Cameroon Part 1
Cameroon – country number 7 of 50.
At 9am on the 19th of July, after four weeks in the two Congos we drove onto a ferry, waved goodbye to the local Sangha Sangha fisherman and crossed the river into Cameroon.
Not long afterwards we pulled up at a wooden hut in the rainforest and out popped a customs official with a stamp who checked our passports and visas and gave us the green light to continue north.
After two days driving past several Ba’Aka and Bantu Villages on logging roads that aren’t on any maps we arrived at the headquarters of Lobeke National Park and started to plan the following few days expedition into the jungle. The park is still within the Congo biome and a continuation of the forest I visited in the Northern Congo as well as home to an entire different suite of animals and birds than those found in the regular tourist areas of Southern and Eastern Africa.
We hired several porters, a guide and an armed ranger and the following morning walked 15km through picturesque equatorial jungle.
It’s the wet season in Eastern Cameroon and the forest was lush and damp. We followed forest trails for four hours, crossing several streams and making slow progress through thick swamp forest, eventually arriving at Djangui Bai.
A Bai is a natural forest clearing where the soils are rich in minerals and salts. The local wildlife visits the bai for their daily electrolyte replacement.
On arrival two Forest Buffalo and two Sitatunga were feeding in the clearing.
The following morning we witnessed what must surely be one of the world’s greatest wildlife displays. At dawn while the Sitatunga fed in the Bai a thousand squawking African Grey Parrots arrived filling the sky and nearby trees with colour and noise. Large flocks of African Green Pigeons descended on the area and over the next hour their numbers grew to ten thousand birds soaring and swooping around the Bai in every direction.
Accompanying these were several Ayres Hawk Eagles, a dozen Palmnut Vultures as well as a few species of hornbill.
Two mongoose scurried out of the jungle and unsuccessfully tried to catch pigeons from below, while Black Sparrowhawks attacked from above.
After circling around us for two hours they noisily landed and drank before departing into the forest, leaving the area silent except for the occasional passing Black-casqued Hornbill.
After a day on the viewing platform and a good sleep in our rainforest camp we trekked 9km to Petite Savane Bai, where we spent another day and a half wildlife viewing.
That afternoon we watched a family of four Western Lowland Gorillas feed in the bai, with Sitatunga, while Dja River Warblers flittered around in the reeds and Hartlaub’s Ducks fed in the shallows.
After 30km of trekking forest trails we arrived back at base, tired but very happy with what we’d seen.
The following morning I awoke to the sound of rain on my tent and after a slow start arrived at the nearest village only to find the road ahead was closed due to the wet weather. I was delayed a full day in Membele and we bush camped in the nearby forest.
Eastern Cameroon is the first area in Africa I’ve travelled through where the villages are actually clean of rubbish. Every small village I saw in Angola and both Congos were filthy. Rubbish lined the roads, filled the water drains and covered footpaths even in the popular tourist countries of Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia. Here in Eastern Cameroon the scenery is picture perfect, mile after mile.
For three days we drove north towards Yokadouma the district capital. Local villages constructed of sun dried red mud bricks with thatched roofs lined the way and the contrast between the Laterite red roads and lush dark green magnificently thick rainforest was stunning.
Despite the poor quality roads, this area rivals the highlands of Uganda as the most picturesque part of Africa I’ve seen so far.
I arrived in a village just south of Yokadouma on the 25th and after asking a local we camped near the school just as a soccer game was starting with the local 17-21yr olds. Three of us volunteered to play and we enjoyed a late afternoon game.
The village ball was a tad flat so after the game we donated our pump to the referee. One of the guys bought a couple of soccer shirts in Kinshasa and after the game we handed these out to the players which caused a near riot in town, which reminded us just how poor the people in this area really are.
We continued north for another two days on terrible roads averaging just 10-15 khr and stayed a night in Yola, a village near the Central African Republic border which has 4000 inhabitants, 3000 of those are refugees from the CAR and DRC.
Most days we shop at a local village market and often pick up snacks from the local street meat vendors. These guys above were cooking sensational goat kebabs with some of the best spices I’ve ever tasted.
On the 29th of July I arrived at Yaounde, Cameroons capital city where I’ll stay for four nights. I’ll hopefully pick up my Burkina Faso visa, prior to driving to Douala and then to the Atlantic Coastal town of Limbe and Mount Cameroon.