We left at the crack of dawn feeling exhausted from a restless night. The road to the border was quite slow, with loads of potholes and other obstacles to avoid. The Nigerian border crossing took over two hours. I left Michael to it, while I stayed in the car with Togo, both of us feeling ill and very sorry for ourselves. Michael said there were loads of forms to fill out and long discussions to be had, but they didn't ask for any money and no-one queried our visas at all!
Then there was the Cameroon side. Which was much trickier than we had anticipated. Despite much discussion and cajoling, the chief there said he did not have the authority to issue Michael and me with visas, and that we should go back o Nigeria to get one, or Pat and Glen could go to Yaoundé, or we could try go on our own with unstamped passports to Douala, but he thought we would get lots of hassles from the local police (and we weren't too sure how serious he was about the last suggestion). We managed to get the carnet de passage signed and stamped which was one good thing and after much debate we decided to try and go on without the passport stamps. So we pretended we were going up the road for a bite to eat and that Michael and I would wait while Glen and Pat went off with our passports.
During all of this Togo just lay in the cabin lifeless, breathing very shallowly and I was really worried. Eventually I decided to give her the CarboVeg homoeopathic remedy as Isabel had told me she had revived almost-dead animals with it before. I couldn't believe it. Within half an hour Togo had stood up and come to see me in the cab and she also went for a little walk - what a relief!
We snuck out of Ekok and didn't look back. We were a little nervous at the first couple of police checkpoints, but Glen and Pat led the way and we mostly followed behind just smiling broadly and waving enthusiastically. At one checkpoint we were asked for our passports and I passed the policeman our carnet de passage and just talked at him about anything interesting I could think of - he must have thought I was mad, and waved us on, forgetting about the passport request!
The people in Cameroon are so friendly and thankfully, undemanding. The kids and adults all scream 'hello whites' to us as we drive by and everyone has a smile for us. It is such a welcome change after Nigeria. The scenery is also spectacular. I had forgotten just how nice Cameroon was, even though it was very wet and rained like nobody's business!
We stopped at a crystal clear stream running at the side of the road to wash our hands, feet and faces. We helped some locals fix their engine problem, so they were really pleased. We found a great place to bushcamp off the road. Togo had a great time running about in the grass and barking. Two locals popped by to say hello and let us know they would be spending the night just up the way from us with their Caterpillar earth-moving equipment.
We had a really good night's sleep last night, despite me waking up every hour or so to check on Togo. We left her tied up outside. She managed to work her way loose of the rope, but stayed close the vehicle and barked in the morning when she was ready to eat.
The road was really interesting today. We came across a road grader which was badly stuck in a ditch. We stopped to winch it out, but the winch wouldn't work, so the guys had to wind it in manually and an even bigger grader came along and pulled the other one out instead.
Further along the road, a truck got stuck in a fairly big ditch and there were some taxis by-passing the truck in a very slippery and muddy channel alongside. The locals were pushing the cars out of trouble and charging for it! They were not very impressed with us when we tried to tow out the big truck (unsuccessfully - it was just too heavy and was pulling Nyathi forward in the slippery mud). They were shouting at us when we offered to pull out the car. Soon afterwards a big grader came along and smoothed the hole out a little and I got some good video footage.
The road conditions improved after that and by late afternoon we arrived in Limbe. We went back to the same place we'd been 8 years ago and nothing had changed. We relaxed in the sun for a bit and we wandered down to the cafeteria which is available for the local oil refinery workers. Pat said he would get dinner for us from there so he and Glen didn't have to cook. It was delicious and we fed Togo the chicken and bones which she thoroughly enjoyed.
Michael and I had a long and frustrating day today. We went to Douala to get our passports stamped and visas issued. John, the camp manager, suggested it would be better to go in a taxi from Limbe. We decided to do that and went with him into Limbe, where we changed money and took quite some time trying to find a taxi willing to take us to Douala for about $30. We found someone for a little more than that and off we set. By the time we got to Douala it was lunchtime and very annoyingly, the commissioner had gone home for the afternoon with conjunctivitis! They told us to come back the next day and they would give us an exit visa. A little later we tried our luck with whom we thought was the 2IC. He was very friendly, but couldn't help anyway! We went to the ministry for tourism to see if they could advise us what to do. We encountered a friendly woman who told us there was an immigration place in Buea (only 20kms from Limbe) and that we should go there instead.
So off we went, back to Limbe, with two stop offs. One at the boulangerie for some lunch to eat in the car and a second stop for our driver to buy some wood to cook maize on the cob. When we were stopped there we got to see a bit of excitement when a police car pulled up behind us and men jumped out and ran into the bush next to us looking for someone, but all they found were some shoes!
Back at camp we found Glen and Pat chatting to the locals (Charles, Emmanuel and others) and Togo playing with everyone - which wasn't contributing much to her early guard dog training! We were exhausted so we fell into bed without dinner.
Michael went off with John in the morning to see if they could convince the Limbe immigration people to stamp our passports, but to no avail. They returned to collect Nyathi and drive up to Buea. I stayed behind with Togo, Glen and Pat. I had a relaxing day, with Mount Cameroon in the background, playing with Togo, going for a swim, lying on the beach in the sun and catching up on journal entries (while the laptop battery held out). I realise how dependent you become on your vehicle when you don't have it with you - there were loads of times I wanted to get into Nyathi to get something, or use the electricity and I couldn't.
Pat spent most of the day trying to catch fish and Glen went in to Limbe to have a look around and get some supplies. Hannah, a vet and her husband Christopher came to see Togo (at John's insistence). I felt bad that they had come as I had told John it wasn't necessary and the dog was fine now! However, she gave Togo a vitamin injection and I got some worm tablets to give her in two weeks' time. We had a chat and I discovered that Christopher was extremely knowledgeable about Cameroon and its places of interest, plus the various animals etc. He told me about Goliath frogs which grow up to 80cm in height and are found only in Cameroon, so I think I want to go and see those. The bad news is that while we were chatting Togo's poor little eyes and face began to swell up and itch like mad. Hannah said we needed palm oil, to calm it down, but of course I didn't have any, so Peter the security guard ran into town to get some. By the evening, her swelling had gone down considerably, but I felt really bad about giving her the injection, plus it set me back $20!
Michael only got back just as it was getting dark - he was pretty exhausted. We decided not to go out gallivanting with Glen, Pat and two of the local guys to see in Glen's birthday, but to stay behind with Togo and the vehicles. We had a nice quiet evening and Berranger made a delicious dinner just for us. We had a beer afterwards with him and Domicien (the waiter) to say thanks. Glen and Pat got back at about 01h30 and it sounds like they had a good time!
Today is Glen's birthday. We gave him our card reader for his digital camera so he can easily download his photos from his camera to his laptop. We had a leisurely pack up and Michael and I took Togo for a swim in the sea. We found it quite frustrating having everyone about playing with Togo when we are trying to teach her to be wary of people other than us, or at least not to run up and play with them. We also had a really annoying visit from a military guy who was patrolling the beach who told us we ought to bring enough souvenirs for every country we visit. Then we had two new people visit who told us we didn't know what hard work was about and that we ought to give them things. It left a sour taste in the mouth and made we not want to go back that night and stay there.
The beach at Limbe is volcanic sand which is why it is brown/black and it is incredibly fine. In 2000 they had a volcanic eruption at Mile 11 beach so we drove to have a look at the lava flow which had reached as far as the main road. It was quite impressive and much bigger than we'd anticipated.
We drove up the coast to Cape Debunscha, which is one of the three wettest places on earth, along with a Hawaiian island and a place in India. It gets between 10 and 15 meters of rain every year. It wasn't raining when we got there, but it was extremely lush and the sky was overcast. We got hit both ways for a road toll which was frustrating as we were only there for 15 minutes maximum.
We decided to head towards Yaoundé via Douala and then near Eseka where the Goliath Frogs are found. Douala was absolute hell. There were no clear road marking to Yaoundé and the GPS map didn't show the road we wanted. We ended up getting directions from a local and took a very circuitous route around the city to get where we wanted to be. The people here don't seem to be as friendly as in the West and people also started asking for things as a matter of course. One interesting thing we saw in Douala was a roaring trade in sand, which is transported in dugouts up the river from the sea and brought to the city.
The rain began to pour down and we had the most amazing pink lightning blanket across the skies. With all the cloud cover it grew dark quickly and we thought we'd really struggle to find a suitable campsite. About 25km from Edea we spotted a small road off into a clearing which was mostly sheltered from the road. We turned around and pulled into the clearing, but the rain was still bucketing down so we sat in the vehicles for a while, thinking that it couldn't continue like that for much longer. We were fortunate as it calmed down a little. Michael and I put up the awning and the four of us sheltered underneath it. I made a cold supper along with dessert which everybody wolfed down. Michael phoned Simon Anglings (who had emailed us via Horizons Unlimited to tell us he was coming to Cameroon to drive is Land-Rover back to SA) to tell him we were heading for Yaounde and that we could use email to keep in touch. The rain cleared completely and to end Glen's birthday in style we watched Mrs Doubtfire on the flat screen hanging over Nyathi's door, with the monkeys and birds screeching in the moonlit forest, with bats flying overhead - it was surreal and thoroughly enjoyable!
It's Michael's birthday today. He celebrated his birthday in 1995 en route from Bangui to Berberati, so fairly nearby. We had a 06h15 wake up. Pat cut up a pineapple for breakfast. We had three people visit us just to say hello and see who we were and how we were doing. We set off in search of the Goliath Frogs. The road was good so we listened to music which we haven't done for ages - it was great! We found Pouth Nkelle on the Eseka road which is where Christopher said the Goliath Frogs were. We spoke to the chief of the village who told us they would have to catch the frogs in the night and that there was no chance of us seeing them during the day. It was a real pity as I would have liked to have seen them, but we had to get on to Yaoundé.
We made our way to the Presbyterian Mission without too much problem and we all spent the afternoon doing bits and bobs. Michael checked the oils leaks, with Glen's help, I spent the whole afternoon catching up on journal entries and Pat caught up on some sleep. We met a Swiss couple (Tanguy and Daniella) who have been travelling around Africa for 3/4 years on two motorbikes - now that's tough going!
We all went out for dinner at Restaurant Asiatique, which was wonderful and we sang happy birthday to Michael much to his chagrin. The food was delicious, the ambience very pleasant and we had a great time swapping travel tales. Afterward we went to a fantastic little 24hr superette / patisserie / boulangerie / glacerie and had an ice cream which was scrumptious! Togo slept in the vehicle as we were a bit concerned someone might take her.
Today was a visa day (and Alan's birthday). First stop was the Congo (Brazza) embassy. The lady there was helpful, but told us the visas would be 70,000 CFA ($140) each, so we decided we'd wait and see how much they are in Gabon. Then it was off to the Gabon embassy and we got our visas after waiting around for 3 hours and dealing with a completely apathetic reception lady and a somewhat slow consulate. Michael and Glen went and investigated what the costs and timings were at the DR Congo embassy and got some application forms. Then I used the waiting time to fill out all our forms for the DR Congo visas while the guys went to get passport photos done for Glen and Pat. The lady at the DR Congo embassy was very friendly when we handed in our applications and said she would try and get them ready for today.
Michael and Glen went off to change more money (this visa lark is damned expensive) and Pat and I headed back to the mission to see how Togo was doing. We stopped off en route at the superette to get some lunch, and of course the obligatory ice-cream! Today was the first day we have tied Togo up and left her. Daniella said she didn't cry too much and slept mostly - so that's not too bad, but she was ravenous! She ate three serving of food which was good.
Then the rain came and right now I am sitting safely ensconced in the cab with Togo writing the journal. There has been the brightest lightning and some of the loudest claps of thunder I have ever heard - scary stuff.
Back again... I went of to the vet to get flea powder and a flea collar, plus a normal leather collar for Togo. She looks good with the collar on, but still doesn't enjoy being tied up all that much. When I got back I saw a red Land-Rover parked next to Nyathi and sure enough, it was Simon, with whom we'd made contact through the Horizons Unlimited website. Michael and Glen got our Congo Brazzaville visas, but they had quite a lot of hassle trying to change dollars. We all ate dinner together which was plentiful and tasty, despite being rather cold.
We spent the entire day working today, as we delayed our departure by a day so Simon could travel with us and he needed to get some visas too. Togo had chewed through the wire on the walkie talkie charger and when I tried to retrieve the other end from the charging box, it was all so tangled that I decided to clean it all up and tidy it out. I also took down the Duster Buster vacuum cleaner as it was taking up space and sadly not doing a very good job of vacuuming anyway. So now I have screwed the adapter in the same place and all the plugs fit in neatly an are easy to reach! I also filled the cracks in the fibre glass in the freezer with caulking compound to try and stop the water seeping in underneath. I glued some more carpeting and cleaned out the big utensils box from the kitchen, which inevitably gets filled with insects and dirt.
Michael and Glen repaired the puncture on the tyre and put it back on, in an effort to keep the spare in the best condition possible. They also soldered wires and did loads of other odd jobs, including tightening Glen's fan belt.
Simon successfully got both his Gabon and Congo Brazzaville visas so we are all set for tomorrow. We had an enjoyable dinner together with Tanguy and Daniela and they gave us some advice on which routes to take on our southward journey. Then we went off to the internet cafe for 45 minutes to catch up on home news and then off to bed.