And so we found ourselves in
a bar in CAR surrounded by representatives of police, immigration and military.
Charlie Curtis : 17th July

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Click the photos to see the gallery of Cameroon

Click the photos to see the gallery of Cameroon

DIARY : Cameroon Imagery: ©2009 Terrametrics
Map data: ©2009 Europa Technologies

17th July : Cameroon
Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

Driving south to Yaounde we realised how close we were to the Central African Republic. In fact, Garaoua Boulai was 100m off the track we were following.

We could not resist diverting for a look.

Like most borders in Central Africa, security was not exactly tight. Most locals do not even see or recognise the border. They may live

on one side and work on the other. The armed militia patrolling didn’t seem to bother with them, so we parked the Land rover and strolled across confidently. We were in CAF! That was easy. Wrong!

20 seconds later we were stopped by the military. With bars a prominent feature in Central Africa, we thought a round of beers might solve the dilemma even though it was only 9:30am.

And so we found ourselves in a bar in CAR surrounded by representatives of police, immigration and military.

As the morning progressed and the beers flowed we became more at ease with the bizarre collection of hosts who joined us. Not least the militia man with full shell suit, rucksack, beanie hat, 50’s motorbike goggles, and AK47 strapped to his chest. When the mood had mellowed we were finally able to withdraw.

18th July Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

Heading for Yaounde.

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19th July : Yaounde Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

Our time in Yaounde was far more relaxed. This city set in rolling hills is one of our favourites in Africa. Fish stalls and bars as far as the eye can see, and the aggressive street sellers of other towns are nowhere to be seen.

With our visas in order we were ready to leave. Jon had to head back to the UK for a flying visit, so I decided to explore to the east of the country near Lebeke National park on the Congo border in search of Gorillas. I was joined by Danny, a UK medical student who had tried to get into Equatorial Guinea to undertake volunteer work in a hospital but been refused entry (familiar feeling). Information from guide books suggested that the east was not yet set for tourism and we should take all the food and water we would need. We soon discovered the reality for ourselves.

22nd July Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

The drive took three long days, on roads that were consistently the worst I have seen so far.

On day two the brakes failed. We had severed a brake line and unable to fix it on the road, made a temporary fix and found a mechanic at the WWF office in Yokaduma. Then on to the final leg down to Lebeke. This we were advised would be tough, with terrible roads in a remote area.

We met the familiar sight of a lorry sitting at a seemingly impossible angle in a deep mud hole. And of course the usual welcome sight of a group of locals who had built a diversion. We had agreed to pay 3000 CFA to use the detour; a typical price for this encounter. However on the other side the price was lifted to 30,000.

I refused and the bartering began but suddenly the car was surrounded by men, women and a few children; all shouting at us; with arms clawing at the inside of the vehicle trying to grab a trophy.

Suddenly a hand came through the window and held a large knife to my throat. Calming the owner I handed over 10,000, which only temporarily placated the crowd. Only the intervention of a local truck driver helped us out of the predicament. We were shaken up, but also knew we would have to pass back this way on the return journey.

24th July Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

Spending the night at a Ranger station – deep in the rainforest, before heading into the forest trekking our guide.

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25th July Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

We spent three days hiking through the forest with our pygmy guide ‘Little Jean’ tracking gorillas by smell – gorillas give off a very strong scent of ammonia.

At the end of the first day we had our first sighting. Peering through the bush the head of a female suddenly popped up, eying us curiously. Her expression swiftly turned to fear and she bolted, screaming.

At which point the large male who must have been just behind us erupted in shrieks and also ran. We eventually arrived at the clearing we had been aiming for and were greeted by the sight of two females with infants on their backs, and a huge silverback all sitting down to dinner. Returning to this clearing several times over the next few days we spent plenty of time in their company; an incredible sight.

The nights in the rainforest were a dramatic experience. Camping miles from any other people the only sounds were those of the forest. When darkness swoops in suddenly, the forest erupts. A million crickets chirp, monkeys call out to each other, and forest elephants trample their paths sending out their rumbling calls.

26th July Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

During our hike back to be picked up by rangers we were followed by one of the many troupes of Colobus monkeys that surrounded us at all times; gliding between the trees as they launched themselves 20ft between branches 100ft in the air.

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27th July

On the return journey we were met at the same road block by the same men; this time with machetes. We agreed to make payment after the detour. However once again the threats began in earnest with even greater sums demanded.

In desperation I threw a handful of notes out of the window and in the confused scrambling managed to drive off. The sound of machetes against the bodywork was the last thing I remember. We were very shaken. We have been driving through Africa for over four months now and this was the first time that we have ever encountered such a problem. Not once had we been threatened, especially not with a weapon.

This was an isolated incident, and not a reflection of the people we have met. Desperation and Alcohol were certainly contributory factors in this group’s action. Whilst not an excuse, it would be wrong not to reflect at this point on the daily struggle to survive that people endure in many parts of Africa

28th July Tip: Click pictures to pop-up a larger view!

Back on the road to Yaounde.

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29th July

We've had no luck with Equatorial Guinea visas so tomorrow we head for Gabon.

< back to top > < See the Cameroon Photo Gallery > < Next stop : Gabon >
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