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Cameroon

Cameroon

(164 927 km)


*Day 101:*
Monday January 15. 2007
Gombe-Cameroon border
Ok, so we have become a little bit cocky about the border crossings in
Africa Arriving at the border to Cameroon things looked good and the
formalities at the Nigerian side were easy enough, however things soon
turned a bit nasty as the road ended in a big river?!?! Although we had
asked people, latest at the departure point of Nigeria, if it was possible
to cross into Cameroon here, there were no bridge and no ferry as we had
been told.

Luckily some villagers knew how to cross with a big four wheel drive like
ours and so we began planning our crossing of the river by driving through
the bush to a point where it was possible to descend down to the river bed
and then by wading around in the water to find a suitable crossing point. By
putting some of the villagers and ourselves as marking point in the river,
the crossing was very successful and no harm done to ODD III.

As it was getting late we asked the border police in Cameroon if it was
possible to camp by the village walls. They asked us if we didn't want to
camp in their backyard instead, something we willingly agreed to. The police
chief, Borrosia Dortmund ((!) he had actually taken this name as he was fond
of both football and Germany), and a friend of his got a camping dinner,
tuna pasta, together with us in return. They told us that there were not
many tourists crossing at this point. At the customs at the Nigerian side
the custom servant told us he had worked there for four years without seeing
a single tourist Sounds a little exaggerated but taking inn the crossing
over a river it may not be so wrong after all.
* *
*Day 102:*
Tuesday January 16. 2007
Cameroon border - Garoua
Waking up and heading for the customs office, we got confirmation that it
was not many tourist crossing here, at the customs they had a hard time
finding there book for toll clearance for our vehicle. When they finally
found the book we saw that the last time it had been used was in 2001!?!. At
the customs we only got a seven day permit for the car, so we had to go
north to the town Garoua to get an extension.

*Day 103:*
Wednesday January 17. 2007
Garoua - Ngaoundr
Garoua is not a place with much to write home about We had a small service
to the car, or, it was meant as a small service, at the local Toyota dealer.
It turned out to be a few minor wear and tears that should be sorted out,
among them a minor leak from the power steering and other smaller things. It
also showed us that the huge and extensive service we had taken at Toyota
Ghana, and paid a lot for, wasn't that good Apparently and quite visually
they had not done the work they said they had and were supposed to do. Among
them checking the differentials, changing the oils and fixing a leak. All of
this was work we had asked them to do. So to all, do not use Toyota Ghana,
or if you do, make sure you can stay there and overlook the work. As the
local dealer didn't have the necessary spares or the expertise we are having
a more extensive service in Yaound or Douala.

After picking up the car we maid a few purchases for whiskey and food and
set of south.
Along the road we passed a village called 'Petit Norvge''!?, off course
this made us stop. The villager could tell us that a Norwegian missionary
had been living there for 20 years. This was an exaggeration we later
learned, by Jan Erik the pastor in the Norwegian mission in Ngaoundere. He
told us that a missionary named Lars Bde had spent some time there learning
the people the alphabet and other useful things.

We had read about a Norwegian mission and hospital in Ngaoundr and were
curious about this and so decided to look it up when we arrived in town. At
the mission we were offered to camp in the backyard of Jan Erik and his wife
Stine. We sat up until late taking with them about missionary work, what
does it mean and what is it? life in Cameroon, local traditions, And so
on... They could tell us a few things about Cameroon and its culture we
didn't know: Pregnant woman must have regularly sex with the person whom
impregnated them as to secure that the birth channel doesn't grow together
and kill the child?
After having a baby the woman are not supposed to have sex for a year?
Together with the belief that a man should 'plant his seeds'' at least every
3 weeks - if not he can die - this cause a lot of infidelity (a hooker costs
about 500 CFA/ under 1$) and doesn't really helps the fight against AIDS.
Before going to bed, we were given home baked Norwegian bread and the
possibility to machine wash our clothes. Priceless!
*Day 104 and 105:*
Thursday January 18th and 19th. 2007
Ngaoundr - Bush Camp - Foumban
We woke up early to a machine washed laundry, the first since we left home,
and also had our fresh home made Norwegian bread for breakfast! Jan Erik and
Stine had suggested a stop over at a water fall two hours out of town. There
we dried our clothes and washed ourselves. After a couple off hours we got
bored, so it was on the road again. Heading for Foumban. Dirt roads. Dirt
roads. Dirt roads. And lots of red dust everywhere in the car. That's all
there is to say about the rest of this day and the next. Apparently the
government has some fears about some rebels in the north; hence they don't
want the roads from the north towards the capitol to be good? Bush camp by
night.

*Day 106:*
Saturday January 20. 2007
Foumbam

Capital of the Bamoun people and with their own Sultan, this is a major
tourist hub in Cameroon with a lot of hassle from people wanting to sell
artefacts. The choices however are enormous and the Market Artesian is one
of the best we have found so far in our trip. So, we bought some pretty
impressing masks and figures and spent most of the day browsing around and
buying souvenirs here and there, going to the palace, making a lot of new
'friends'' and so on. Knut actually ended up buying a 2 meter tall figure
witch it would be impossible to get in the car or home, so we ended up
buying some more and have it all shipped home J

*Day 107-109:*
Sunday 21st to Tuesday 23rd. January 2007
Foumban- Ring road (Bush camping)-Foumban - Limbe
* *
Leaving Foumban, we sat out to drive the Ring Road, a 360km journey of dirt
road through some of the finest scenery in Africa (or so said the guide
book). The road turned out to be worse than we had expected and the progress
was slow, very slow at some points. The scenery was nice and would have been
even nicer if it was possible to see further than a couple of hundred
meters. It turns out we are not out of reach of the harmattan winds yet.
Dam we are getting fed up by this harmattan now, everything for the last 6
weeks have been in a big grey haze of dust making the scenery bleak and
dull. Any way, the drive was nice and the villagers friendly as we
proceeded. We were even invited home to some ladies to see the house and
have some food!
Several times along the way we asked for directions and if it was possible
to complete the circle all the way to Wum as it would be dull to backtrack
the same way as we now were driving Everyone we asked assured us that we
were on the right way and reaching Wum was now problem. But of course, this
being Africa, it turned out the second day that the road to Wum was
impassable with a car, a bridge had collapsed and several stretches of the
road had disappeared in the rainy season. Uargggggggggg!!!!!! Two days
driving and we had to turn around and backtrack the same 200km Extremely
irritating and annoying, especially when probably all the people along the
road new this. We were told by the military that the road had been out of
service for several years!!!!!!! (The guide book had also stated this, but
we had relied on newer information, that is people along the way..) L
* *
*Day 110 - 111:*
Wednesday 24 and Thursday 25th. January 2007
Limbe
Having a few days doing absolutely nothing else than soaking up some sun and
watching the people and the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. There are also a
great botanical garden and a wildlife centre here together with a relaxed
atmosphere. Combined, this made us decided not to go for the Mt.Cameroon
trek (that it rained up there and we still haven't seen the mountain through
the mist also helped). We used the days relaxing, going on the internet,
stroll in the botanic garden and visit the wildlife centre. The wildlife
centre is set up to care about orphanage orang-utans, gorillas, monkeys and
so on that has been deprived of their life in the wild by poachers and
logging. It was a great experience to see these magnificent animals all
though it was also sad to see them in their way too small compounds instead
of in the wild.
*Day 112:*
Friday January 26. 2007
Limbe - Douala
Getting to Douala was no problem and we quickly found a place to stay, the
catholic mission. Accommodation in Douala is expensive, at least in our
terms, but we have no choice as we have a few things to sort out here
(servicing the car, sending our purchases from Foumban home, getting a new
entry visa to Cameroon so we can go to the Central African Republic and so
on).
In the evening we went out to have a few beers and take a look at the night
life. At first it appeared that there was no night life. After walking
around for a while trying to find a place with more than two people in it a
man came up to us and told us he would show us a good place - 'Many people,
white people, and good club'', we decided why not and tagged along with him
(his name was Mama) to a club. As soon as we entered the night club a girl
with a big smile saw us and shouted: 'Fresh fish!!!'' A stampede occurred,
and we instantly got 20-30 new 'friends'' that 'loved'' us, pinched us in
the arm, ass and all over and were all very thirsty Fighting off this first
wave of 'attack'' we settled down in the bar with 7-8 girls around us,
accompanied by a man playing the guitar and singing the Beatles' tune 'Can't
buy me love''?!? Very funny! At the other side of the bar four other white
guys were going through the same deal, although they were a lot more drunk
than us and a little bit more direct and rude, this however didn't seem to
affect the girls much It turned out the guys were from Poland except a
Scott, Derek, all working in town. We were eventually offered a job with
them if we wanted to make some extra money while we are here (some how this
never materialised).
The hours in the bar went quickly and our friends (we were now down to one
each) wanted to go home with us and make us happy, as they said 'for your
pleasure''. (The price to have some 'pleasure'' was nothing, 'I like you
real''. It eventually turned out that they w\\expected around 15 000 FCFA)
We tried to explain that we were going home alone, this made the girls look
strange at us trying to understand why we didn't want to have a good
'sleep'' with them.. It seemed like this was some kind of odd behaviour, and
maybe it was, as they are used to seamen. As it was the end of the night we
all were out of money and we discovered showing an empty wallet actually was
the best way of saying: 'Leave me alone''.
On the way home Andreas and Jens were followed by some guys who after a
while were pulling their arms and trying to get into their pockets. As they
didn't have anything to steal there weren't much trouble, but it was a bit
sketchy. They managed to push them off and tell them to piss off, something
they did.
*Day 113:*
Saturday January 27. 2007
Douala
Waking up with a 'slight'' headache Knut and Jens went out for a walk around
town, stumbling over a wedding in one of the churches. There was a choir
singing there, and passing by, it was like a thousand people were singing
inside. But when entering the church to have a sneak at what was going on,
there was only about 20 girls singing. It is hard to imagine how the few of
them could make so much sound. But it was very beautiful. So we ended up
visiting a semi whore house and then a church in less than 12 hours...
In the afternoon we saw some pirate copy films we had bought, among them
Hotel Rwanda. Reminding us about the tragedy in Rwanda and in other parts of
Africa, also in several of the countries we are soon about to visit.
In the evening we went out for some food and drinks, but we gave up and we
took an early night with out getting any new friends.
*Day 114:*
Sunday January 28. 2007
Douala
* *
Another day not doing much, except Jens and Knut went for a loong walk
across town to the Marche de flours.
*Day 115:*
Monday January 29. 2007
Douala
_Knut's day:_
Got up early and drove of to Toyota Cameroon for a maintenance check and to
fix an awkward noise from Odd's rear axel. Showing up at the garage I had to
argue my way inn and negotiate the time it would take to fix the Odd It
then took about an hour to do the paper work before they could start working
on Odd. It turned out that a bearing had broken and that was what making the
noise. This had to be replaced immediately, and was no small job... (It
eventually took two days to fix, together with some other minor stuff) As
Odd is getting old he of course is getting worn and shows signs of age both
here and there. It turns out that most cars delivered to the Toyota garage
is own by companies, this somehow leads to the notion that everything that
looks slightly old or worn should be replaced, as the mechanics said 'the
company pays''. I tried to explain that we are no company and don't have the
money to replace and change everything that has dust on it... After a while
I give this up and decided to stay and oversee everything, saying no every
time they wanted to change a bearing or some other expensive thing that will
last for another couple of years (hopefully). I however decided to get some
other stuff fixed that has been there since we bought the car.
As I was walking around on the grounds at Toyota I met Grimsmann, a German
living in the Central African Republic (CAR)(on of around 200 Europeans in
the whole of CAR!!!), as we both had stuff to fix on our cars we started to
talk and I off course were eager to have some information about CAR. The
information however was not the one I was looking for It turned out that
Grimsmann had been living in CAR for 25 years and so had quite a good
insight in what was going on. In the last 5 years things had deteriorated so
much that they no longer travelled around if it was not absolutely
necessary. Going there just for pleasure as he said was not advisable, then
he pointed at my map and told me; here is not safe, here is not safe, don't
go there and so on. After a while to he eased up a little and said if we
wonted to go we could go a stay with them, at least then we would have
visited CAR and could hook it of our list. I politely turned him down and
we continued discussing the situation there. It eventually turned out that
he might have done the trip if he was a little big younger but then he would
cross into CAR from another place than our plan and go some back roads... We
started to look at the map again and he pointed and explained a route. 'But,
don't go without having talked to local people first'' he said. He
eventually gave us some names of missionaries in CAR that we could try to
get in touch with, he also said that he thought a swed was still in Bayanga,
the place we are heading for.
_Jens and Andreas's day:_
While Knut went to the garage, Andy and I went to meet the guy from Foumban,
(who had travelled here with the goods we had bought from him). We met him
at nine, as previously planned, it turned out he was not happy with us as he
then had been waiting for us for four hours. He had arrived earlier than
planned, something that was very hard for us to know. Explaining this he
eventually cooled down and together we went to the shipping agency at the
airport.
At the airport cargo area we went for the Swiss cargo desk. The man there
could tell us that we needed some documents from the customs and from the
ministry of culture to be allowed to send the handicrafts out of the
country. However he told us to get a black man to do the paperwork, because
the customs are known to be very corrupt and usually demand very high prices
from 'les blanches'' - the whites. The customs were situated in town, of
course, so it took a long time for our guy to finish the formalities,
customs finally demanded 40 000 FCFA (75 Euro) for the paper work, which
were just bogus expenses, as the customs never even saw our goods. As we had
been guaranteed by the seller in Foumban that the total shipping expenses
should not exceed 2000 FCFA per kilo in total (we had 40 kilos and the value
of the goods approximately 90 000 FCFA) we started a discussion with him
about this, as we had not even started to pay for the freight. We ended up
with a fifty fifty split deal on these charges. Then it was the actual
packing, which also took ages, and our guy again had to get into town to
find cartoons as this was impossible to obtain at the airports cargo
section?!. Six hours and much paper work later we were quite fed up by the
whole thing. But we weren't done
Suddenly I'm asked to go in and see the Office for forestry and culture,
which earlier had taken a brief look at our stuff. 'Pay me money!'' demanded
a slick guy sitting indoors with his sunshades on. 'For what?''.
'Paperwork!'' As we already had paid 9000 FCFA in Foumban for an
authorisation for exporting the stuff - this also a bogus charge- we finally
had it. He first demanded 20 000 FCFAs, but after we asked to see a
pricelist and have a receipt, he went down to 10 000 FCFAs. Everybody around
had said to us that this was not something we should pay, so we started a
game of waiting. Like we hadn't waited long enough already. But the man had
more time and more patience left than us, so we ended up in a new quarrel
with him and his executive. The latter, a woman that has never smiled before
this day, raised the charge again to 20 000 FCFA and told us that everyone
had to pay 20 % of the value of the goods to their office. Then we said 20 %
of 90 000 is 18 000 FCFA. She calculated again and she settled with: that
WAS THE PRICE!! We didn't come anyway with her, even not when we left with
her out of the building to see her boss in town. She told us that we had to
pay for the taxi, so we decided to do this another way: We paid the money
and got a phoney receipt and she had a big smile as she had won the battle.
But she didn't know that we are quite stubborn and willing to pay her boss
in town a visit the day after. Now we had been at the airport far too long
and went for the shipping agency once again. He had earlier said the price
would be around 2000 FCFA per kilo for our 40 kilo package, just as the
seller in Foumban told us. However it turned out that the package was then
measured and priced in volume weight which was no less than 127 kilos! The
bill from him 247 000 FCFA! That was just what was missing! As we didn't
have all this money, we had to tell him that we had to return the day after
as we were no longer sure if we wanted to pay all this, as the expenses for
the shipping and red tapes were by far exceeding the value of the goods,
actually 3 times more
*Day 116:*
Tuesday January 30. 2007
Douala
_Knut's day:_
Spent the day at Toyota driving the mechanics mad as they still wanted to
change and replace everything while we still don't have a company expense
account... Odd were eventually finished and out came the invoice; 60 man
hours and parts for 800 000 FCFA was no fun at all, even if it they fixed
everything and more on Odd After some haggling I got the price down to 800
000 FCFA in total. Hopefully we won't have any other problems with Odd in
the foreseeable future. When leaving the garage the mechanics stated that
the car, with the kind of maintenance we have given it (and the previous
owners) should have no problems for a couple of years at least... Something
that was nice to hear, but time will show as the roads here in Africa are
extremely ruff and bad...
_Andy and Jens's day:_
Started the day at the CAR consulate to check the security situation with
them and get some official copies of our passports and visa. They told us it
should be Ok, but they didn't say it in a very convincing way.
Before leaving to the airport again, we paid the main office for the
Forestry and culture a visit. We had to wait an hour an a half at the
reception before we got to see the man in charge. He was a very nice man,
and told us that there were no rules concerning this (!) and was very wage
about whether or not tourist/we were supposed to pay anything or not.
However he gave us back our money and promised to have a talk with his
staff.
Back at the airport things went smoother this day and we ended up with the
price of 195 000 FCFA for sending the package. Expensive, but what the hell.
The woman at the forestry office however did not smile any more. Her boss
had just given her a call
As the evening was coming closer I was getting a bit nervous. The reason was
that it was soon the time for shaving. Not the face, but the head Three
days ago we were sitting in a restaurant, being quite bored, talking about
this extremely strong chilli sauce they had. None of us had tasted any
stronger. A bet was suddenly on: If Knut ate a full tea spoon of this
vicious, red mother f chilli, Andreas would pay him 30 000 FCFAs and I
would sacrifice his hair. Need I say more than Knut, that bastard, ate it
all. So this was the night to meet a stranger in the mirror. Well, I was
kind of tired of my hair and it so warm here, so it didn't feel that bad to
get rid of it. But I'm not yet sure if this was the way to increase my
looks. We, Knut and Andreas, defiantly think Jens now looks like a crazy
man

*Day 117:*
Wednesday January 31. 2007
Douala - Yaound
Got to Yaound and found the embassy of Congo Brazzaville to apply for a
visa. They told us it would be fixed in 24 hours. So the only ting left to
do now is decide whether or not we are going to CAR We decided to go to the
WWF office tomorrow to hear if they have any information about the area we
want to visit... But we have now more or less decided to go for it...
Ehh, we just came home from an internet session. Maybe we don't go to the
Central African Republic after all We just checked the travel advice at the
British Foreign & Commonwealth office (www.fco.gov.uk) and the US department
of state's travel warning
(www.travel.state.gov/travel/cis) They: '_Advise against all but essential
travel to the CAR. The north and west of the country, especially the areas
bordering Cameroon and Chad, is particularly dangerous and should be
avoided. It is no longer safe to travel by any of the road routes between
Car and Cameroon even with a military/ police escort _'. (We have pasted
the entire travel advice at the bottom of this page if you are interested.)
This was not good news. The Germans that we met in Agades who had so
strongly recommended this park said it was rough, but this didn't seem good
at all. How ever we went to bed with plans to go to the WWF and check if
there were alternative parks in south eastern Cameroon where we could see
the gorillas instead, and also to hear if the travels in CAR actually are as
bad as the travel warnings say.
* *
*Day 118:*
Thursday February 1. 2007
Yaound
After a big breakfast and another internet session we went to the WWF to
gather information. We were met by a really nice local man who said that
Bayanga in the CAR was the place to go for gorillas. He told us that they of
course had some possibilities in Cameroon as well, but he strongly
recommended the park and said that there shouldn't be a problem driving
there, as the park were situated in a quiet area that hasn't been affected
by the war and the rebellions in the rest of the country. He said it would
be safe driving to Bayanga, all though most of the few foreign tourists
going to the park flew there. He advised us to stop at the WWF office in
Youkadouma before entering CAR to gather some more local information.
After the meeting we decided to give it a try. We already had the visa for
CAR, obtained from the French embassy in Norway, so we didn't have to spend
time getting this.
This was also the day for picking up the visa from the Congo embassy. We
went there at one o'clock hoping they were ready, but got the message to
come back at three. A quarter past three Andreas and Jens came back to pick
it up, while Knut went to a garage to grease the car. The embassy was
closed. What they didn't tell us was that it closed at three as well So we
had to spend one more night in Yaound. At the garage the guy with the
grease gun put too much force in too it, which resulted in a broken grease
seal in the mid axel. Great! It is not necessary to say that Knut was
furious. It didn't help that Toyota Yaound refused to repair our Land
Cruiser model and that a car cut in in front of Knut and crashed (only in
the bull bar) with him in a big round about. Nothing happened to Odd III,
but the driver who just drove off, left with a scratch that was as long as
his car. One thing we'll remember about Yaound/Cameroon is the crazy and
very, very stupid driving! We have been told that most people just by their
driving licence without taking any lessons or driving courses.
As we only have a single entry visa to Cameroon, we had a problem of how to
get back in to Cameroon after visiting CAR. We were (sent) to several
offices to have this done: the ministry of tourism, the EMI Immigration
Department, The head of Police, Cameroon Airlines (!) and some other places
with names we can't even recall, but none of them could help us. So we
finally gave up and decided to go without our papers in order and just
tackle the problem when it comes We hope that the border police won't
notice. In worst case we will probably be able to 'buy'' an entry when
coming back at the border.
Andreas and Jens also had to find some place to refill the gas for the
kitchen as well. After some hours of visiting Yaound several gas depots, we
eventually found a place who could refill the bottle. At least one thing
accomplished this day
We had a silent dinner and went early to bed.

*Day 119:*
Friday February 2. 2007
Yaound
The plan was to leave Yaound as soon as we had got the visas from the
Congolese embassy, and sorting out a few other things. However things in
Africa take time and we weren't out of town before three.
We drove towards the border and camped by the road near a village. We fell
asleep to the sounds of drums and singing.
*Day 120:*
Saturday February 3. 2007
Campsite outside Yokadouma - Nola (CAR)
Continuing en route to CAR the roads turned from bad to terrible and even
more terrible than you can possibly imagine. Odd III was shaken badly and we
were afraid everything would fall apart, including our own bodies.
Shaken and stirred we stopped at the WWF centre in Yokadouma too have a last
check at the security situation and to make them radio the park that we were
coming. They didn't get in contact with the park, but told us that the roads
and the security should be OK. Their local driver could also confirm that
the two ferries we needed to cross the Sanga River were operating (or at
least they were going in august when he last used them)
One hour later we were at the border at the Cameroonian side. For some
reason we couldn't figure out the police wouldn't give us the stamps in the
passports that are normal when you are leaving the country. But that was
very OK for us, as this probably would make things easier with our visa
problem later.
The last thing that happens before leaving Cameroon is that a local guy is
approaching us asking: 'Les blanches (White men), are you going to the
CAR!!??'' We told him we were and he quickly responded: 'My friends, you are
leaving Cameroon with a nice car. You'll soon come back by foot!'', and
waived us off shaking his head. Thanks a lot!


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