From the border to Limbe

 

We were adamant to stick to our plan to get to Limbe by sunset, so as soon as we could, we got moving.  Unfortunately the plan didn’t quite work out as, we reached to border at 7 o’clock, only to be told it didn’t open until 8, However, the crossing was very quick once the officials had turned up.

 

 From the moment you enter Cameroon, you notice the laid back atmosphere. Even right at the border, the officials were having their breakfast of tinned sardines and fu fu and in between mouthfuls of this, the forms were filled in and we were told about how great a country Cameroon is. Another thing that is immediately noticeable is the fact that Congo was Toyota country (as we sadly discovered!) Gabon Mitsubishi country and Cameroon motorbike country. From the moment you cross the border , you are surrounded by them and as we discovered later, they are a huge source of income for the owners as they are mostly used as taxis.

 

Cameroon got its name from the Portuguese, who were only here for a short while but named it “Camaroes” the word for prawns, due to the abundance thereof. The Germans occupied it at some stage, then the British and then the French.  What makes the country even more interesting is that it is clearly divided into a Francophone and an Anglophone section, The Anglophones being the minority as well as the opposition in politics. Needless to say, the area we were off to, Limbe, is a coastal town and in the Anglophone area. We felt the after 4 weeks of French speaking countries, we just needed a few days of being able to communicate with the locals.

 Still trying to "pay it forward" made the journey a lot longer though!Local lady

Turned out our idea of getting to Limbe was a bit crazy, as we traveled for 14 hours and only got to our destination at 8.30 that night…..NOT a good idea, but the roads in Cameroon are brilliant, tar all the way. What makes the journey so long is the fact that you get stopped about every hour or less by police roadblocks, and toll roads,  a great irritation as you cannot always see them and here they adopted the Nigerian practice of placing a strip of wood with very sharp nails across the tar to make sure you stop. Once again the fact that we cannot speak French helped a lot as they all eventually give up asking for bribes as we just play dumb. Also we think all the stickers on the car helps, as they all think we are on some official mission.

The fact that Cameroon has 16 million people is immediately noticeable as there are a lot more villages compared to Gabon. The dress code is not nearly as smart as in the Congo and like in Gabon, both the males and females seem to be working in the fields. They farm with Cassava, bananas, plantains, dates, tomatoes and mangoes. Also noticeable is their pride in their “Lions” the soccer team famous for being the first African team to reach the quarter finals of World cup soccer. There are statues of a lion everywhere as well as billboards featuring the players.

 The ever popular LIONWe are friends!!!

It was easy going until we got to  Yaounde!  OMG what a mad crazy place. We had to change money as we could not find anywhere in Gabon to change our dollars for CFS’s, but this turned out to be a nightmare task. First problem was that nobody wanted to change money and to get around to find out where to go, Stewart had to dodge “starlet” taxis by the hundreds, people crossing the road as if they are on a Sunday stroll in the park, hundreds of vendors, trucks, cars, pushcarts and dogs all camping out in the main streets. We finally managed to get to “Score” the only directions to follow being pointing of fingers in the general direction and shouting Score, Score! Turned out to be a supermarket that arranged for mysterious moneychangers whom you had to meet in the ally to change your dollars on the blackmarket. We had no choice and gladly accepted the rate Isaac gave us.

 Crazy Yaounde "Tits bar" and Starlet Taxis The Blues Brothers traveled far!!

We filled up with petrol and got the hell out of there only to reach Douala, the next big city , even more congested and chaotic.. By this stage the rain started and in addition to the madness of the streets, we now had mud pools as well as darkness that set in. It took us 2 hours to get through the city by which time it was pitch dark. As I cannot see in the dark (old age does that to you ) poor Stewart had to do all the driving despite having driven most of the time to get here. We got lost, got stopped again and again by the now notorious police blocks and by eventually driving right behind a police car, finally made Limbe at 8 O’Clock promising ourselves NEVER to do this again! The end was not in sight yet, as we drove around for 30 minutes to try and find accommodation. By chance we stumbled upon the Botanical garden which is the place we were in fact looking for as most travelers stay in the “guesthouse” here. We were told we are too late, but after explaining that we came all the way from Gabon, the guards took pity on us and took us to the delightful Julia who runs the accommodation side.

 

We had no idea what the place looked like, had a quick meal and passed out on top of the sheets from pure exhaustion.