This is part of the twelfth section of our around the
Complete Trip Overview & Map
Coming from Sao Tome & Principe and Gabon or read our previous visit to Cameroon
27/8/06 Over the bridge on the Cameroon side the temporary wooden building housed the efficient immigration officer who informed me that there was a new road and it was now asphalt all the way to Yaounde. Customs a few km's further stamped the carnet in five minutes and the relaxed efficiency we remembered from our last visit here was welcomed. What makes Cameroon, squeezed between two oil states, different I don't know. Perhaps it is the less easy money makes the government need to consider the people and the real economy as Cameroon seems to thrive. Another lovely ride into a dead Sunday afternoon city, a hotel and collapsed.
28/6/06 It is still the wet season in the southern regions so to get across West Africa to Senegal, and hopefully a boat to Cape Verde, our next unvisited country, we thought a train trip for us and the motorcycle to the north might be interesting. The road from Yaounde to Ngaoundere is over half dirt for its 900 km's and we have travelled most of it before on our previous visit in 2000. It should be relaxing on the train and save the motorcycle some effort. The price, at $US 160.00 total, is no more than the cost to ride with petrol here at $US 1.20 a litre. At least that was the quote, but this is Africa, we will see when we collect our tickets in two day's time. A Burkina Faso visa issued in five hours for $US 60.00 each, a Niger visa at $US 80.00 each to be collected in two day's time, and changing enough dollars to CFA took the rest of the day. US dollars are not a popular currency here. The Euro has taken over, particularly as the dollar has been weakening lately. We ended up changing on the street at 2% better than the bank rate.
29/8/06 Some dirt had entered the motorcycle's carburettor making it run lean and rough. Hopefully a thorough clean this morning fixed the problem. Spray with WD40 to help cover the rust bits now showing proudly after the salt spray to Sao Tome and a good clean. Yaounde has it's share of street dwellers, sleeping in corners, asking for food or money. It also has street sellers, peddling their few items, pairs of shoes advertised by wearing one on the head, music CD's, postcards, bracelets, almost anything, polite but not pushy. The nearby bakery, street avocados and bananas have provided most of our meals as the city centre has few eateries, mostly just bars. In the west alcohol consumption goes up during hard times, here the times are always hard.
30/8/06 We had been told to bring the motorcycle to the train station at 10 am. Many government employees in this region run their own businesses within their government job. The police supplement income by fines and now the cargo manager reduces the weight of the motorcycle for mutual benefit, except for Cameroon Rail. He has also facilitated us getting two couchettes for the train. Being the end of school holidays these two berth cabins are in short supply. The Secretariat issues these tickets personally, perhaps another business. We paid the normal price but noticed when collecting the tickets at 4 pm there were other more grateful passengers than us. The tickets generally went to missionary nuns, couples like ourselves or high ranking officials. It appears we had also been scammed by the cargo manager as we were charged a porter's and loading fee yet rode the motorcycle along the platform to the carriage, loading charges are included in freight costs. Still without the help of the cargo manager we would not have obtained the couchettes. The train runs daily in each direction and leaves on schedule just after 6 pm. I checked on the motorcycle just before departure and found it wedged between a mattress and cardboard boxes piled higher than it. A guard or freeloader rides with the carriage to make sure there is no damage. The train was surprisingly fast but with frequent stops at stations where fruit and drink sellers peddled goods from the track. More stops to let cattle trains pass and many severe joltings as the loose connections between carriages ricocheted down the long train between acceleration and braking. Our two bunks were comfortable in the old carriage as it's loose suspension bounced along.
31/8/06 Its a scheduled 12 hour trip but never runs to time. Ours was 17 hours, more normal, arriving at 11.30 am allowed time to look at the scenery in the morning. It rained overnight and the surrounding countryside was lush green and the rivers flooding. Fighting off the luggage handlers we waited till the cargo carriage was almost empty and the Camrail loaders efficiently lifted the motorcycle onto the platform where we replaced the windscreen and mirrors and reorganised our luggage and rode along the platform and into Ngaoundere. Feeling like riding we headed north the 300 km to Garoua. Two Spanish and a German bicyclists were coming in the other direction having ridden from Europe. A roadside chat but as thunderstorms were threatening, and they had been drenched yesterday, we all moved on, us towards clearing skies, them into the mountains and storms. The train trip had brought us from the Christian south to the Muslim north. Whilst not technically into the Sahel yet, that band of land between the Sahara Desert and the wetter south, life here is distinctly different. Cattle grazing the big difference along with more diverse agriculture. The villages are more enclosed behind walls and whilst at home privacy is respected, publically the people are much closer, gathering around the motorcycle so closely we need to politely move them away to get some breathing space.
1/9/06 We have hit the heat. The equatorial cloud that has been hanging over us the last month and keeping things relatively cool has gone, replaced by a scorching sun and high evaporative humidity. Rode just 200 km to Maroua and now truely into the Sahel with poorer soils and more density of population. The air is clear and the scenery green. We have taken to liking to ride at the end of the wet season where things are easy on the eye, vegetables and fruits are in season and usually it is still cool.
2/9/06 It is 100 km to the Nigerian border of which 30 are a dirt track. Cameroon doesn't seem to value trade with it's neighbour yet many trucks are crossing with goods. The rains came late this year and when they arrived in August were strong and washed away the bridge connecting the two countries. An alternative route across a couple of causeways had also been blocked by the risen waters and by three trucks that attempted to cross and were either washed away or fell off the causeway. When we arrived one was being winched back onto the causeway and another was slowing traffic moving around it. The water was flowing fast and was still quite deep. The petrol situation between the two countries hasn't changed in the six years we have been away. Nigerian prices are half that of Cameroon's so cross border smuggling is big business. So big it seems to be controlled by high officials as the petrol is openly sold in the near border towns of Cameroon from plastic containers with immunity from problems. More than a dozen old petrol tankers were stationed in a field near the border. A couple were draining fuel into 200 litre drums and smaller plastic containers. We had no problems with immigration but as customs was now isolated the other side of the washed out bridge we chose not to bother having the carnet signed and they didn't bother us either.
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