Travelling is all about new experiences but this is the first time I’ve had a bit of bony fish, skinny chicken legs and fried banana for Christmas dinner, why didn’t I think and bring a Christmas pud with me?
With the festivities passing by without remark it soon became time to leave Ebogo and head for the Cameroonian capital of Yaounde, thank God we were only going to the airport to drop off Anita who was at the end of her trip, as the rest of town looked pretty awful. En route we visited Mefou Ape Sanctuary. There’s plenty of variety on show in huge enclosures surrounded by electric fences which I guess is an improvement on your regular zoo. The tour didn’t take very long but was very well presented, by Terence, and the place was clean, neat and tidy with plenty of informative signage. The main point of interest for me was how they interacted with the local villagers. To preserve the forest and also the wildlife in it they were educating not only the school children but also their parents. Instead of hunting bushmeat they now grew crops that were in turn bought by the sanctuary to feed to the apes and monkeys, quite a nicely efficient cycle I thought.
The next evening we pitched our tents next to the Sanaga river in Dizangue, then made our usual early start to make it to Douala. This would be the end of my adventure with the Germans and we parted with hearty hugs having travelled 2,229km (1,385miles) together. They’d delivered me to the Foyer du Marin, a German seamen’s mission that I’d highly recommend. As you’d probably suspect, it is near the port so I was strongly advised not to go out after 6pm (18h00) that was great as the mission had a really good restaurant with reasonably priced food. With three days to fill before my flight back to Brazzaville I headed out, camera discreetly under arm. My second-hand 2011 tourist map purchased from a man in the street for 2,000cfa (£2.60) suggested a visit to the cathedral of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. From the outside you’d be tempted to walk straight by but hold your horse’s partners, the interior is well worth the time. Next up the Chamber of Commerce, nice art deco architecture apparently, the tomb of the four kings which isn’t worth the effort finding, a monument to General LeClerc, who? This I found in front of the old courthouse that is or was a restaurant. Outside on the path were a nice old Citroen and a Plymouth either side of the entrance steps was a statue of a Blues Brother laying down. And finally, for day one, a statue of a famous footballer named Marechal outside a stadium. Next morning I tried the Centennial Temple that was shut – shame I’m told there’s a nice view from the top, which from street-level I doubt, the Indomitable Lions Square that is a tribute (not much) to the Italia 90 football team and to top it all the Douala Palace.
‘Camair-Co flight QC352, you are clear for take-off’, are words you wouldn’t have heard this New Year’s day as the buggers had cancelled it but had they told me when they sent the flight confirmation the day before? No! That’s eDreams.net deleted from my contacts book then. It took me two whole hours to discover that fact, I, however, arrived nice and early so as to not miss that flight and was now stranded at Douala International crap-hole. I tried to smuggle myself onto a Rwandair flight to Brazzaville but failed, see, they do have some level of security, then sat for another couple of hours waiting for inspiration. Eventually, it arrived along with a fat price in the form of a 2.30pm (14h30) flight to Pointe Noire that was progress as it meant I could cut out the middleman, Brazzaville and the coach to Pointe Noire. I bought the ticket and was immediately instructed to go to check-in, from then on I can’t say with any confidence that I knew I was on the right flight as information appeared to be severely restricted, it wasn’t until I was boarding that I discovered the plane would be making two stops, Pointe Noire and good old Brazzaville. Even more doubt entered my mind as we took off 15 minutes earlier than scheduled.
Surprisingly, I breezed through customs and out of the airport into the sun. Pointe Noire was a far nicer place than either Douala or Brazzaville. I guess it’s the result of having a long sandy beach, incidentally, a surfer’s paradise, that gives it a more relaxed atmosphere. Also the locals are more comfortable with foreigners due to all of the expatriate workers here.
Safely in my room and unpacked my mind drifted to food, the online description of Residence Saint Jacques (same owners as the place in Brazzaville) said there was a restaurant and a pool which is correct. The issue was that the restaurant never opened and the pool hadn’t been cleaned for weeks, so I didn’t get to go in either. The receptionist gave me a leaflet for a place named the Kactus, so with his directions I headed out. It was easy to find, the service was friendly and best of all the food was good, a Big Burger, fries, two beers for 12,000cfa (£15.58).
Bright and early next morning I went in search of the office of Habitat Ecological et Liberté des Primates, HELP, a chimpanzee sanctuary that welcomed volunteers. I’d been in email contact for a couple of weeks but with moving around plus the Christmas festivities, the trail had gone cold. As if by magic there was the office opposite the Kactus. I entered and spoke to a helpful chap who phoned my contact and discovered she was due there later that day. To cut a long story short, it took me three days to get confirmation I could go to the sanctuary and a lift arranged. 6am (6h00) at the Kactus – where else – a French/Peruvian couple would take me. 4am (4h00) that morning the heavens opened and I thought that my chance had passed, surely they would cancel. At 6.15am (6h15) I was quick-stepping with my backpack – in the rain – it was my lucky day!