After finishing my big camp project (which was stressful and time-consuming for months), getting strep throat and a cold and too much stress acne, I decided I needed a recovery adventure. So I declared July to be "treat yo self!" month and off I trundled!
First leg of the trip: Bansoa - Bafoussam - Yaoundé. Normally this trip isn't too bad, but one never knows how traveling will go here, and I got unlucky. There were extra checkpoints set up by the central government along the entire route, making my normal taxi ride into Bafoussam two hours instead of one. You see, these checkpoints charge 5000 CFA (a lot) if cars are "surchargé" (over-filled, which is all taxis in the West if not the country). So the taxi driver took the circuitous route through 4 different villages and rough dirt roads, only crossing the beautifully paved road we normally take, and slipping through mud as deep as the axles. At one point, we are spinning our wheels in the thick sludge, slipping sideways, and I am watching a large tree rapidly approach my window… But all the men got out of the car and pushed, so we made it through that tricky patch without incident. (This was one of the few times I was happy to be a woman here; I didn't need to get out and muck up my shoes and work up a sweat. #winning). It wasn't until I arrived in Bafoussam, irritated and thoroughly thumped around, that I realized if we could get around all the checkpoints, then I might draw the conclusion that unsavory individuals *cough Boko Haram cough cough* are equally capable of avoiding them. Oh well… The rest of the trip was uneventful, though prices were high because of the grand vacances (no summer here!) and the government's decision to end gas subsidies.
Once in Yaounde, Colleen and I made the long trip across town to pick up our train tickets. She had made the reservation earlier; though the trains are new, the system to buy tickets is painfully anachronistic.
The next day, July 2, we hung out and waited for 7pm Departure Time to roll around. An hour before departure, Colleen, Liz, Travis and I climbed into our wagon lit - a train car with 2 bunk beds and not much space elsewise. We began our slumber party by rocking out to Enya, which was being played over the loudspeakers by a mysterious someone. It would be a long trip, so we'd stocked up on cookies and snacks (and beer).
We finally arrived in Ngaoundéré around 10am on July 3, having traveled about half the length of Califonia(prompting my mother to ask: "What?! Is it a train pulled by horses?!"). Ngaoundéré is the capital of the Adamawa region, and is supposed to mean "belly button" - so named for the bizarre rock perched precariously on top of a mountain. These odd rocks stuck in weird places were all over town; I wish I had pictures, but unfortunately my camera was misbehaving.
Culturally, the Grand North (Adamawa, North, and Extreme North) is shockingly different from the Grand South (everywhere else). It is primarily Fulbe and Muslim; people look different, dress different, speak different. My first reaction to Ngaoundéré was: It's so quiet here! It was probably even more quiet because of Ramadan. There were few if any taxis, with motos being the main form of transportation. I even saw three boys racing horses down the street! They have lamidos rather than chefs, and rarely shout "les blancs!" at us. They eat tons of beef and sell beautiful leather products in the marketplace. I felt like I was in an entirely new country!
|Cameroonian-style henna, called "sifa", on my footsies|