Cameroon

17th of November – 9th of December 2019:

In the first Cameroonian village, the chief in power received us and provided us with a new escort. Afterwards we cycled down an extremely steep hill. Due to the hill, we lost around 800 m of altitude. The friendly customs officers greeted us in French and we arrived in Cameroon.  

Without any further escort, we fought with the bumpy dirt road and several steep sections in the direction of the main road. Unfortunately, our hope of a better road melted into thin air. Further, we were jarred and had to avoid deep ditches from the rainy season. At least the steep sections contained a tarred road, since there were many of them. After we left a mountain pass behind us, the terrain got flat.  

The population is much smaller in Cameroon compared to Nigeria and the people were less emotional during our passages. Almost indifferently in comparison to the loud and interested people of Nigeria. 

For breakfast, the poor vice-village head and his wife cooked the same dish for us as the evening before when we arrived. This gave us the message that each centime counts and we offered them some money, even though they did not ask for it. 

Unfortunately, the quality of the gravel road did not change at all and all the bumps almost shook us out of our mind. The rainy season is not over long enough and therefore the road reparations just started. 

In a larger city, the road surface changed and we were rarely as glad to see a tarred road again. We bought a SIM card in a tedious process and searched for the king. He received us immediately and we witnessed how worried citizens asked for his advice. Those men visiting the king, brought wine in a Tetra Pak as a present. The king’s assistant divided the wine among all those present. 

When we wanted to continue at 9.30 AM, the king and his best friend the police chief were already drinking their second beer (6 dL). Of course, we could not deny the invitation to try the self-brewed palm wine and drank a glass with the tipsy, prominent men. 

After several mountain passes, which took our last energy, we ate a bread with chocolate spread in a small village. We offered the family tea from Nigeria and they gave us cooked cassava tubers to try. 

In Foumban, the largest city in Cameroon so far, we searched for the pompous temple and saw that there was a museum in the shape of a snake-spider combination. The security guard showed us a room where we could sleep. Many young men tried to convince us to buy overpriced figures or other souvenirs. Since a long time, we seemed to have landed in a touristic place. 

In the late afternoon, the young prince invited us to sleep in his house and we accepted the generous offer. 

Due to the immense hospitality of the oldest son of the king, we decided to rest one day, to get an insight into the life of a prince. The generous, young man and new-fledged father showed us the organized market and we met part of his family. His uncle invited us to a noble restaurant to show us his favorite food. 

The current king or sultan has in comparison to his father “only” 7 wives and 23 children. His predecessor had impressive 50 wives and countless kids! Additionally, we learned that only the king could cross his legs and nobody else in the palace grounds. 

We left the rare luxury of electricity, at least for most of the day and a bed, to continue cycling in the hilly region. Suddenly, a truck with German license plates overtook us and a woman waved at us form the window. In the next town, we had a nice exchange with the friendly couple from Austria. They are already around ten years on the road and experienced many things with their home on wheels. It was nice to talk to like-minded people and compare our adventures. 

In Bafoussam, we turned in the direction of Yaoundé instead of Douala. After sunset, we searched for a village chief. When we arrived in the palace grounds, there was nobody around and the people we found after some searching did not really care about us. After some time, the chief arrived and said we cannot stay here, when we asked if it was possible to pitch our tent somewhere. 

His chauffeur wanted to drive us to the next village instead, since it was safer there and the chief over there welcomed guests. Therefore, we packed our equipment on the pick-up truck and stood on the loading area, to be sure that nothing fell off the vehicle. Since we were higher than 1600 m, we felt cold during the ride and had to hold on to the car tightly, because of all the potholes. 

When we arrived, the ruling king received us in a friendly way and offered us an aperitif. He had many guests and therefore developed his palace for tourists. He offers beautiful rooms and his palace is decorated, rich in detail and filled with traditional handicrafts. He offered us a room and during dinner with wine in his luxury house, he told us about his visits in Switzerland. 

When we wanted to continue, the employee of the king told us that we needed to settle the bill. We were shocked and asked what we needed to pay for. He said for the room. Since we told the king that we could camp in the garden, we thought it was a nice gesture when he offered us a room instead. Of course, we would have refused the room, but apparently, the language barrier led to this uncomfortable situation. We explained that we do not have enough cash with us and therefore cannot pay. 

Back on the holey road, we descended steadily and the air got more humid and hotter. Soon, thick forest surrounded us again and we left the mountainous landscapes and the coniferous forests behind us. 

Since we crossed the border, we asked many people about the security situation. All of them said there were no problems and we had the same feeling. In addition, there were no more vigilantes and therefore we tried to sleep in the wilderness again. 

In Nigeria, certain children or women treated us, as we would be something better and even bowed to us in some cases. In Cameroon, this is different and sometimes, we almost felt strange, since people were less interested in us. 

However, the surprised faces did not change when we tell people that we love African food and eat nothing else all day long. 

In Cameroon, the families, except for the kings, are rather small in comparison to the bordering country and therefore the population is many times smaller as well. Nonetheless, we see hundreds of kids daily walking their long way to school in their pretty uniforms. 

On the journey to the capital, we saw many times, like in previous countries that people dried their harvest on the road. We saw cacao beans, chili peppers, cassava roots and peanuts. 

On the side of the road, men and women sold many different fruits and we could not abstain from buying some papayas. The price for three huge specimens was only 50 Euro Cents! 

In Yaoundé, we quickly found the house of our host and he welcomed us warmly. Jocelyn lives already four years in this large city and works as a teacher at a French school. We had nice conversations with him and his friend David about the life in this central African country and enjoyed some beers. 

First, we started our next visa hunt. At the embassy in Gabon, the security guard rejected us immediately, since we did not wear long pants. We thought it was ridiculous, but the security guard ignored us. Therefore, we cycled back to the house and returned with another outfit. 

The not very motivated woman in the embassy told us which documents we needed and we searched for all the papers. Everything was ready and then we realized that the visa was valid from the date of issue, instead of a date of choice. We complained loudly and could not believe that there is no other way. Since we discussed heatedly, the ambassador came out of his office and understood our excitement. Finally, he offered us a compromise proposal of 45 instead of 30 days for a special price. We accepted the offer a bit disappointed and got the biometric visa within one hour. 

In the meantime, the woman made us angry, since she wanted to charge us 20 USD more for the completion of the forms. The problem was that she never asked if we wanted to make use of this service. 

On the same day, we cycled to the embassy of the republic of Congo along the hilly and partly broken roads of the capital. The clerk almost made us fall asleep with her facial expression and had the motivation of a bear wanting to hunt during hibernation. She collected all our documents and told us to pick up the visa in one week. The express fee was too expensive for us and we accepted the fact that we had to stay a bit longer in the capital city. 

Since Jocelyn uses Warmshowers and Couchsurfing, Mahdi arrived after a few days. We met the Tunisian traveler already in Togo for the first time and were in contact ever since. 

Shopping in Cameroon is rather annoying, since nobody has change. Even in the large supermarkets, we could not buy anything, unless we had the right amount of money. The cashier did not care at all if we could buy our products or not. We did not want to buy the recommended energy bar, just because there was no change. This situation happened several times daily and reminded us of Ivory Coast.

Luckily, we got an address of a reliable bicycle mechanic in Yaoundé from another touring cyclist. In this shop, they even had two new bottom brackets. Especially Fabian needed a new bottom bracket, because it wobbled already since Lagos and would not have survived much longer. Adrian replaced his as well, since in the next few countries it will be hard to find a decent mechanic. 

In addition, Adrian was not able to change into the upper chain ring in the front since Dakar and not one mechanic could fix it since then. To our surprise, the Cameroonians had a solution and mounted a new shifter and a third chain ring. Due to that change, it was no longer a problem to climb steep ascents. We bought new brake pads as well and therefore had properly functioning bicycles for the first time in a while. 

During the weekend, a friend of Jocelyn from Douala visited and the number of people staying the in the apartment increased to five. While we had dinner in the city of Yaoundé, we enjoyed the interesting conversations. 

Adrian repeatedly had discomforts during the last few days, but it never got worse. He had a feeling that something was on his way but did not know what exactly. Directly after we arrived in the capital, he got strong headaches and had pain radiating from the location of the liver. Therefore, he did a malaria and typhus test. The malaria test was unsurprisingly positive. 

Jocelyn had the number of an experienced French doctor, who lived already dozens of years in Cameroon. She recommended examining the blood and this showed that the malaria infection was already gone. However, the results showed prove of an infection in the system. Therefore, he did an ultrasound image of the lower abdomen. In the meantime, the pain changed from the liver to the back and suddenly to the shoulder. 

The ultrasound examination showed a 6 mm large kidney stone, swollen lymph nodes and an enlarged liver. The enlarged liver was probably from the malaria infection. To have a better picture about the situation with the kidney stone, the very helpful doctor recommended visiting an expert. The expert said that the stone should find his way out with the urine with its actual size. Having this assessment and a few new drugs, we got our allowance to continue our trip. The local doctor recommended one more test of some liver values. After this test showed nothing alarming, we decided to start cycling again on the following day. 

In the afternoon, we left the luxury again and cycled on the chaotic roads of Yaoundé, to leave the city. Shortly after leaving the capital, we already saw lush rainforest behind the villages and the region definitely got more rural. 

After we successfully finished the bend to the right, we will “only” cycle southwards. This does not mean that we will arrive in South Africa soon! 

Cameroon has one of the highest alcohol consumptions in Africa. Already the Nigerians drew our attention to that fact and we witnessed the scale every day since we entered Cameroon. Repeatedly, we saw tipsy men walking through the villages before 10 AM. Several times, locals asked us if we want to drink palm wine or beer for breakfast. In all bars and restaurants, sat men and women drinking beer, which was a completely new picture for us. 

The Cameroonian breweries outdid each other in the last years with prize games where one could win various things. This situation proceeded to an extreme condition, where the bottle tops, on which the breweries published the prices, circulated as an unofficial currency. Even the police accepted the metal pieces as a bribing currency. 

Since we left Yaoundé, we had difficulties to find a spot to pitch our tent. The options were in the jungle or in a village. 

For that reason, we asked some men who were drinking palm wine if we could pitch our tent somewhere, since they greeted us when we passed them. Like many times before, the family offered us a room. The father gave up his room for us and slept in the children’s room instead. The consequence of that was that the kids had to sleep on the sofas in the living room. 

In the midmorning, we left the friendly family and their numerous children with a full stomach. For hours, we cycled through forests, which were full of trees that have no branches except the treetop. After some villages without any opportunity to eat something, we asked some people where we could find something to eat. One of the men invited us to follow him after a short discussion. There was a wedding only 100 m from the main road. Quickly some women served us a meal and invited us to participate in the wedding. 

At the end, we decided to sleep in the village. Unfortunately, we had to change our plans to wild camp, since there was heavy rain several times. The motivation of the guests to dance did not shrink and they partied until late in the night, accompanied with loud music. Our improvised sleeping place was rather sketchy, but enough luxury for one night. We roughly cleaned a smelly shed full of rubbish and we spend a restless night in the leaking hut. 

The strong rain during the night reminded us that we approached the equator and therefore there were no more rainy seasons. The bibulous guests were already back in a party mood when we said goodbye in the morning. 

Tired and one experience richer, we pedaled along the hilly road. The villages got smaller and the traffic decreased more and more. 

We followed a forest trail and found a decent place for our tent in the middle of the jungle. A few kids saw us turn into the forest and visited our sleeping place. They were excited to watch us and played some music on their old mobile phone. After around an hour, we told them that we would like to have some quiet time and surprisingly, they politely walked back to their village. 

So, we thought… After a couple of minutes, the boys returned with three avocados they found somewhere in the forest. They asked if we like corn and we said yes, but we also mentioned that we have enough food with us. An hour later, the boys came back with five corncobs. Repeatedly, we are surprised about the hospitality of the people in Africa. 

During our time in Cameroon, we never had to show our passports, except when we entered and left the country. This example proofs how different the countries in this region are, since the southwest of the country has currently a precarious security situation. 

A nice restaurant employee let us grill our corncobs on his fire and we shared the delicious snack with him. When we planned our journey, we intended to visit the small, oil-spoiled country of Equatorial Guinea. The immense visa costs of 300 Euros for one month scared us and we decided to skip the country. 

We spent our last night in Cameroon with a friendly family who managed a restaurant directly at the border. 

–>Continue with Gabon

<–Back to Nigeria