Thursday, September 29, 2011

Southern Cameroon

Limbe bay.

And then we went down the escarpment, a long, long descent and me trying to save the brakes and the clutch! There was some lovely scenery, but I had little time to see it, as we dodged police roadblocks, suicidal motorcyclists and bus taxi's. We ended up in Limbe, formerly called Victoria, a lovely town nestled in a valley below Mount Cameroon, with eroded coral islands, and an oil rig in the bay. The fishing harbour was nice, and their prawns fresh, as were the gambas we ate that night.

Oil rig in Limbe bay
Having had little luck with my mysterious electric problem, I called in an electrician, who immediately concluded that there were two problems, and not one. The right hand lights work from a relay and the connection slips out. Easy! I wonder who did that modification.... But the indicator problem had us stumped. We concluded that it had something to do with the trailer plug that feeds the extra lights and indicators on the roof rack, but it was only when the guy got fed-up and insisted that we take out the cable altogether that we discovered that it had slipped out from its place behind the tailgate, and was mashed flat! Ten minutes later all was working.

Douala traffic
Then we headed out to Douala, a real puzzle of a town, with chaotic traffic (nothing new in that) and a lack of road signs (nothing new here either.) It was nerve-wracking, but then we were through, and on a lovely road south, until we ended in Kribi, a beautiful beach town. One could imagine retiring here!

On the horizon there are oil rigs and tankers, but no sign of pollution, at least not yet. We were camped on the beach, a really idillic setting, and despite the visible presences of oil rigs, the beaches were clean. All along the beach there were run-down beach cottages, small hotels that were closed or falling into disrepair. Yet the President was expected in town any day to launch the  construction of a deepwater port, as well as a gas processing plant. One wonders how much will remain of this sleepy piece of heaven...
Douala: view from the bridge

The next step on the way is to go east to the main road, then south to the border, and see how long the crossing takes, and where we can reach before nightfall. And where we can find an internet connection!

Roadside business in Cameroon
And so we did: 150 km to the main north-south road, which took us almost five hours. There was only one major mud hole, and that could have been done without using four wheel drive, but the road is badly pot-holed, some bridges are almost gone, and it was slow going. So much so that we cut our planned trip short and stayed one more night in Cameroon, at Ambam, some 20 km short of the border. We found a hotel with a courtyard where the others could camp, and settled down to some 3G internetting. The menu at the little restaurant had porcupine, pangolin and viper on! A sure sign that we are approaching the rain forest country.

View from the escarpment towards lowland Cameroon
Beach restaurant
We had mixed feelings about Cameroon. It was, after Nigeria, a pleasant place, with signs of hard work, commercial farms, and also small farms around the houses. People were, in the main, friendly, and the police were, with one exception, not out to extort. Just before leaving one discovered that we did not have car insurance, we had forgotten that Cameroon was not part of the ECOWAS countries, and so we did not take out any at the border. But instead of fining us, as he had every right to do, or trying to extort a bribe, he gave us a lecture, and told us to get insurance at the first major town. And yet there was an uneasy feel about the place.
Lobe falls

The next country is Gabon, and we have heard much about the place. We need, for the first time since Bamako, to do some serious Embassy hopping, and now we hear that the DRC visas may be difficult, due to the upcoming elections. And we want to see if we can get a second Angolan visa for Cabinda, to avoid the Brazzaville-Kinshasa crossing.

Oil rigs: what does the future hold?

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