be unable to use their laundry line to hang up our clothes. Fair enough..we just strung up our own laundry line between two papaya trees and had to let Lucky and Matt know to pull down their laundry since it all had to be removed from the back yard. Some of the Africa Trails folks were keen on the 3 day trek up the mountain, so they came by asking us a bunch of questions about what to expect and how to prepare. We did our best in answering their concerns and wished them the best of luck. The rest of our morning was spent organizing our locker as all of our belongings had shifted and had to be rearranged. By lunch time, we were hot, sweaty and hungry so we joined a group to head to the Limbe Wildlife Center where a new restaurant, Chella’s, had recently opened up at. It was a short walk to the restaurant and we met a charming Erika who hailed from South Africa and was in charge of Chella’s. She busied herself with greeting us and getting our order taken (beer, pork and chips for Robby with a pina colada and kickass cheese burger for Becky) while we got to watch gorillas playing around while we waited for our meal. Apparently, Chella’s has organized that visitors to the restaurant forego paying the hefty 3000 CFA entrance fee, with the bonus that we get to watch the gorillas and their adorable antics over a yummy meal. It was awesome, and we all raved about the experience, especially with the huge silverback strutting his stuff back and forth and two tiny baby gorillas play wrestling just a few meters away from us. The food was great, and Erika gave us a 1000 CFA discount on our meal since the hamburger buns had run out and they had to substitute a different bun for our burgers…not a big deal and the burger was amazing, with Dowelly proclaiming it was in the top 2 burgers of the trip thus far. We took a look around the Wildlife center afterwards, and debated whether we wanted to join in on the 100 Club Challenge. Since today was officially the 100th day of our tour, everyone had to consume 100 shots of beer over the span of 100 minutes, with the rules being that no one could step away to use the bathroom or not consume their shot in the allotted amount of time. We really wanted to partake, but the challenge was issued at 3:30 pm and we simply had other things we wanted to get done, so we eventually declined and figured we could always join in next time. Instead, we made our way over to Hotel Autograph which had free wifi and got caught up on some much needed emails. It had been several weeks since we last logged on and we had much to do. After a few hours of surfing, we headed back to the campsite just after 6 pm, but it was already dark down a deserted path leading to the hotel. Neither one of us felt safe as the alley would have been perfect for an ambush and earlier editions of our guidebooks mentioned that this section of Limbe was to be avoided especially at night. However, we made it back safe and sound although all of our senses were peaked at an all time high. We wondered if the fight or flight instinct had kicked in if we could have sprinted back to safety given the sore state of our muscles! They were aching terribly today as we hobbled our way around town. The 100 Club members were in various states of return from the nearby bush-bar where they had a great time partying and celebrating together. Dinner was a beef pasta stir fry and it was good. Becky called it an early night while Robby played Luke at a game of chess until the heavens opened up and it downpoured heavily, with one of the strongest rains of the trip to date. Rain even started dripping at various locations of our tent! Power was lost for about 20 minutes and after the rain subsided, we decided it was a good time to take showers since who in their right mind would hit the shower immediately after a torrential downpour? Our gamble paid off and we had the shower completely to ourselves before we returned to the tent to give each other leg massages and falling asleep by midnight. A leg massage has never been more painful but it sure did help alleviate some of the tenderness and pain.
15 Feb: It started pouring down rain early this morning and boy were we glad that we didn’t have to hike up Mt Cameroon under these conditions (poor African Trails folks…they were out with their gear waiting for their ride to hike the mountain). We had breakfast at 8 am which consisted of chocolate spread on French bread, papaya and pineapple…yum. After breakfast, Becky had to go cook group shopping with Sara and Lucky while Robby and Dowelly headed to the Autograph hotel to get wifi. The market was bustling and shopping took a while, especially with the heat bearing down after this morning’s rain storm. With the air hot and humid, it took mere minutes for everyone to be drenched in sweat. Not a great feeling to have all day! Becky met up with the boys at the hotel where they were a bit frustrated because wifi had been exceedingly slow today. Lunch was at a nearby local joint, which served up delicious chicken and yams for only 1500 CFA…bargain. Luke bought the group donut balls for desert and we returned to Hotel Autograph for a bit more surfing before finally heading back to the hotel Miramar so that Becky could prepare for cook group duties. Dinner tonight consisted of pineapple chicken which came out as a pretty decent meal. After dinner, a few members of our group headed over to the Limbe Wildlife Center where Chella’s restaurant was opening for dinner for the first time since relocating to the wildlife center (Chella’s had only been open for lunch). Oasis was going to help celebrate by having sinful desert for 2500 CFA (ice cream with chocolate). We hung out at the Miramar and opted to save our money instead and get caught up with photos and trip notes.
16 Feb: Breakfast consisted of fruit salad (pineapple, papaya and bananas) and French bread and went over well. We were on the road by 8 am headed towards Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon where our plan was to lodge our Gabon and DRC visas, with a break in between to hit the beach resort city of Kribi. It was a smooth ride until lunch time where the coleslaw, boiled egg, tomato and cucumber sandwiches were well received. A local kept insisting that we pay him for the privilege of eating in his car park but we didn’t really pay him any mind and eventually he left us alone. After piling into the truck again for our onward drive to Yaounde, we pulled in around 3 pm but had to drive all around the city to find our lodging tonight, the Foyer Internationale de l’Eglise Presbyterienne which was off Rue Onembeie Nkou in the Etoa Meki neighborhood, a short walk from a series of water towers. The drive around the city gave us a quick orientation, and we eventually pulled into the smart looking campground and pitched our tents. There were lots of rules to abide by here at the Presbyterian lodging, such as all boys had to wear tops at all times, girls weren’t allowed to sunbathe, all tents had to be pitched together in tight confines (we guessed it was to prevent any late night hanky panky), and if we wanted water to wash laundry, there would be an extra surcharge. The campground was quite nice though, and there was free wifi and cheap beer to be had (1 large bottle for 700 CFA), so overall not a bad place to sleep for a night. We met at 4:30 pm to submit our Gabon visas, complete with 120,000 CFA (for both Gabon and DRC), and one passport photo. Cook group tonight was Nancy, Matt and Ruth and they made a kick-ass dinner of stuffed peppers with soy mince, onions, laughing cow cheese served on white rice. Everyone raved about it and what a nice twist for a vegetarian meal…very fulfilling. A group of folks were interested in checking out a late night soccer game (televised at 9 pm) but we opted to hang out by the power point and get caught up on trip notes. We went to bed around midnight because Becky’s laptop started developing a weird symptom of popping open help windows on whatever application she was working on. In a span of only a few minutes, several dozen help windows would pop up making it impossible to close them all in time before the computer’s memory resources were overloaded. It looked like a virus and without having decent internet to update her Symantec Antivirus, it was frustrating to not know if this was a recent development or a fluke.
17 Feb: Last night’s sleep was interrupted around 0430 by a loud bird making a strange croaking sound in the tree over our tent. This was followed by dogs barking, roosters crowing and various birds chirping. Breakfast was at 0800 and we were due to depart around 1000 after cook group shopping. After breakfast we took showers and packed up the tent. Tonight’s cook group (Tim, Pam & Lars) returned around 1000 and we were just waiting for Michael, Bree & Luke to return. By noon, they were no shows so we decided to go ahead and make lunch (pasta with sweet corn & tuna). Around 1230 Chris & Lars took photos of our missing members and headed to the market to find out what happened. A few minutes later Nancy got a call that cook group was robbed and they were on their way back. They arrived and told everyone what happened as we were packing to leave. Bree was carrying her camera case on her hip as she usually does (with money inside). A local kid came up and pulled the bag from her waist. The clip broke but she was still able to grab one end of the strap until he finally pulled it away and ran. Some others ran after him and were able to catch him after a few minutes. The group had to go to the police station to report the incident. Luckily someone was able to recover her camera but the money was gone. We later read that similar incidents are quite notorious for happening at the main market in Yaounde, and felt bad that it had happened to our group. Chris drove like a maniac towards Kribi, our next destination for a few days while we were waiting on our Gabon visas to come through. Our beach front campsite for a few nights was the lovely Auberge Tara Plage, and we immediately set up our tents and enjoyed the cool windy breeze. What a lovely area and we were all excited by the prospects of exploring Kribi which had a wonderful vibe to it as we drove through. The beach was nice with an awesome breeze and was amazingly trash free. With a pristine beach just a few footsteps away, we made a few drinks and played with the hotel puppy while hanging out for dinner. Tim, Pam and Lars made a dinner of beef stew with sweet potatoes and leeks, which was pretty tasty. After dinner we chatted for a while and headed off to bed.
18 Feb: Breakfast was a 8:30 am and consisted of toast and pineapple. Becky spied Nancy enjoying a bowlful of ramen noodles so we traded Luke our chicken ramen for his shrimp ramen noodles, only to discover what looked like a rat or mouse bite marks on Luke’s ramen…what a bad trade for us although Luke was pretty stoked! By 9:30 am, a group (Nancy, Chris, Lucky, Bree, Kendra, Katherine, Matt, Lars and Marie) was headed to the Lobe waterfalls, so we joined along. Several fishermen tried to lure us in for a meal and the one that caught our attention had a massive barracuda lying by the rock side. His effective advertising worked, and for a price of 4000 CFA each, we could have a freshly cooked lunch along with a cold beer waiting for us upon our return from the waterfalls. The waterfalls plummeting into the sea were actually better than expected as it made for a lovely sight. We wandered around and took several photos before soaking in some refreshing pools. After chatting for a bit, we linked back up with the group for lunch at 12:30 and it was tasty, with freshly grilled fish and plantains, chips, and breadfruit fried up and served up with a bottle of beer. 4 members of our group ordered prawns and we looked enviously at their meal as they each got a massive serving of prawns! It was an awesome meal and we all left feeling quite satiated. After sauntering back to our campsite, we took a dip in the ocean before Robby played Mike and Luke a game of chess while Becky lounged on the beach chairs and soaked up some sun. After being lazy for the majority of the afternoon, Becky figured it was time to address the virus on her computer and figured that a factory restore would fix the problem. It was frustrating to realize after reimaging the computer that the pop up help windows kept surfacing and the computer would most likely have to be written off and thrown away. Sigh…one computer and one camera down on a 10 month trip so far…we are not liking our electronic gear’s short lifespan! Dinner was a delicious coconut green curry meal served with green bean and peanuts atop white rice. Very flavorful but it took forever to prepare as the cook group (Bree, Luke and Mike who was substituting for Kendra for this week only) had serious wind issues to contend with as they prepared our meal. They did their best and dinner was absolutely scrumptious. It was an early night for the majority of our group but some members hit the nearby bush bar for late night festivities.
19 Feb: Poor Bree is getting a complex about being cursed with rain on her cook group rotation! Breakfast this morning was supposed to be pancakes but it was cut short by pouring rain which quickly subdued the fire and put a damper on everyone’s spirits. We had decided to wash a load of laundry today and were disheartened to see the rain pouring down but thankfully it was short lived. After scrubbing and rinsing our clothes, we waited for the rain to subside before hanging it out to dry. Robby had to go cook group shopping so Becky hung out with Bree and headed to the fish market of Kribi to check out all the seafood. Apparently, the two biggest days of the fish market are Saturday and Wednesday so lucky for us to be here while it was kicking. The girls had a short walk into the city and the market was bustling. We looked around for the other members of our group but didn’t see anyone else, so we figured (correctly) that they were off exploring the other markets. So we decided to check out the fruit and vegetable market. However, it was a bit more elusive to find than the fish market and a quick glance at a map before rocking up into town would have been helpful in hindsight. As it was, we walked around Kribi in circles before finally spotting Sean and Sara and Luke in the middle of a bustling market. They told us how to get back down to the fish market and while we were on our way to join Nancy, Chris, Lars, Matt, Marie and Lucky for a wonderful lunch of prawn and plantain, we ran into Hoff, Dowelly and Robby in the middle of their cook group shopping excursion. They had just bought some yellow fin tuna (2000 CFA/KG) and were on their way to the fruit and vegetable market. After wishing them good luck in their shopping, we joined the rest for lunch which was yummy! Matt, Lars, Lucky, Becky and Bree were on a quest to find shorts after lunch so we walked back to another market and found several pairs that looked great and felt like decent material for only 4500 CFA. Becky had bought another pair of pants earlier for 3000 CFA and now had made up for her shorts deficit after ripping the ass out of her other pair of shorts. None of us were relishing a long sweaty walk back to the campsite, so for only 500 CFA each, we shoved into a tiny taxi and sweated on each other for the ride home, and immediately took a dip in the inviting ocean to cool down. Robby had joined Dowelly at the bar for some beers, while Becky read the rest of her book and got caught up on trip notes. At 5 pm, Robby started on cooking dinner. There was a group of our folks who went on a pirogue ride to visit the Lobe waterfalls and pygmy village at 3 pm but since we had seen the waterfalls the day before, we opted out of the excursion (5000 CFA each). However, Mike returned and told us it was quite an interesting excursion and he was quite happy that he had seen it. Tim and Frans apparently took a lot of photos of the pygmies who did expect compensation for their images being snapped up afterwards. Dinner was fish pasta prepared by Hoff’s angels and that went over well.
20 Feb: Breakfast was at 0800. Afterwards we packed up and drove into town to park for a few hours so that cook group could shop and most of the group wanted to go for some fresh fish and shrimp by the fish market for lunch. Bree took orders for everyone interested and went to put in an early lunch order so that we could eat and depart by noon. We went for a quick wander through the main market and then headed to a bakery to get a few doughnuts to snack on. Then we went back to the truck, ate a doughnut each and headed to the fish market for lunch. Bree and Marie were holding a table for the group when we arrived. After a few minutes the rest of the crowd joined us. Michael showed up with Luke but never put in an advance order. He tried to order some shrimp and it was all good until they started to serve everyone else. They wanted to take shrimp from everyone else’s plate to give Michael a plate. Nancy stopped them as this made no sense for everyone else. Michael opted to go elsewhere but for some reason we were still charged for his order which Nancy and Chris agreed to pay after not being able to explain how silly it was to the waiter. After lunch there we had 6 minutes until departure so we all walked quickly back to the truck. On the drive back to Yaounde we enjoyed our second doughnuts. As we were driving away from the Auberge Tara Plage a tree branch had come into the window and snatched out Pam’s wrap-around cloth. A few miles down the road, it was hanging off the side of the truck and fell down to the road. A motorcyclist behind us saw it and waved at us. We buzzed to stop the truck so we could go get it. We happened to stop right next to a spot where numerous trees had been cut down so we grabbed a few larger logs and loaded them into the truck for firewood. Afterwards, we made our way to the Presbyterian Church camp site, where there was a South African Couple that we met at the Abuja Sheraton. Also Vicki (Canadian from the other Oasis truck) was there to go in with Nancy in the morning so that she could obtain her Gabon Visa. She had lost her passport and had to get another so Chris and Nancy agreed to look after her till she can make her way to the other truck. We started an abs work and just finished as the Africa Trails truck was pulling up. We got a couple of drinks from the bar and hung out in front of our tent. Becky was able to get online and check for ideas to fix here problem with help launching constantly on her computer. She tried a couple of recommendations and it appears to be OK for the moment, with the problem being a stuck F1 key (hence the help boxes that keep launching). Just before dinner, the campsite lost power and internet dropped. Cook group (Sean, Frans and Marie) cooked some stir fry veggies with pineapple and grilled fish with rice. After dinner we hung out for a while then went to our tents to read.
21 Feb: Robby woke up early and got a shower around 0700 before everyone got up. The toilet in the upstairs bathroom was broke and the shower took a couple of minutes for water to start flowing. Then it stopped flowing a couple of times during the shower. Breakfast was at 0800 and we started filling out our DRC visa requests at 0830. Chris pulled out the logs we gathered yesterday and cut them with the chainsaw. Then we spit it and packed it in the wood locker. Nancy went to the embassies to take care of visas. She said that Gabon was good to go, but that visa costs for the Democratic Republic of Congo had risen, so ultimately visas would cost a whopping 100,000 CFA for everyone except Americans who had to fork over 120,000 CFA. However, since Nancy was in the same boat as us, she said that the lady processing visas for DRC contemplated giving us a break and we would find out the outcome tomorrow. The afternoon was a fairly laid back one since we had no plans to go out sightseeing. Which ended up being a good thing as the heavens opened up and started pouring down torrential rain, coupled with hail that began to pelt us violently. Only in Cameroon! We saw this as a golden opportunity, as the campsite, Foyer Internationale de l’Eglise Presbyterienne, wanted to charge us an additional fee for water. Well, this must have been a gift from God and we took full advantage of it, running around filling our empty jerry cans, coolers, and any other containers capable of storing water much to the dismay of our disapproving guardians. The African Trails guys were absolutely hilarious, as they started water gliding on the grassy plains on their bellies…awesome stuff. Becky pulled out a razor and started shaving her legs, followed by shampooing and conditioning her hair, all courtesy of a little gift from the heavens. Anything to have to avoid going into the scary house to use their one dismal shower! A group of us gathered by the bar and started drinking the afternoon away until Hoff and Ultra told everyone of a nearby bar where beers could be had for only 500 CFA (as opposed to the 700 CFA we were paying). Robby joined the drinking group while Becky got her computer’s antivirus software downloaded. Dinner was served at 7:30 pm by cook group members Mike, Norma and Katherine and consisted of potatoes and mash…yum. The drinkers returned in time to get their plates and everyone devoured dinner in no time. Nancy briefed us that we would be departing at 1145 am and parking just outside the campsite to avoid having to pay an additional day’s fees at the site. The truck would stay put near the water towers until Nancy returned with our visas in hand, and then we’d head off towards Gabon, bush camping along the way. After eating dinner a few people went out with some of the Africa Trails group. Becky went back to work on her computer and Robby went to the tent to read. After a few minutes Robby started feeling sick and had to chuck dinner.
22 Feb: Breakfast was at 0800 and Nancy said the lady from the house was upset because someone was supposedly disrespectful to them because they were complaining about the bathroom door lock being broken or something. We are so ready to get away from the scary house with the crazy people! We packed up or tent and went with Lucky & Sara to the market for cook group shopping. We stopped at a supermarket and found some good prices for snacks and booze so decided to stop and pick up some stuff on the way back from the market. Cook group shopping was fairly easy as everything was right there. We were able to get everything needed to make beef stroganoff with carrots & green beans as well as veggie stuffed peppers. Afterwards, we opted to save our taxi fare by walking back to the campsite and headed back to the supermarket where we split off from Lucky & Sara who took the food while we went shopping. We were able to get some Smirnoff Ice, cookies, Sprite, soap & deodorant with the limited CFA we had brought with us. After dropping our stuff at the truck we walked with Lucky & Bree to the Bakery to get lunch and cook group bread. The Select Bakery was the best thing going about Yaounde as it had a massive selection of delectable goodies for sale. We opted for the 800 CFA giant hamburgers. When we walked back, Chris was just pulling the truck out and parked just up the road from the campsite. We hung out at the truck for lunch and waited for our truck guard shift. The hamburgers were tasty and very filling, but we were unable to finish them as they were absolutely massive. Nancy heard through the grapevine that there were scheduled demonstrations in Cameroon related to the problems in Egypt slated to kick off tomorrow…thankfully we would be on our way out of Cameroon and enroute to Gabon. Hoff told us about his strange adventure last night. Apparently he walked into a hotel or college dorm or something and walked into a few rooms until he found one to take a nap. Then he suddenly woke up from what he thought was a nightmare only to find that he was really there. It was a hilarious story. Several people from the scary Foyer Internationale de l’Eglise Presbyterienne stopped by asking why we were parked where we were and told us that we were still on “church property”. Dowelly was sitting across the road from the campsite for internet and Becky went to join him but was turned off by the attitude of the lady from Foyer Internationale who threatened that she had already called the police who would be coming shortly as we were not authorized to sit on their property. Nancy and Chris returned to let us know that they were able to get visas for the American passports for the same price as the others, score! Since we got some extra money back we went back to the supermarket and stocked up on more booze (gin, Smirnoff Ice, and premixes of vodka grapefruit and gin tonic). When everyone got back to the truck we departed and drove until around 1830 where Chris scoped out a nice open camping area. At dinner Nancy briefed us on the plans for roughly the next month and informed us about the travel risks and insurance requirements to travel through the upcoming countries. Becky’s cook group made dinner, which turned out to be pretty good. After dinner we went to the tents as we had an early morning. The ground was really hard so Robby got 4 water bottles to hold the window flaps as we expected rain.
23 Feb: It rained pretty heavy for a good part of the night. Luckily Robby set up the tent flaps so we didn’t have to get up in the middle of the night and we were still able to get fresh air through the night. Becky got up at 0630 for cook group and Robby got up shortly after to pack up and take down the tent. Thankfully the rain had eased up just before breakfast so it wasn’t too difficult to start the fire for coffee and tea. We departed at 0800 and started our journey towards the Gabon border, crossing over at the border town of Ambam on the Cameroon side headed towards Bitam. After crossing through the Cameroon side of the border, we stopped for lunch in a big parking area before entering Gabon.