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Published: December 25th 2007
The day started early, at 06:00, since the bus to Yaoundé, the capital, was leaving at 07:00. My brother went to Zépol, a sort of bakery where they have all sorts of croissants, pizzas and other edibles. There are several express services between Douala and Yaounde, and they do a non stop trip. This offers extra security for your luggage, since they do not open the lower compartments before arrival in Yaoundé. The busses are quite comfy, with airconditioning. We had chosen "LeCar" for this particular voyage. The ticket was 6000FCFA. After arguing with the loaders as to how much extra we should pay for the luggage, we boarded and off we went. The trip takes around 3 hours, at break-neck speed. You will no doubt see some spectacular overtakes and driving. They are more funny when you're only a spectator though. There are regular bus services between Douala and Yaounde as well as the express ones, but they use at least twice the time. Also, they frequently overload, and its not unusual to see a 15 seat bus filled to the brim with 30 passengers or more. I kid you not.
Arriving in Yaoundé, we went to Hotel Le Tango to wait for the train to Ngaoundere, our final destination. We decided to take a little trip around town, and the brother of the concierge at the hotel drove us around, showing us the most important places in town. Be aware that taking photos of "government buildings" is illegal in Cameroon, ostensibly for security reasons. They probably haven't heard of Google Earth.... My brother went down to get tickets at noon. We had reserved places in the sleeping wagon up front, but you are not allowed to actually pay and get the tickets before noon at the day of departure. Do go for sleepers or first class. I have known people to want to taste the "cameroonese life", and go second class with the plebs, but their romantic notions vanished rather quickly. Second class is overcrowded, there are no bathrooms(on an 18 hour trip, sometimes taking almost 36 hours), since the bathrooms are beeing used for storage by the guard. The guards run a "unlicensed" cargo company, bringing everything from live goats and bananas to clothing. Sleepers come in two styles, two bed and four bed. There are a very limited number of two bed coupés. Sometimes they will allow you to book all four beds in a four room coupé (and pay four times the ticket, obviously) but more often than not you will have to share with other travellers.
Arriving at the train station at 17:15, we had to organize how to get the luggage on to the train without loosing to much of it. The train station is even more chaotic than the airport. Pickpocketing is rampant, and keep all your goods under constant vigil. A good tip is to have a pack of small plastic strips. Use them to prevent the opening and tampering of your luggage whenever you leave it to porters or someone else. They obviously wont stop a determined thief, but they will at least warn you that the bag has been opened. We had comissioned to porters to aid us transport the luggage aboard the train. We decided that me and Anja should take the first trip, and Einar and my aunt Astrid should wait with the rest of the luggage. The chaos was terrible. Shouting, screaming and yelling. Pushing, cursing and beating. The usual, in other words. We got on board eventually, and started stowing the baggage. The guard in our wagon wanted to charge extra for the luggage we had, but he got nothing. Nor is he entitled to anything.
The train was scheduled to depart at 18:10, to allow the muslims to pray at 18:00. The train actually left on time, which was pretty amazing. The train stops at many stops, every place is a marketplace. People run madly about, selling everything from water via bananas, ananas, cassava to live animals. The first part of the trip went very smooth, and we stopped in Belabo at around 2 o'clock. In Belabo the north- and south-bound train meet. I strolled around while waiting for three quarters of an hour before the arrival of the south-bound train. Soon after the arrival of the south-bound train, we started up north again. I went back to sleep. Do lock your coupé if possible. Also, do not leave your window fully open, as thieves have been known to climb in during the night.
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