Wednesday 27th February 2013
Douala to Seme Beach near Limbe Cameroon
Today we are heading off to Seme Beach near Limbe on the Atlantic Ocean coast. We had a very nice breakfast in the hotel – 2 fried eggs, ½ a baguette, cheese, fruit and coffee. After breakfast we packed our bags and our guide was waiting. We took a taxi (same one as last night) to the bus station. The drive required nerves of steel – cars on the wrong side of the road, no-one paying any attention to traffic lights but eventually we reached the bus station. Do not get over imaginative about the bus station – it is a dirt area filled with mini-buses and people trying to sell passengers all manner of things – fried plantain, fried chicken, plastic bags filled with water, shoes, handkerchiefs, face washers. We waited for the bus to go – they have to sell all the seats before they will depart from the terminal – so we waited for over an hour in the terminal (a small covered area like a shack with 2 benches near where the buses leave from) until all the tickets on the bus were sold. We had initially been going in a mini-bus but someone got a sniff of greater profits to be made and decided to use a small bus instead – so of course it took longer to sell all the tickets. Eventually it was full, luggage was loaded onto the roof, passengers climbed aboard with smaller bags in their laps. Then we set off and went about 30 metres when they discovered that there were still some seats available – there were 4 actual seats in every row but there had to be 5 people in each row (squeezed into the 4 seats) and once that was achieved we set off, through the city towards the west and the coast. It was quite hot and humid and we were squeezed together like sardines so the breeze through the open windows was very welcome! The time passed nicely as there was a man on board who stood near the door, opened a bag of lollies, and proceeded to have a quiz – the prize for a correct answer being a lolly. The local people mainly speak Pidgin English, English and/or French. The quiz questions were in English. The first round was on the bible – sadly it took a while for the correct answers to be reached. The 2nd round was ‘english’ eg what is a baby cat called? The next round was on nursery rhymes. The competition was interrupted by us being stopped by the police who wanted to see IDs. He singled out various people, Lynn included, who had to show her passport. One woman he picked, didn’t have any ID and had to get off the bus and talk to man – we don’t know what was said but eventually she got on board again and off we went. The Quiz Master now reached into his bag and pulled out a number of educational DVDs which he had for sale – the quiz had merely been his warm-up for his main purpose of selling his items. It certainly worked because the DVDs sold like hot cakes. The countryside is very green with palm trees and all varieties of tropical crops like plantains, rubber trees and palm oil trees. We reached a large town where we got off the bus and got on another smaller bus to take us to the town of Limbe from where we caught a taxi to the hotel. Even though the bus and taxi rides were supposed to take an hour and a half, we didn’t arrive at the hotel until we had been on the road for about 4½ hours. The taxi on the way to the hotel with us and our guide sitting in the back had about 7 different passengers in the front over the length of the journey (about ½ an hour) so it was more like a bus. When we reached the hotel, it is very close to Mt Cameroon, a volcano more than 4,000 m high. This volcano last erupted in 1999 and the lava flow crossed the road just near where we are staying. There is still a diversion on the road and you have to drive round where the lava flow crossed the road. The mountain is almost always covered in cloud, but we took a photo this afternoon where the peak could be seen so I guess we are lucky. We went for a swim in the ocean this afternoon off the black sand beach and the water was very pleasant. We then read our books for an hour or so by the beach then back up to the room for an aperitif. After our lunch, we didn’t need any dinner, so we were in bed by about 9.15pm.
Thursday 28th February 2013
Seme Beach Hotel to Limbe and back
The guide knocked on our door at 6.40am today to tell us that we needed to be ready to leave at 7.30am this morning instead of 8.30am as arranged so we quickly got dressed and went up to have our breakfast. The reason for the earlier start was that it was ‘clean up day’. Apparently every now and then the townspeople have to spend the morning cleaning the town – taxi drivers included – so after 8am we wouldn’t have been able to get a taxi. We set off back towards Limbe where we were to visit the Botanical Gardens and the Wildlife Park. When we arrived at the Wildlife Park, it wasn’t opening until 9am so we were a bit early, so we headed off down to the Botanical Gardens which opened shortly after we arrived there. The gardens were first set up as a nursery by the Germans after the Second World War and were developed into gardens shortly after that time. In more recent years they have been taken over by the Cameroon Government and have fallen into a pretty sad state. Of course most of the trees are still there, but the signage and the gardens are in a sadly neglected state. It is a very beautiful setting between a river and the sea. We walked around for about an hour – there was no one else there except us and our guide – the official gardens guide never showed up even though they were supposed to show us around. The gardens obviously used to be quite beautiful but sadly not now. After the gardens we walked up the hill about 10 minutes to the Limbe Wildlife Park. Mainly rescued primates, rescued from horrible fates in the jungle. The dear creatures no doubt have a better life here in this wildlife park rather than at the mercy of the loggers and others who would eat them as “wild meat”. There were about 10 lowland gorillas, quite a large number (around 30) of drills and quite a few chimps and other monkeys. There was 1 crocodile and 1 python so it was mainly rescued primates. There was an information sign giving a history for each gorilla and telling how each one came to be there – very sad – all had been orphaned through poachers and then sold as pets. Luckily they eventually came to the wildlife park where at least they are safe. We thought it was interesting that they had all come from different areas and families but had now formed into a family and had even bred recently. This park was taken over from the government in more recent years and seems to do some good work. There was an operation by vets happening today on what appeared to be a gorilla. After the wildlife park, we then caught a taxi down to the fishing village and walked through the village looking at the catch brought in from the bay. Most of the fishermen fish from pirogues that are about 4-5metres long and quite narrow, so the catches are not large. Limbe Harbour is very picturesque and Mt Cameroon looms over everything, almost permanently clouded, but we saw it clearly this morning and it’s quite a sight. The bay has two very large oil rigs in it as oil is a considerable part of Cameroon’s economy. We then walked through the village and looked inside a hut where they were smoking fish. It was really hot (and smoky as you can imagine) but very interesting. The fish is dried out and then sold to neighbouring cities and even to Nigeria and Gabon and Equatorial Guinea all of which border Cameroon. The people in the village are very friendly and were quite happy for us to look at the smoking /drying of the fish. We then had lunch – fish actually, with chips, chosen by us and freshly cooked. It was delicious and we sat by the edge of the harbour and ate it with our fingers. We then drove uptown to exchange some money (our first opportunity in Cameroon) from the local Money Gram office. It was very confusing in this shop with scores of people coming and going. We now have some local money (656CFA to the Euro). Then back in the (same) taxi to our beach hotel where we changed into our swimming costumes and went for another swim in the tropical sea. Very enjoyable – back to the room for a shower to get all of the black sand off then our usual aperitif. Dinner tonight at the hotel restaurant – no other choice. The weather today was hotter than yesterday and very humid.