Taking public transportation in Cameroon

I understand now why the missionaries all own private vehicles. The savings cannot possibly outweigh the frustrations of public transport.

In the past few days I have experienced a variety of modes and journeys on public transportation. It all started in Mutengene. Shortly after arriving in the taxi park we were loaded onto a bus (a 15-passenger van-type affair) in which we sat and sweated for about an hour and a half before leaving. Lisa was trying to call the members of the literacy committee with whom we were supposed to be meeting in Ekondo Titi, thus the reason for our trip.

Time passed quickly in the red bus called Symbol and before I knew it the bus was loaded—3 people on the benches and not 1 but 2 people on the jump seats. A vehicle which would hold 15 people in North America was packed with 20 people, roof piled high with luggage of all shapes and sizes including a bedframe loaded on top.

Across the road was a bus called Patience, which I fancied an inauspicious name for a transportation line given the nature of wait times in Cameroon, but to my surprise it departed before we did!

I was fortunate to have the window seat where I could control airflow and cosy up to the wall instead of lolling my head from shoulder to shoulder of fellow passengers as I dozed and bumped along the road. Poor Lisa’s legs are just a bit too long for those little seats, though; her knees could not help but connect with a supporting bar running through the seat ahead of us.

The bus made a stop at the Muyuka taxi park where a number of the backseat passengers hopped out the rear window and were not replaced by new ones. Still, we remained crammed like sardines until the next town when someone finally climbed over the seat to redistribute the extra space.

Along the dusty gravelled road, we suddenly stopped and the driver got out to retrieve something that had fallen off the vehicle. Looking out the back window, I saw a small colourful object lying on the road. I wondered what it was, how the driver had noticed he’d lost it, and why he was bothering to retrieve it. It was his side mirror.

“Check your foot!” a lady passenger demanded of the driver while he was outside. Someone along the road had gestured toward it, she intimated. “Foot,” I wondered? Back tire! It seems it was fine, because we were off again in the rickety red van.

The panelling on the interior was mostly stripped; the seats had lost most of their springiness, betraying every supporting bar; and the sliding door required expert manipulation to open and close. My first town to town journey on public. Rather dusty and sweaty, but not unbearable, was my analysis.


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