100 km/d

On August 3rd I left Buea for a short trip with Sam. Sam is a Welsh medical student who was doing some volunteer work at the local hospital and health clinics, and we decided to go on an adventure down to the south of Cameroon to Campo Ma’an national park, famed for its gorillas, elephants, and strange creatures.

First, we got on a bus from Buea to Douala. We were lucky to find a bus that was already nearly full, so we only waited a few minutes before the bus left. Our luck soon ran out when the bus began to make strange noises and broke down. The driver managed to get us a certain distance at very low speed but eventually we had to get out and wait for a passing bus to pick us up. Of course the passing bus was already full so adding several people from our bus made things all the more “cozy.”

We arrived soon after in Bonabéri, described by one blogger as “an over-populated, under-developed urban slum section of Douala.” We both knew where we were and it was midday so it was fairly safe, though I did have to remove one young guy’s hand from my pocket and slap him on the wrist for it, as did Sam. The pickpocket didn’t realize the pockets he aimed for were empty – we’re not that dumb. Got a bus-taxi from Bonabéri to the Akwa area of Douala, a very central area of the city. The driver told us that, from where he dropped us off, we just had to walk about 5 metres back to the corner for the bus company we were looking for, Jako Voyages. I persuaded him to give me my proper change before getting out, and we quickly realized he was lying – Jako Voyages wasn’t there. So we asked a kid on the street, paid him the equivalent of 20 cents Canadian, climbed onto the backs of motorcycles and got driven through very busy midday traffic to the bus office for the next leg of our trip.

The ticket-seller told us we’d be leaving in 45 minutes so we decided to eat some food at the station. Without even finishing our drinks the PA system came on and told everyone for our bus that we had to go outside. So we did. And then we waited. And waited. And it started raining. And we waited. Finally after an hour and a half waiting and being pushed and shoved by the crowd, they began calling out numbers. When they finally decided the bus was full after an hour or so of number-calling, the last person to get on the bus was number 9-22. I was 9-23 and Sam was 9-24.

Back inside we waited again, the ticket-seller told us 45 minutes again til the next bus, and we realized he says that to anyone who asks, no matter what. We got on a bus eventually, though I had to dig my elbow into a woman to get her to stop blocking my way and pull myself onto the bus with a lot of force as so many people are competing to get on the bus. They don’t understand that the driver only lets you on when he calls your number, so there’s always a huge shouting match where the driver and a few reasonable passengers yell at the unreasonable passengers trying to get on before their number is called. So I had a bunch of people yelling on my behalf to let me on, while a bunch of other people thought they should get on before the people with lower numbers.

The bus took a few hours to get there, but it was comfortable enough and the road was pretty good. We arrived in Kribi just after 10pm – so much for making it all the way to Campo in one day. Sam had been to Kribi before so he knew exactly where a cheap hotel was located, and after a 2 minute walk we were registering at the reception.

The next morning we each ate two fresh baguettes with La Vache Qui Rie (Laughing Cow) cheese which was heavenly after the previous day’s severe lack of food. We looked around for a bus to Campo and paid at the only company that seemed to be going that day. Then we waited. And waited. And waited. Several hours later, the company told us to get off the fairly empty bus and get into a smaller bus – a new driver was arriving and we were to leave shortly, as the normal bus was not going to fill up and they didn’t want us to be stuck. We left, and after about half an hour we stopped in the middle of nowhere. The guy in front of me got out, climbed onto a motorcycle driving in the opposite direction, and took off. We drove a few more minutes then stopped in a tiny village. We got out. We waited. And waited. And waited. The guy returned on another motorcycle – he had forgotten his jacket at the bus station in Kribi and had gone back to get it.

The road to Campo is not good, and it was a tough ride which ended after 7pm when it was already pitch black. Not knowing where to go, we just started walking and asked some ladies at a food stall where we could find accommodation but they wanted money for it (a lot of money, around $5 Canadian equivalent) so we walked off. Some guy came out of a restaurant and told us he could help us. Very sketchy, but what other options are there? So we told him we knew there was some kind of beach hotel we had been told about, and he took us there, the one we had seen in photos. We booked ourselves in then he took us looking for food. We ordered antelope from a food stall but when we sat down at a restaurant to eat the antelope (we were sitting at the restaurant because they sell drinks and allow people to bring their own food) we realized it was stone-cold even though we asked for it to be really hot. So we both gave our meat to Samuel, the local guy who was helping us. He was amused that he and Sam share the same name. We ate the cold white rice plain and had a couple of beers before heading to bed.

And that’s how it took 2 full days to travel from Buea to Campo, a distance of 209 km as the crow flies. In the next blog entry, you’ll get to see why we made this trip, and why the rough travel conditions were worth it. It will also be a rare occasion when I post a short video!

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