Monday, September 19, 2011


Friendly greetings!
This country will always be carved in our memories as the place with the worst roads of them all. There may be worse roads, in fact there certainly are, but as for main roads linking one country to another, with holes as big as swimming pools, entire hills that are one major mud bath, the road from Ekok on the Nigerian border to Mamfe, capital of this province beats them all.

Hans just slid off the road, it was like grease.
And the advice of the guide did not help.
It took us two days to cover sixty kilometers, and that was good going. Ok, Merlinda did this in two hours, before the rainy season, and after the chinese had begun their work. But that was then. We had two near disasters with the Land Rover. Once it slid into a ditch and had fallen over but was held up by the embankment, the other time it slid backwards into a ditch on the other side of the road. With patience, road building skills, many hands, and brute force we got it out.

Swimming pool-sized holes
My Cruiser got stuck several times. It lacks ground clearance, and the bull bar acts like a bulldozer. At the back the towbar digs in if the going gets bad. We took the easy way out: two long towropes linked together, tied to Hans' Rover did the trick. Looking at the photos later had us shaking our heads, one cannot imagine doing this sort of thing and not wrecking the car. As it is the Land Rover popped the one rear spring out again, and I had to empty hands full of sand out of the brake drums. Those new brake shoes were chewed!

Stuck! And the guide says Just come with fire!
In Mamfe we sought accommodation with the local priest, father Manfred, and he promptly chased away the guy we had engaged as a guide. After some consultation the Bishop offered to send his driver along with us, to help, advise, and negotiate with people who have their own 'toll booths' on self-made deviations around the worst holes.

This was actually a private toll road!
In the village where we spent the first night, Eyumojoko a local Councillor came to welcome us, and to tell about her village. They give great emphasis to basic education, but just do not have the means to educate children beyond primary school. The soil is too light to support serious agriculture, and they have problems with buffaloes and antelope eating their crops. They are aware of the potential of tourism, and have a guest house on a nearby lake for visitors, but it is not finished. We pointed out to her that nobody knows about it, and that they should look at camping sites for overlanders as a start, then chalets with basic accommodation. It would be interesting to develop something here, but what a struggle with the roads as they are! The Chinese are pushing a major road through here, and then the world will probably just pass this spot by.

Main drag in a village...
After Mamfe there is another hundred or so kilometers to go before we get to the main road, with tar, police, and all that.

Rebalancing the tires after
all that mud

We left early in the morning for Bamenda, this time with the Bishop's driver, Michael, as guide, but soon had to stop to clear mud from the wheels, it made the cars bounce on the tar road! From good tar to road foundation, road bed being prepared, soupy mud left by the construction trucks, rocks, and a few mud baths we came to Bamenda, a beautiful setting with waterfalls, just four thousand foot above sea lever, where Mamfe was at about 400. Father Arnold of the Mill Hill Missionaries received us in a guest house set out for missionaries and visiting priests, which he runs with Dutch precision.

After washing kilos of mud from the cars we went back for a lazy afternoon, and had a great chat with father Arnold, who had spent almost twenty years in Mamfe, and was passionate about the development of the agricultural potential of the area, citing a local variety of orange good for juice, and many other crops, as well as an agricultural centre he had helped set up.

Then it was time or some serious looking over the cars, this will be summed up on the page dealing with the vehicles.

But the nature is stunning!

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