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2012 Aug by Michael Novins
August 2012 -- I began my trip in Douala, where I stayed at the Hotel Akwa Palace,
the city's most historic hotel (http://www.hotel-akwa-palace.com/). I spent most of my time in Douala in the Joss district, visiting the German-era colonial buildings (and was stopped several times by security who wanted to make sure that I had not taken photographs of any of those buildings). From Douala I drove to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon, which is not a particularly interesting city. The road between Douala and Yaoundé has a few vendors selling live bush meat, mostly cane rats. I made my arrangements with Global Bush Travel and Tourism Agency (http://www.globalbushtratour.com/). |
1992 Sep by Jorge Sanchez
IN DOUALA ON SUNDAY: The overland transport from Biafra to Douala was fantastic. I used trucks, motorcycles and jeeps, crossing a large river (Wouri), traversed jungle and saw the impressive Mount Cameroon. The third day I was able to travel in a bus until Yaounde, from where I continued my journey the next day to the border with Equatorial Guinea.
.................... CROSSING THE BORDER WITH CHAD: When I reached the Cameroon border (from Centralafrican Republic) I had to argue, in a benevolent way, with the agents. They understood my situation and let me proceed to the border with Chad, but without stamping my passport. Then in the Cameroon border I boarded a truck to the border with Chad, and again there I had to request the noble Africans to help me and let me enter Chad, what they finally did. In every border I distributed some baksheesh to the pleasant agents, otherwise they might open your bag and check carefully everything confiscating you whatever they wanted. |
1990 Mar by Veikko Huhtala*
We got our Cameroon visas in Stockholm for free of charge. While travelling around Africa we had Air Afrique flight from Cotonou to Douala. In Douala we stayed three days, because we needed visas to Equatorial Guinea. Douala is the largest city in Cameroon, but the capital is Yaounde. Cameroon is French speaking country, as most of it's neighbor countries as well. We left Cameroon 10th of March by Cameroon Airlines to Malabo. This is our only visit to Cameroon, but it is possible that we have to visit there again, when we are going to Bata. |
1990 Jan by Peter Kuiper
On the 30.DEC 1988 we flew from Berlin via Frankfurt - where we spend the night at the InterContinental Hotel - to Cameroon, to arrive in Douala on New Year’s Eve.
We stayed in the Hotel Méridien, an oasis in this rather faceless city. I had a swim in the pool, but Ingo wanted to stay out of the sun as he had a sun burn. A sun burn before we actually got into the African sun! I had told him that the sudden change from the Berlin winter into the African eternal summer wouldn’t be good for the skin, and he should get some sessions in the solarium. Of course he didn’t make it in time, so instead of taking several shorter sessions, he took one long one with a severe sunburn as a result.
We had expected some kind of party in the hotel or the city, but we were disappointed: celebrating the New Year isn’t part of African culture. The hotel offered a very expensive dinner party, attended by a few arrogant looking upper class Africans, so we asked for an area in town with some action. The staff of the front desk was visibly confused by our intention to visit the city in the dark, so we just got out and asked a taxi driver. He drove us around, but nothing seemed to be open. We walked around a bit through the center of town: nothing. Now Ingo wanted to walk back to the hotel and I wanted a taxi. We had a serious row about this, until an African guy told us that it was too dangerous to walk around in the dark. Still not convinced (a few years later he would change his mind about this issue) Ingo finally agreed and we got a cab back to the Méridien.
The next morning we flew to Maroua. It was good to get out of Douala quickly. Maroua is nice, very nice indeed. It is a town built in Sudanese style with walls and houses build of mud. It’s nice and green with big shady trees. It is perhaps the most northerly green town in this part of the world, as all villages north of here are dry and almost treeless.
We found a very nice hotel: “Relais de la Porte Mayo”, a camping style place with individual round huts with thatched roofs. A servant from the hotel offered us to show us the town. We felt save this way, but did not take any pictures, as the police have their eyes everywhere in Cameroon. A tourist taking pictures is a wonderful opportunity for the police to fine him, get bribes, take him to the police station or throw him in jail.
Then he told us that there were some nice bars “avec l’ambience”. That was indeed the case. The three nights we were in Maroua were some of the nicest we would experience in the whole of Africa. He took us to a small bar. The square bright room had a wooden bar in one corner. A tiny barred window behind it supplied the bartender with beers: 1664 (called “une Treize”) Kronenbourg, 33 (Trente Trois) or Beaufort (my favorite), cool or natural. Before the bartender opened the bottle for you, he let you feel the temperature as if it were a precious wine. The music was like anywhere in Cameroon, absolutely out of this world. You cannot resist the rhythm. “Sam Fan Thomas” was our big star. We were dancing our ass off! The ten or so African customers had a ball with us. Everyone wanted to dance with us, the girls as well as the guys. Suddenly an old guy grabbed Ingo and started ballroom dancing with him. That was so funny! “He dances like a feather” he shouted to me as they passed by, and then: ”His hands feel like the paw of an old dead crocodile” on the next round. We had a ball, it was absolutely fantastic, what a night!
The next morning we had arranged a car with a driver for the whole day. We didn’t visit the “Park du Double W” as we had seen many game reserves in Eastern and Southern Africa, but we were interested in the countryside in the northern bottleneck of Cameroon. We did not make it to the backtracking Lake Chad, but we covered about the whole area between Maroua and the lake. The big draw of the North of this country is the needle rock of Rhumsiki, more or the less “the” landmark of the whole of Cameroon. But apart from this striking rock, the whole countryside is covered with hills and rocks. The villages are beautiful and look like the stage set of a hobbit movie. Life hasn’t changed here since ages and the people were friendly and did not mind us to take pictures. We had fun with the driver and his co-driver. Another plus was the big box with white balloons Christian had given us. The kids were absolutely thrilled with them. But one time, as we drove on, we almost overran a child, who ran after his balloon, drifting off by the wind.
Our last day, we made a trip to Oudjila, about ten km south of Mora. Mora is a poor town 60km north of Maroua. We visited the small market in this town. Fruit and vegetables were spread out on the ground, none of the villagers had racks to display their merchandise.
Oudjila is a traditional village on a hill, overlooking the plane of Mora. The whole village consists of hobbit like round huts, built closely together. In the central part of the village we visited the palace - le saré - of the chief, with sections for his different wives, his mother, reception areas, all consisting out of agglomerations of little round huts.
As a foreigner you won’t get lost in Cameroon, neither do natives. The government keeps a tight grip on people’s movements. At the bus station when you book the ticket or when you get into a bus, everybody’s details are filled in on a form and the police checks these lists most precise. Most probable not out of love for their job or country, but to be able to extract bribes when they only find the slightest deviation from what they think should be right. The police in Cameroon really are a pain in the ass. The police are terrible anywhere in Africa, but these guys in this country really make you nuts. Many people, for example the taxi drivers, have the feeling that they are only working for THEM.
After numerous roadblocks and controls we arrived in Ngaoundéré after dark and continued the next morning to the capitol-city of Cameroon - Yaounde - to arrive there late afternoon. This new capital boosts some government buildings you cannot take pictures off. The presidential palace on top of a hill is hiding behind eucalyptus trees and the town itself consists out of an endless ocean of one story buildings. The Imperial Hotel Sarl had two. The bar in front of the classical hotel building looked quite nice, a bit like a saloon in America’s Wild West. A few guys and girls were hanging around drinking beer. We already anticipated a funky evening like in Maroua. Nothing was further away than this. We were so lightheaded to book and pay the room before properly checking it. The beds were awful, without my own sheets I wouldn’t have laid down, and after we came back from a little sightseeing tour through town, there was nobody left in the bar. In the big cities in Cameroon, people try to be home after dark.
We were happy to leave this city the next day and entered the cultural heartland of this country, with a number of interesting towns and villages that where capitals of local kingdoms before Cameroon became independent. The biggest city in this part of the country is Baffoussam. We stayed in the Hotel le Continental for CFA 7500 plus a petit déjeuner for CFA1960, all together about DM65. Cameroon isn’t cheap. The only pictures we dared to take were from our hotel window.
The next day we made a trip to Foumban to see the famous Stone Palace from the nineteenth century. This town was one of the few places in Cameroon where we could take pictures without problems. I even have a shot from the local white mosque.
Further west we visited Bandjoun, with the biggest “chefferie” in the “Pays Bamiléké”. The original palace grounds consist out of a collection of huge round huts, surrounded with carved pillars.
The night we spend in Bafang in the Hotel Central and made a few pictures from the window again. From here we walked the two km to the “Chutes de la Mouenkeu”. The water drops down about 40m from a steep escarpment into a round pond surrounded by lush jungle. Where the path led off the road to these falls there were two policemen hanging around. The one with the black sun glasses pointed at my backpack and warned me not to take pictures. Of course we understood that the security of the state was at stake if we would take pictures of a waterfall. We managed to take one by hiding in the dense shrubs.
During the weekend the citizens of Douala like to go to the beach resort of Limbé, a 75km or two hour drive from there. We were there during the week and the bars were empty, not much dancing going on. Still, every night, we enjoyed our “Trente Trois” or “Beaufort” in one of the tin iron sheds on Main Street.
Our hotel here was top notch, very stylish! We resided three nights in the colonial “Atlantic Beach Hotel”. It has a salt water pool and is the only hotel right on the black beach of Limbé.
From here, we hoped to get a boat to Bioko, the big round island belonging to Equatorial Guinea. When we asked around at the beach, the fishermen smelled money and told us that there was a boat “demain”. We used our time to make a trip to Buéa at the bottom of the jungle covered slopes of the 4070m high Mount Cameroon, a busy market place in this fertile part of the country. Too bad, the mountain kept his summit covered in clouds the whole day.
In the morning we went to the beach early to ask about the boat again, with the same answer: “demain”. We made a day trip along the deserted beaches further west and made it all the way to Idenao. We made a long hike along the coast. The beaches are all black, either out of sand or lava rocks. And besides us, there was nobody around.
The next morning the fishermen said “demain” again. Finally they showed us the boat: the thing was still under construction! This was ridiculous! We had to give up the idea to get to Bioko this way. We packed, paid and took a bus to Douala. We were lucky to get a flight to Malabo the next day.
After a long journey through Bioko, the mainland of Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Sao Tomé and Gabon again, I (Ingo flew home from Libreville) arrived at the Gabon - Cameroon border. It had been a hassle to get a visa for Cameroon again. At the embassy in Libreville, they told me that I should get the visa back home. “But my flight leaves from Douala” I told them again and again. Finally they agreed for a price of 5000CFA……….. Since I only had a 10.000CFA note to pay and they didn’t have “monnaie”, they told me I would get my change tomorrow. Of course that was it.
From the last village in Gabon, I walked to the border and left Gabon. Except for a few soldiers and one fat bimbo in uniform, there was nobody around at the Cameroon Checkpoint. “La frontier est fermée” he told me. When it would open again, I asked. “L’après-midi ou demain” he said, “peut etre”. And then to his subordinates: “Il ne comprends rien”! Of course I understood, but why should I pay right away. I sat down at the side of the road and was surprised that there was absolutely no traffic at all at this border: the main crossing point between two African countries! Now it was après-midi and I put some money in my passport and got my stamp right away. I walked to the next village and got a bus to Ebolowa where I spend the night.
Busses in Cameroon are always busy, usually they won’t leave until they’re full. The tiny minibus I travelled on to Kribi was far more than full. Here the driver had not only used the seats and floor space to make money, but also the entire available cubic millimeters. I had a seat at the aisle. A guy was standing next to me under the low ceiling, bending over my lap. The road was bad, often our heads slammed together. The guy excused himself, we started talking. Pierre was a soldier at the Garde Présidentielle and on the way home. He invited me. The house of his parents was just a few steps from the river. Standing on giant polished boulders, we did a big clean-up in the river and washed our clothes as well. Nature was just amazing here, the jungle was dense and the trees were huge. A little further the river dropped onto the golden beach with a big waterfall (Chutes de la Lobé). At the time I did not realize it, but I think I did not go to Kribi at all. I thought this beach with the waterfall was Kribi. At night we went to a disco. I invited Pierre and some of his friends and we danced our ass of. It was Sam Fan Thomas again! Pierre wanted me to have a good time and introduced me to all the nice girls from town……..
After three days of swimming, sunbathing and dancing I returned to Douala to fly home.
We crossed the bottleneck of Cameroon on the way from Maiduguri to N’Djamena and two days later we were here again, because we couldn’t find transport through the south of Chad to get to Central African Republic.
We were happy to be back in Maroua and hoped for a night in a bar with some “ambiance”. It was nice to be back, and when we were sitting - and freezing - on the terrace of the “Relais de la Porte Mayo”, the guy from last year recognized us and said hallo: “You gave me some t-shirts last year” he said. Of course he once more expected some. Too bad I could not miss too much of my stuff as Ingo’s luggage had not arrived in Niamey and we both had to get through with the old clothes Christian had wanted to get rid of. He shook his head as we asked him to go out with us. The bar seemed to have closed down, either due to the security situation, the Islamization or some other reason.
The next day we reached Ngaoundéré via Garoua. The busses we used were mini-busses or small busses, tiring for Ingo, but not for me as I cannot stay awake in busses, however uncomfortable. In Ngaoundéré we stayed in the hotel that belonged to the train company, although here in Ngaoundéré passage trains don’t run anymore. From here we crossed Cameroon as quick as possible as it was not the aim of our journey, we wanted to go to the Central African Republic. Via Yaoundé we reached Garoua Boulai when it was getting dark. Of course we wanted to go dancing again, but there was no “ambiance” in this rather dull border town. The hotel we were staying in reminded us of the time we were travelling through Ethiopia……
The next morning we walked to the border and were surprised to see a revamped truck with an international crowd of young people camping around it. “Although we all have a visa for the CAR, some of us are not allowed to enter” a Swiss guy told us. I didn’t really think much about it, but was very negatively surprised when the same thing happened to ME. Ingo, with his German passport, had no problem, but I as a Dutchman could not enter the country, although we had applied the visa together???? The officer told me to go back to Yaoundé to “revalidate” my visa, whatever that could mean, and with no guarantee for success. We decided that Ingo would go on to Bangui, and I would go back to Douala. We would try to meet again in Brazzaville. It was a very sad moment when I saw Ingo walking the dusty road behind the passport control. I was not allowed to enter a country just a few steps away, and I felt lonely.
I went right back to the “gare routière”, and got a “taxi-brousse” back to Yaoundé. Yaounde again, definitively not one of my favorite cities in Africa. It was too late to continue to Douala, people suggested me to take the train the next morning. I did not stay in the dreadful “Imperial” again, but found another place.
It was no problem to get a seat on the train to Douala. Trains do somehow not fit in the African life style. Perhaps they only run for government officials to get from the one big urban community of the country to the other, or to show off: ”Look what we have, a train like in Europe!” Anyway, the trip on the almost empty train did not last long. About half way the four hour trip - I had just moved to the “Dining Car” where the young lady in charge had put her head on her folded arms on the bar, and slightly shook her head telling me that there was ”pas de thé, pas de café” and also “pas de bière” available and I was just sipping on an available coke - as the train shook violently. “What’s that!” I shouted. “Oh je pense que le train est déraillé” was her emotionless answer. Déraillé??? The train derailed??? I could not believe it. I opened the window, stuck out my head and believe it or not, there the train was, deeply sunken into the gravel. So deep that I wonder if it ever made it out again. It still might be there, rusting by now, in the middle of the dense green jungle. It took me some time to get my mind together and to vacate the train. Everywhere the people were climbing out of the train and unload their sometimes bulky luggage. I only had my tiny backpack with half the initial cloths and walked the same direction as the others. I was happy to see a little shed of the train company besides the tracks, perhaps the barn to shelter the person in charge of a track switch. From there a straight path ran into the jungle. As I passed, I was surprised to see two young blond guys sitting on the ground, leaning against the shed. I said hallo and they told me that they came from Switzerland, “aus der deutschen Schweiz”. Such a surprise! We talked about what to do and followed the others. The road was only a few hundred meters away. On the way, the blond guy asked about the situation in Europe. His mother had written him that the Berlin Wall was gone. “But that is not true isn’t it” he asked, “that cannot be true!” They told that they had been working on a farm for half a year and that they had been totally cut off from the rest of the world. I told them what had happened this autumn 1989. They could not believe it. “Ceaucescu too” they shouted when I told them that he and his wife had been hanged at the side of the road. They could not believe what they had missed. They would return to a complete different Europe as they had left six months ago..
Somehow the other passengers had disappeared already and not for long, that a little Toyota stopped and allowed us to climb on the cargo area. Two hours later we were in Douala. The Swiss guys went to the little hotel they had stayed before. I went with them and promised to come back if I couldn’t get a flight out to Kongo the same day.
Downtown I found a travel agent, and surprise, surprise, there would be a flight to Brazzaville on Air Afrique tonight at 8pm. I could pay with traveler checks and they would organize the transport to bring me to the airport. It still wasn’t dark when I arrived there. A porter offered his help. Since I had almost nothing, there was no need, but I let him help me with the procedures. African airports are very confusing. With his help I checked in without problems and gave him a tip. That was my luck! I proceeded to the departure lounge and waited….and waited…and waited. The flight was delayed and delayed and finally cancelled. Immediately the same guy turned up again and told me I had to follow him. He directed me to a tiny refund office a couple of flights of stairs higher up. I would never have found this place. I wouldn’t have imagined that such a service would exist in Africa at all. In the office, the guy put me on a flight the next afternoon and also, what I did not expect at all, gave me a voucher for a night in a hotel - the Ibis - plus vouchers for a late dinner and breakfast.
The next morning after breakfast I felt a bit lonely and wanted to see if the Swiss guys were in their hotel. But where ever I looked, I could not find their place again. I walked all the main streets plus the side streets, nothing. I even walked back to the airline office trying to find the hotel from there, in vain. A bit sad and lonely I walked back to the Ibis and spend the last few hours before the flight at the pool.
This time the flight was on time, I arrived in Brazzaville at sunset. Entering the country took a long time though. I thought that the people were impossible here. Huge tall guys in uniform, police or army, were standing around me and trying to intimidate me. It was really difficult to keep cool and I had to defend myself in, at that time, insufficient French. I insisted again and again that I had a visa and that I had paid all the expenses for it in Berlin and that no further payments were necessary. Finally they gave up and gave me my entrance stamp.
I took a taxi to the Meridien and told him about our problems at the CAR border in Garoua Boulai. Now we drove up the stately driveway of this four star French hotel and who was walking there: INGO! |