December 31, 2007 GMT
Cameroon


The three motorcycles, Chris, Nick and I made it safely across the river on the small wooden boats. As usual we were quite a spectacle to the local villagers of this small riverside village called Touroua. I sent up a rooster tail of sand as I rode up the riverbank and we parked up in front of a crowd, the police came to see us and stamped our passports into Cameroon. They also sorted us out with a patch of land behind the shack that served as the police station where we could pitch our tents for the night. We then went back down to the river Faro for a swim.

After an early morning walk along the banks of the Faro we packed up and headed into Cameroon. Riding down a dusty track for sixty kilometers we then turned south onto the N1, which was a twisty bitumen road that ran through the forest. We stopped at a small village and feasted on Kebabs, nuts and fruit, which were delicious, it was the best food that I had consumed for days.

I was really beginning to appreciate the more relaxed atmosphere of Cameroon. It was such a relief not to draw a huge crowd as we did every time we stopped in Nigeria. Charles came and introduced himself he was originally from Tchad and told us of the war there and how he was evacuated by the church seven years ago, he longed for the war to finish so he could return home. He was educated and knowledgeable about the world, I hope that he can return home one day soon and rebuild the old life that he once had.

We rolled into Ngaoundere and found an auberge in one of the back streets, which was clean with a friendly owner that was keen for us to stay. We rode the bikes through the small front door and parked up in the lobby. The road got interesting out of Ngaoundere heading for Bamenda it was the dustiest so far on this trip with huge potholes that we rode down into and up the other side. Others were so deep that if the front wheel had gone into them then I would have cart wheeled over the handlebars into a world of pain and broken bones, fortunately I swerved them all and lived to ride another day.

Often we’d come around a corner and see a huge plumb of dust being blown up by a truck. When I made the decision to pass I’d hold my thumb on the horn and accelerate through the dust it would be such a relief to get past each one back into clean air again. Nick managed to seize the engine on his Yamaha. It didn’t take long to relise that this was not going to be sorted by the side of the road. The next truck to arrive pulled over and we loaded the XT350 onto the load of peanuts and he continued the trip to Douala in the cab of the truck. I later heard that it had taken four days to drive one thousand kilometres each time they would be stopped by the customs they would have to give them a couple of sacs of the peanuts by the time they arrived in Douala they had lost a third of the load.

So then we were two, Chris and I loved every minute of this road through the jungle. There was one stretch that turned to tarmac with some lovely twisty bits then after a couple of kilometers it would go back to dirt again then back to tarmac, it was like a super moto track and we rode it accordingly. In the evenings we would stop at little auberges and eat barbequed fish with the truck drivers. In the mornings I would wake up to the sound of the trucks starting up one by one and rolling off down the road.

We rode eight hundred kilometers in two and a half days and met up with Dan, Ed and Chris B. They had ridden on some bad roads also; one stretch of one hundred kilometers had taken them all day. Eager for some more off road action we headed north and around the ring road to the north. The ring road as it’s called links many little villages or chiefdoms as they are called. A lot of the chiefdoms are at two thousand metres the ring road runs through the jungle, which made for a technical ride, we had to ford a few rivers.

I passed the ten thousandth mile mark of the trip driving down to the capital of Yaoundé. We picked up visas in Yaoundé for Gabon, Congo and DRC they are expensive and time consuming stamps to get hold of. Although we had a peaceful spot to camp the gardens of a large house in the city it was a nice combination of peace and tranquility and having things on the doorstep. For a change there were other over-landers their two 4x4s, five of us on bikes, not forgetting Colin who had cycled here from London. It’s always good to exchange stories over a few beers when we meet up from time to time.

This was the week running up to Christmas and the city had a festive feel about it. There was a French bakery that I would visit every morning, as usual Christmas carols were playing it was funny to hear Live Aids “do they know it’s Christmas time” being played over the radio, in Africa with all these cakes and pastries around. Although this is a city and very far removed from the “real” Africa!

From Yaoundé Chris and I rode north to mount Cameroon we climbed the mountain over Christmas making the summit of 4095 on Christmas morning I’m sure this will be a Christmas that I’ll never forget. The mountain is a live volcano the last eruptions were in 1998, 1999 and 2000, we walked past craters that were still smoking away with a trail of laver that flowed down the mountain towards the sea. I love to climb mountains and before I was far from the summit I was thinking about which one to climb next.

After the climb we spent a couple of days at Limbe where the rainforest rolls down to the chocolate brown sandy beaches. I had the good news that my box had finally made it back to London with my MiniDv tapes inside and that my new tyres have arrived in Douala airport. It was a long and expensive day getting the tyres out of customs, £150 for the Continental TKC80’s, £120 for James cargo to send the tyres and £240 to customs and other people to get the tyres out!

My old Metzeller Tourances have done really well I’ve got 10500 miles out of them on all types of terrain and they still have 2.5mm of tread. Although I’m feeling good about having the new Continental TKC 80’s (knobbly tyres) on for this next section of Africa. I think through the Congo’s and Angola the roads are going to be really bad, bring it on!

The rain forests of Cameroon have definitely been one of the many highlights of this amazing country but I hate seeing the effects of deforestation and the constant trucks loaded with huge tree trunks heading for the ports!

We’re camped up in the grounds of a hotel right on the beach in Kribi. Only a mornings, ride away from the border with Gabon and a day’s ride from the equator. Gabon, Congo, and DRC await this next section is going to be a real adventure. If all goes well we should be in Namibia within a couple of weeks.


Posted by Michael Beckett at December 31, 2007 05:22 PM GMT
 
 

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