Journey to Yaoundé

By car. I look on cars here with incredulity, unable to comprehend how they can get people from point A to point B. Well, I guess they don’t necessarily: Dan drove us from Big Bekondo to Kumba, but from there Elsie and I hitched a ride to Yaoundé with the SIL translation consultants in their car.

The most noteworthy part of the first leg was the mudhole by Kake. With no apparent trigger factors, there was an enormous hole in the road—the tracks led down into a muddy depression two humps long—then the road continued merrily on its way. At the bottom of this hole, the mud came up to the windows—on Dan’s jacked up 4X4 Toyota Hilux.

Persistent washboard and plentiful potholes plagued the road from Kumba till closer to Douala when suddenly all was paved and wonderful, though the first section of paved road was spotted with enormous speed bumps that seemed to occur every 100 metres.

I’d size up Urs, the driver, as a European practiced in Cameroonian driving. He was a speed demon wherever the surface allowed and flew past slower moving vehicles despite oncoming traffic. (This is from the perspective of a very meek driver who usually doesn’t pass unless no one is coming.) I’ll grant you, it was important to pass those trucks on the level ground so we didn’t get stuck behind them labouring up a steep grade. But I find that Europeans on average drive faster and get much closer to both other objects and other cars than North Americans do. I maintain that greater challenges make better drivers, which is why Manitobans are such bad drivers.

I think I slept through some of the more interesting parts of the journey for the last hour or so before we reached Douala, but I was very tired after two weeks of staying up past midnight every night chatting with Elsie and rising before 7. Nevertheless, I did observe a) banana plantations with the hands hanging in a blue sleeve to protect from “predators” and encourage uniform ripening, b) rubber plantations with little cups collecting the drips of white sap, c) what I’m told was a palm nut plantation with what looked like tree tops growing right on the ground, and d) some roadside nurseries featuring little bags of dirt overflowing with greenery or colourful leaves, presided over by taller shoots like calla lilies or tall shrubs.

We stopped to lunch at a service road to a rubber plantation. I was delighted to get a closer look at the trees but the others warned of the smell. What rubber smell, I thought, as I kept looking at the bottom of my shoes wondering if I’d stepped in animal poop. Oh, I guess that’s the rubber smell.

The last part of the journey, on paved roads, was very much like any other car trip I’ve taken, scenery included, with the exception of the appearance of orange-red wattle and daub-style houses. (This style of housing is not found in the rainforest; I’m guessing because it’d “melt.”) Even the “Total” gas station we stopped at could have been in North America or Europe: air conditioned inside with a selection of snack food (they sold Milka!!! but I held myself back), bathrooms around back in the usual state of cleanliness, uniformed attendants less than eager to be helpful.


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