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Camel World  




Travel Diary - 2003
5 January | Senegal
22 January |Gambia
18 January |Guinea
9 February | Mali
22 February | Burkina Faso
3 March | Ghana
19 March | Togo
20 March | Benin
25 March | Niger
12 April | Chad
15 April | Cameroon
16 April | Nigeria
30 April | Congo
24 May | RDC
31 May | Angola
5 June | Namibia
27 June | South Africa
30 August | Lesotho
10 September | Swaziland
9 October | Botswana
17 October | Namibia
19 October |
29 October | Malawi
4 November |Mozambique
16 November | Tanzania
12 December | Rwanda
16 December | RDC
18 December | Uganda
24 December | Kenya

Travel Diary - 2004
9 January | Ethiopia
6 February | Sudan
21 February | Saudi Arabia
23 February | Jordan
3 March | Syria
5 March | Turkey
12 March | Greece
21 March | ...And Home


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17 months, 43 countries, and 2 vehicles


Cameroon, Continued

From Buean we drove to Doula, the largest city in Cameroon and the commercial capital. There we found a massive Michelin depot which meant that we could pick up a new tyre to replace a severely shredded victim of the Aïr Mountains - three of our tyres have slow leaks and the spare is a mess as the last tyre shop couldn't get the tyre back on the bead properly.

We were getting our eleven various punctures repaired and fitting the new tyre which we had finally managed to track down when a Land Cruiser arrived for a grease stop, and we got chatting to the driver, a Frenchman who worked for Cameroon Veneer.

He told us that the Westerly South route through Gabon was difficult - the ferry was not working, the roads were bad, there be dragons, and that we really ought to go East to Moloundou, a small town in the South East corner of Cameroon, from where we could cross the river and connect with a good road that the Michelin map shows as turning into tarmac after 150km - he had just come back this way, or so he claimed.

I talked about the route with a few other locals in Youndé who confirmed the existence of the ferry crossing, which is not on the map, and so we decided to leave the well trodden path and head into the bush.

The piste was variable - fast but with some big holes. We spent the first night out of Youndé at Batouri, cursing the workmanship of the garage in Youndé where they had replaced the radial arm bushes, but left one of the arms flapping about like a wet kipper, as well as 'repairing' the drivers door which now no longer opened at all.

We arrived at Moloundou after dark the next day with a broken rear right spring, and no chance of repairs. Fortunately there are two nested springs, and the smaller of the two seems to be taking the strain well.

The following morning as I was trying to get my breakfast organised a short fat bloke said I should come to his office (pointing up a dirt track). I wasn't in the best of moods, having just changed yet another tyre, and I asked him who he worked for. He wouldn't tell me, and as he wasn't in uniform I asked to see some ID, which of course he couldn't produce. Nine times out of ten this would have been a run-of-the-mill encounter with some idle hustler, but in this case the guy was for real - he was the equivalent of their secret police chief, and in a quiet place like Moloundou he obviously has nothing better to do than harass tourists. So our morning was spent wasting time while our documents got thoroughly scrutinised, followed by a lecture on respecting officials even if they are not in uniform and can't show any ID.

Eventually we left for Socombo, a town some 160km East, having found that there was no ferry at Moloundou. It began to rain pretty shortly after we set out - which made for interesting driving. At one point we were sliding about on a surface more slippery as ice - Richard, walking alongside, was able to push the car back on track with one hand.

We spent the night at a charming place that was in every way a frontier town, full of colourful people, most of whom seemed to be on the run from Rwanda or Chad. After skilfully avoiding requests for cash from every official in sight we crossed the river on a corporate ferry which was free, for a repeat performance with the officials on the Congolese side, where we found out that there was no road to Brazzaville...


Cameroon, Continued

Mount Cameroon is about 4000m high, and the most direct route takes a day and a half to complete, unless you are competing in the Guinness Race in which case three hours is more acceptable.

The route starts wending its way from town into the gardens of the local inhabitants, and then leads up woodland paths via Hut 1 until you break out of the tree-line at about 2500m.

At this point our guide warns you that things are about to get a little steeper - the next stage is up broken ground and it is distinctly steep. We set a cracking pace, and by midday, five hours into the ordeal, we reached Hut 2 where we had planned to spend the night. It was a little early for us, but above hut 2 firewood is scarce, and an added advantage was that we were joined by four Dutch and two Germans, as well as a Cameroonian (apart from the many guides and porters with the other groups). If there had been a bar the party would have gone on into the wee hours, but instead we were tucked up early for the assault on the summit the next morning.

We set off as a group, and as the altitude began to show its affects the line soon became a long straggly one. We all met up again at Hut 3, the last before the summit, and after a quick bite we pushed on through increasingly cold and windy weather to the cloud enshrouded summit, which we reached a little before midday. That was the easy part.

The descent started off with a rapid run down to Hut 3, and shortly afterwards the rains, and then hail, set in. By the time we arrived at Hut 2 we were soaked to the skin (except for the bits covered by my Gore-Tex jacket). We emptied our boots and had lunch in an assortment of odd clothing while our climbing clothing was left to drip, and for an hour or so we were treated to a great example of nature at play, as torrents of rain swept past the hut.

Eventually we decided it was better to be wet back at our hostel rather than half way up a mountain, so we set off once more - and as we stepped out of the hut the rain more or less stopped!

If the ascent was fast I can tell you that Jonah, our guide, set a cracking pace that stretched our poor ligaments to the limits. Even with my Leki sticks which were out for the first time on this trip the going was a nightmare on the knees. Jonah, with the legs of a stick insect, does the trip three times a week, but we were really suffering, and each time our turn with the big rucksack arrived we really noticed the difference. Amazingly we walked more than we slid on our arses, though at times it was close.

As the day began to fade into dusk we finally arrived back at the very respectable Presbyterian Hostel where a lovely hot bucket shower awaited.

As I write this two days later in Youndé I am still walking like a geriatric, and Richard is no better, but at least we can boast that we have conquered Africa's eighth highest mountain.


Youndé, 23/04/03

After Chad Cameroon is a real relief. Once again officials treat us as a welcome asset to their economy, and people are far more hospitable. We enter from the North which takes us through the beautiful highlands with their dramatic volcanic plugs which soar from the countryside like giant thingies - (sorry but I couldn't find an appropriately poetic word there).

Our first stop is a small town by the Nigerian border which is our base for some illegal currency and arms trading with our neighbours just across the border. Creeping stealthily along just after dawn (well OK, 11a.m.)  we cross the border and stop at a farm where we meet a hunter who has an old Nigerian bank not for sale. Richard snaps that up. Next I ask to see his bow and arrows, and then the haggling starts in earnest. Eventually I leave with a bow and three steel tipped arrows, and the hunter is a few thousand CFA richer. I notice that the arrows are rather dirty, and am about to scrape the crap of the blades when our guide translated the timely warning from the hunter to beware the poisoned tips.

The road to Douala via N'Gaoundéré is slow and the weather is distinctly tropical - rain by the bucket-full. After overnighting in the forest we arrive at the Catholic mission in Foumban which is notable for it's lack of both electricity and water - despite the fact that it is still pissing down. Mostly I remember Foumban for the three witches at Restaurant "La Roche" who, once they had our money, doubled all the prices despite the printed menu. May their bad luck be exceeded only by their ugliness.

From Foumban it's tarmac down to Buean, an hour north-west of Douala, where Richard and I had an appointment with Mount Cameroon...