Thursday, February 28, 2019

Bushcamp to Bagangte, Cameroun, February 27, 2019

What a night!  It poured and poured!  The wind blew and i spent the night trying to keep my sleeping bag on my skinny thermarest to keep it dry.  In the morning I wrung water out of my sleeping bag  but I didn't get it the worst.  Will was completely flooded and ended up in the cab and Clarissa's tent collapsed so she slept in the truck.  I was in a foul mood is all l can say and with the prospect of another Bushcamp night, I wasn't looking forward to the day.  It's really hard to describe African rains. They are nothing like we have at home.  Imagine dumping a pail of water from the sky.  That's what it's like and then combine that with wind.  It's ugly and inches and inches of water falls but magically, little is left lying around.  We are apparently entering rainy season so I am not looking forward to wet nights!

At breakfast a very bossy local woman was hanging around demanding food  Will made the mistake of leaving his coffee on the ground by his chair and she grabbed it and drank it.  We eventually gave her some leftover rice.  She and her companion have facial tattoos and scars that distinguish their tribe-

We are making our way to Yaounde, where we were supposed to be February 23.  The roads are bad so it's slow going.  We made 218 km today-

Cameroun is very green and there's a lot of hand-tilled land so many more vegetables are available at markets.  The people are not friendly;  they stare and do not wave or say 'hello' and 'welcome' like everyone did in Nigeria-

We went to Foumban to see the Sultan's Palace which is home to the 19th sultan of the Baman Dynasty.  Sultan Njoya built it in the 20th century. He invented a corn grinding machine, a script for the Bamum language-

a religion that fused Christian and Muslim beliefs and had 681 wives.  There were some interesting masks-


and costumes on display-

I like this bag-

A weird new building - a spider on top of a snake-

is being built and the artefacts will be moved there.  The visit was an expensive waste of time but thanks once again to Lying Planet, it was a 'must see'!

I found the nearby market much more interesting-

Dried fish-

Piles and piles of North American used clothing-

We continued south.  Furniture for sale-

Organized chaos-

It was getting dark and I had my fingers crossed that we'd find a hotel and we did!  So nice.  Next door was a multitasking restaurant-

With a funny menĂº-

The woman came over to the truck and offered to feed us.  Even though it took a few hours to prepare (we didn't eat until 9:30), it was some of the best chicken I've had.  I drank a litre of Coke Zero since we arrived - (it's hard to find) so I'm pretty sure I'll be awake most of the night.  Oh well, I'll enjoy my room and get everything charged!  Looking forward to hopefully reaching Yaounde tomorrow!  

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Bushcamp to Bushcamp, Cameroon, February 26, 2019

I wasn't looking forward to climbing that ugly, wet, clay hill this morning-

We slipped and slid, then had to shovel the wet away=

but we made it! 

We had a 120 km day which is huge considering yesterday we only did 25 km, but that also included two very slow border crossings.  It's also an indication of how shit the roads are-

Villages along the way-

Everyone is so friendly and happy to see us-

Scenery is beautiful and we finally have blue sky again-

We came upon a waterfall-

and a river to cross-

Women were washing clothes-

There are lots of wrecks on the road.  They get the job done-

We had a great lunch in a 'real' restaurant in Banyos and made our way to the "Orange" line on the map, the N6, expecting pavement to Yaounde.  Unfortunately, we were on rough red clay again but the scenery was nice-

I like the hat of the policeman we found at a check point.  If I'm not riding shotgun, I have to jump off the truck at every stop to speak to the police, unless of course they speak English.  It's good exercise and keeps me awake-

More homes-

This part of Cameroon appears to be sparsely populated but whenever we stop, it doesn't take long to gather a crowd.  It was the same when we pulled into our Bushcamp.  Nine teenage girls came running towards us but when we started driving towards them, seven took off running and screaming!  Only two stayed to watch us.  We found a very secluded spot and a large crowd gathered around our set up during supper preparations.   They wear such brightly colored clothing and a man was playing music with a middle eastern tune.  Everyone is Muslim.  At dark, we had a fire which was a nice way to end the day, complete with marshmallows.  It looks like rain so I'm hoping I don't get wet tonight.  


Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Bushcamp Nigeria to Bushcamp Cameroon Border, February 25, 2019

We had an early start but not without numerous visitors-

complete with a live chicken-

People are everywhere and we are in Muslim country so no booze, not that it particularly bothers me as it has been 31 days since I had a drink!  And an accident!

She was very surprised to see us-

Typical shops are holes in the walls where everything (not much) is behind the counter-

Another village-

Another bridge-

We made it but not without spectators-

So did he-

Moving along-

In another village they were celebrating something-

We stopped at customs in Nigeria.  Wow!

Absolutely millions of kids!

Finally we reached the end of Nigeria - after 17 days she has let us go!

And then it started to rain!  And rain and rain and rain.  The clay roads became very slick and the truck slipped and slid.  We made it through more bad roads-

And then when we thought it couldn't get worse-

No bridge!  We were told in an hour or so it would drop so we had lunch and watched people walk across-

Quite a crowd gathered-

Eventually, we crossed-

And so did Oasis-

We crossed into Cameroon - yeah!  But couldn't climb this hill-

so we bushcamped at the border!  I'm hoping for sunshine tomorrow to dry out the roads so we can carry on!  

Serti to Bushcamping, Nigeria, February 24, 2019

I've been making 2 posts: one with text only and the other with pictures.  I am able to post text but not pictures so if and when I can post pictures I will, but for now, this is what I've been up to.  Close your eyes and imagine the strangest of the strange and you will be here in Africa!

Today was a drive day as we made our way on horrible roads (they call them) towards the Cameroon border.  The scenery is lovely-

Adobe bricks are used to build homes-

Women washing clothes-

Fence, Nigerian style-

More great views-

They've planted a lot of eucalyptus trees because they're fast growers.  Many villages have lumber businesses-

We stopped for groceries and gathered quite a crowd, as usual-

Oasis led the way for most of the day-

We've had to cross a few dodgy bridges.  Liam and Will always check them out beforehand-

We made it-

There are lots of cattle- brown, black, spotted, speckled and all with long horns-

More bumping along.  We're averaging about 12 km/h!  It's slow going-

We managed to squeeze through-

but then we came to a doozie-

Mark stacked some rocks in the deepest hole-

and we made it-

Another burn-off!  They're so much a part of the hazy, polluted skies we've been not enjoying the last 10 days-

Driving through villages we are like celebrities:  people stare-

wave and holler 'welcome' and 'hello"-

We found a nice spot for a bush camp and set up without too many visitors.  Team #1 is on cook group and we're having fried weiners because another cook group used some of the black beans that I bought especially for burgers.  Now we don't have enough so we have to use weiners.  Oh well.  Tomorrow we hope to cross the border and move towards Yaounde.  We've been in Nigeria long enough!  

Serti, NIgeria, February 23, 2019

Today is Election Day-

so one isn't supposed to drive and 99% of all shops ae closed until 4 pm.  We went to the Gashaka-Gumti Interpretative Centre at the entrance to the National Park.  It was boring but they did have some skulls of Hartebeests-

a giant eland-

and an elephant and two hippos-

Sunday Philemon is Kambu, 55 and was arrested for poaching three times in three years.  He got 18 months in 1999, a $19 fine in 2000 and a 6 month prison term and $40 fine in 2001 for poaching this gigantic Python and a warthog.  He's also a dealer in Indian hemp.  Those fines don't sound near severe enough to stop poachers-

Mr. Joe retired from the Nigerian Army in 1988.  He was caught in 2002 with a station wagon filled with over 100 pieces of various wild animals-

We went for a short walk in the forest and saw a bright blue bird but that was the only sign of wildlife during the heat of the day.  Figs growing in the forest-

A natural bee hive-

Back in town, I went for a walk but because of the election, the only lunch available was rice with a spicy tomatoe sauce and 'cow meat' which meant one small chunk the size of a walnut in its shell.  There was a wind and the sky was filled with flying plastic bags-

For supper, Brad, Will and I went out which means to walk along a street without streetlights - they have no electricity unless it's created by a generator, to find a restaurant.  They enjoyed beef roasted and spiced at a couple of stalls but it's far too chewy for me.  Believe it or not, we found a sit down restaurant and they had jollof rice with sauce that tasted pretty good.  Shortly after we arrived, it started to rain and it poured for a little over an hour.  There was a lot of lightning too.  This storm was strange because it is the dry season and it's really dry so I'm sure they were loving it.  Unfortunately they dot have eave troughs or any way of collecting the water so it all just runs away!  When it finally quit, we walked back to find the camp in a mess.  Some tents had blown away - Norm's just about right out the gate!  Mine was flattened and there was four inches of water in my 'suitcase'  so all my clothes were soaked as was my pillow, towel, sleep sheet and air mattress.  Luckily, I had had my sleeping bag washed during the day and it was hanging on the line.  Carole had put it in the truck so it was dry.  Also, I'd left my kindle in the ceiling pocket of my tent but it was dry too!  Will wasn't so lucky.  The roof top vent on the cab was open and  he found his phone sitting in water on the console.  Not good.  We got our tents moved into a building where we hope they'll dry by morning and I rented a room for the night.  We only had power for 3 hours so I quickly had a real shower and made coffee.  Precisely at 10, the generator stopped and that was that!  

We are making our way through back roads to Cameroon tomorrow and will likely have to bushcamp once before we cross.  I'm hoping the rain will mean a clearer and cooler day!  Cameroon here we come - again!    

Takum to Serti, Nigeria, February 22, 2019

Today was just a drive day as we tried to get as close to the Cameroon border as possible-

Along the way, we went through 39 police checks-

but only had to stop at 8 of them.  Some are as close as 100 meters apart!  The only trouble we had was with one asshole who was on the biggest power trip I've ever seen.  He didn't like the fact that three girls with Oasis had business visas instead of tourist visas so he was wondering what their 'business' intentions were.  He wouldn't let it go until they produced letters stating they were tourists.  It took at least half an hour - his boss from town even showed up!  What a crock!  Then he asked Will if he was in the military because Will was wearing camo shorts and only, apparently, the military is allowed to wear it.  Eventually he was satisfied and we wer on our way.  

We stopped at a town for cook group shopping and gathered quite a crowd-

It was the same when we walked out of the hotel compound this morning.  It's what I imagine it would be like if I was a movie star.  Groupies hanging around all the time, just wanting to see me up close!

Making a shirt-

The country has gotten very dry as we head further northeast-

Fences Nigeria style-

Moving very skinny cattle-

More hut villages-

At a police stop we parked beside a tamarind tree-

There was a large wedding invitation in the form of a poster/billboard along the street-

Our lunch stop was in a deserted??? (Not possible in Africa) village and in no time there were around 100 people watching our every move.  The guys that were taking selfies with me said they have seen white people before but very rarely-

Someone read about Gashaka Gunti National Park which happened to be on our way to Gembu.  It's supposed to be Nigeria's largest with 6700 km2 and contains primates, hippos, elephants and lions.  Really?  It's mentionned in the 2013 Lying Planet but not in the newer editions.  Hmm I wonder what that means? So, after a 45 minute ATM stop - it seems people are unable to find money on their own time, we stopped at the Park's Transit Camp in Serti and were told by one of the few honest Africans we have met that there isn't much to see but in the morning we could visit the entrance where there is a museum/interpretive centre.  So, that's the plan.  We set up camp and after a stroll along the street looking for chicken - we are always looking for chicken, I'm off to bed and am hoping for a good sleep in my tent.  

Ikom to Takum, Nigeria, February 21, 2019

Our new exit stamps had to be photocopied - these people know nothing about paper conservation! so Will and Mark went back to the shop to do that.  We were on the road by 9:30, heading northeast towards Takum-

and eventually Gembu, all in Nigeria and then into Cameroon in a safe zone towards Banyo.  It's a long way on rough roads so will take time, and with the election coming up on Saturday, all roads including borders will be closed so we will have a day of doing fuck all waiting for that schmozle to be finished.
We made 255 km today and I was riding shotgun, which in these parts is true to its name without the gun!  We passed soooo many police checks and a few asked why we weren't travelling with a police escort because there have been tourist kidnappings in this area.  I wanted to ask how that could be possible with all of these fucking police checks.  Some are within 400 meters of each other.  Most wave us through and some, Will just drives through waving!  Only once did we have to produce our passports and they painfully checked our stamps.  They wondered why we had so many Ekok stamps so I had to tell the story.  I was dreading the time when one would say we couldn't enter Cameroon this way but no one said that and we know that the Dragoman truck entered a couple of weeks ago.  They can't believe we are travelling the way we are and camping.  Actually, most people probably can't believe that!  

Along the way, village and market life-

Rural Nigeria-

To make a double decker liner, trees are placed along the top, covered with hay/straw and cows are tied down.  There are always numerous men riding on top too-

Cement homes have changed to thatched huts-

It seems they 'hill' their cassava, something we haven't seen before-

Accidents are left because they have no where to put the wrecks-

Loads of people-

And bananas-

Drying cassava and I'm not sure-

I really like Nigeria inspite of thei agression of the people and the constant police checks.  It's been different and I appreciate that.  Looking forward to getting closer to Cameroon tomorrow!  

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Cameroon Border, February 20, 2019

I had a great sleep under the watchful eye?? of the Cameroon military.  After breakfast, (we luckily found eggs down the street), Will, Mark and I went back to Nigeria to see what the results of all their phone calls yesterday might be.  Much to my surprise, they had a plan!  We had to take our passports and the truck papers to Ikon to be photocopied, I had to write a couple of letters stating our desires and then after almost 4 hours, we came back to wait by the truck for Cameroun to make their move.  However,while waiting for the photocopying to be completed, I had to pee.  I asked the girl sitting beside me, who was there with her class from school apparently learning about computers - they sat and talked the whole time we were there if there was a toilet nearby.  She said no.  I went for a walk and found one at someone's home and came back to the shop.  After a few minutes she asked me     "you have poo?"  What?  I asked .  She repeated herself - "you have poo?"  I laughed and told her no, I only had to pee.  Too funny.  
Once back, the group had made a delicious lentil soup and then we waited and waited some more.  We have worked out a deal with Nigeria that they will let us come back into their country, spend the night in Ikom and drive north to the border we wish to use.  But, that is only if Cameroon will cancel our entry stamp.  Our group, except for Andy who just recently joined us, all have double entry visas to Cameroon but we want to save the second one for when we leave Equitorial Guinee.  Few of the Oasis group have double entry visas so they are a bit hooped.  Will and Mark have spoken to immigration numerous times and even taken a "void" stamp in with them to help them along.  If they won't cancel our entry stamp, Nigeria won't let us in so we may be here awhile!

6:20 pm

After much negotiating with both the military and immigration, even though the Cameroun border is closed, we are on our way back into Nigeria!. The military is very drunk and walking around waving rifles, there has been an argument/scuffle between a couple of passengers – that's what happens when you have nothing to do and all afternoon to drink and living on the street in the middle of a civil war so we are definitely needing to get out of here.  I'm looking forward to sleeping in a bed with air conditioning!  

Mamfe to Cameroon Border, February 19, 2019

We woke up with high hopes of going to Limbe and then on to Douaia but when the military showed up, they informed us, after much discussion, that they would be returning us to the border because they could not guarantee our safety.  WTF we said?  They showed us a letter from the consulate in Calabar where we obtained our visas that stated we had bought ferry tickets and that the reason we had been granted our visas in the first place was because that's how we were going to Cameroon.  We explained that that had been our initial plan, wink, wink, but the ferry wouldn't take the truck because it's too big so we had no option but to drive.  There was no more discussion- we were on our way to nowhere!  A soldier jumped into the truck and sat with me-

two were in the cab and away we went.  

Once back at the border, we walked across the bridge to the Nigeria side to try to cut a deal.  We needed Nigeria to let us back in (only 5 of us have multiple entry visas) so we could drive north to cross into Cameroon at a safer crossing.  We sat and talked and sat and talked some more.  Finally they told us we would have an answer by the end of the day but the Cameroon border closed at 6 pm so we had to go back to our truck.  

Back in Cameroon, we were not allowed in the police compound to sleep so had to set up camp on the street!  I thought we were in a dangerous area?  Anyway we went for supper and found the best grilled chicken chunks and pineapple so far!  I was in bed by 8 and soon asleep.  I'm hoping that tomorrow we get on the road to somewhere!  

Monday, February 18, 2019

Ekok to Mamfe, Cameroon, February 18, 2019

I had a great sleep inspite of the bright flood lights in the compound. The rocks under my tent and the constant conversation by the police.  The generator's constant hum muffles a lot of the noise so that's helpful too.  There wasn't any shooting in the night so we all woke up alive and to soldiers gathered around the flag.  It was like a staff meeting with the chief barking orders to the men.  They fiddled with their rifles, twitched, shifted their weight and changed positions numerous times.  It was quite comical watching them!  Eventually I got bored - they were performing this right beside my tent, so I got up.  Soon the customs officials showed up and wanted to see everything on our truck.  I was the first to show them into my backpack and thought if I bored them they would not bother with every bodies things but no, that didn't work.  They painstakingly went through everything, then the Oasis truck was next.  All of a sudden, a green truck pulled into the compound and voila, that was our escort!  We were excited and ready to move but then it drove away!  I guess they'd been told to return at 12 because the customs inspection would be over by then.

You're not supposed to take pictures of anything military but he didn't seem to mind-

Too funny!

I had planned to ride shotgun but soldiers hopped in the front with both Will and the Oasis driver Liam.  The soldiers took off in their green bulletproof truck, followed by Oasis and then us.  We drove close to 90 km/hour to Mamfe on excellent roads.  Because it's Monday, it's 'ghost day' and vehicles are not allowed on the roads and the villages seemed deserted.  People seem to be living in fear-

Once in Mamfe, we went to the police station for a few minutes, then they escorted us to a hotel where we are spending the night.  Apparently in the morning we will be getting another escort south to Limbe.  I do not feel the least bit afraid - to me it's a great adventure and I'd love to be riding in the back of the green lead truck with a machine gun in my hands or else riding shotgun in our truck with a rifle!  Others on the truck are nervous wrecks!  I find that funny because we have seen nothing the least bit dangerous - it's all stories we've heard and news we've read.  It's interesting to me how fear, which is imagined, can control people.  I'm really looking forward to tomorrow!

Ikom, Nigeria to Ekok, Cameroon, February 17, 2019

What an awesome room I had!  It was a suite with a king sized bed, air conditionner that worked and  ceiling fan, my own bathroom and a sitting area with a tv, another air conditionner that worked and another ceiling fan.  I felt like a queen after that shithole in Calabar!  
We met Mark Dawson, my Cairo to Cape Town tour leader with Oasis who was waiting for part of his group to show up from Drill Monkey Ranch.  We planned to go to the Cameroon border together and Oasis had a commander hired to escort us to Limbe.  After leaving the hotel and fuelling up, we were on our way.  At the first check point, we had to show our passports and it was then that Lutz remembered his was still under his pillow back at the hotel so I flagged down a passing cube van that took us part way back and then we hopped into the driver's car to go the rest of the way to the hotel.  Luckily, and no surprise at all, the room had not been cleaned so his passport was there and in no time we were back at the truck.  Once at the border, Will and Mark made numerous trips to the immigration office with our passports, bringing back forms and waiting for Nigeria to decide who knows what.  We were parked next to a home with a deck and cold drinks and just a few meters away from grilling beef, omelettes, noodles and cow soup.  We were well fed and watered during the hours and hours we spent waiting.

The family run business included three sons named Good Luck, Faithful and God's Gift-

Our truck looks gigantic beside Oasis'-

Finally we were stamped out of Nigeria and crossing a river in No Man's Land to get to Cameroon-

Once on the Cameroon side, the shit show began.  What on earth were we doing here?  Didn't we know they were in the middle of a civil war?  Didn't we know it was unsafe to be here?  Because I speak French, I had to speak to "mon patron" on the phone.  He asked over and over how did we know one another.  I kept with the lie we had used in Calabar - we met on Facebook and on other trips.  He didn't believe me.  Finally he said we must return to Nigeria and fly to Douala.  I stared at Mark and told him what he said.  Returning to Nigeria is not possible for most because they only have a single entry visa and once stamped out, you are out.  I have a double entry but have no intention of returning.  Mark talked about an Oasis trip that spent 7 days at a border and Will shared some stories too.  I am not looking forward to days and days at this place!  There was a lot of yelling going on in pidgin French.  Some of us left the compound to change money and we met an army truck with a machine gun mounted on its roof and about 10 soldiers in the vehicle.  When we got back to the compound, the chief of police was furious that we had left.  We were not stamped into the country so we had no business going into town.  

They've obviously had some problems because numerous places are sandbagged including the entrance to immigration.  It's well protected-

We set up our tents and kitchen and went to bed after being told that the militants have fired into the police compound but not for a month.  We are hopefully far enough away not to be struck!  Things are getting more exciting all the time!  

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Calabar, Nigeria, February 15, 2019

We had one goal to accomplish today and that was to obtain our Cameroon visas.  Because there is fighting along the west border of Cameroon between English and French speaking citizens, in order to get a visa, a person has to buy a ferry ticket because driving across the border is not permitted.  So, we hopped in cabs and went to the ferry terminal to buy our tickets.  $85 later, we had them even though we have no intention of using them and we were on our way to the Cameroon Consulate.  Once there, we had to fill out a form, attach 3 photos - why?, as well as 2 copies of our passport - why? why?, our yellow fever certificate which is a normal requirement, pay $123 and then we each had to meet with the vice chancellor.  I was sure someone was going to blow our lie and say we were travelling by overland truck but no one did.  It took about 5 hours for everyone to be interviewed and finally about 6:30 pm our visas were in our passports and we had permission to attempt going to Cameroon.

The hotel where we're staying is an absolute dump.  Some rooms are missing light bulbs, the air conditioners don't work in the few rooms that apparently have them, there are five gallon pails in the tubs for bucket showers, some bathrooms don't have any water, some fans don't work and on and on.  My room is okay, except the ceiling is dripping and I'm just hoping it's clean water not sewer water.  

For supper we walked to the corner where there was all kinds of meat grilling:  chicken of course but also turkey, beef with onions and peppers as well as gizzards.  The street is dead in the day but packed at night.  Africans have figured out that it's too hot to be out mid afternoon, something we haven't realized yet.

Tomorrow is Election Day and absolutely no vehicles are permitted on the streets and all business will be closed.  That prevents us from heading to the border so it will hopefully be a nice restful day.

Matombi Beach, Congo to Cabinda, Angola, March 23, 2019

I fell asleep by 8 pm but was awoken at 10 by howling winds.  I quickly put on my fly just before it started to rain.  Again, the lightning ...