The Republic of Cameroon, located in the heart of Africa at the cross points of West and Central Africa, is full of mystery, tales, and stories. Cameroon is one of the oldest countries in Africa. The creation of what is now Cameroon remounts to 8000 BC and was considered as a meeting point of cultures, ethnic groups and peoples. The country is blessed with miles of cost line, beautiful beaches and gorgeous mountains and picks, rain forest and waterfalls, and wildlife and savannas.
Modern day Cameroon started in 1472 with the arrival of the slave traders and colonial masters known as the Portuguese explorers. Their boats took them to the top of the Wouri River which they named Rio dos Camaroes, hence giving the country its actual name.
Travel in West Africa is an enormous challenge and only the bravest and the “wacky” can compete in this arena. From the golf of Guinea at the extreme point of West Africa to the central or eastern point of the continent, there are wealth of stories and tales that can be shared about travel. My most heart wrenching story is my return journey from Liberia to Dakar last April. The
likelihood of getting from Liberia to Dakar in one day is very slim. You can take your chance with Slok Air or Belleview Airlines but don’t forget to bring your pillows; you might need them for the night. On April 27, 2008; Slok left all the passengers at Roberts Fields outside of Monrovia and none of the airline agents were close to be found. During this ordeal, I met another friend and colleague who lived in Dakar. We made the journey together. We stayed two days in Monrovia waiting. And we got tired of it. We took the unique opportunity to Ghana, spent the night and traveled to the Abidjan hub in order to catch a plane to Dakar. I was frustrated and exhausted at arrival.
I am tempting to say avoid Slok and Belleview. What's the alternative would be the next question? Brussels Airlines via Abidjan or Brussels are the safest alternative depending on the day. But it is a long journey. This might also mean you have to delay your travel for three to four days. Or Kenya airways but you would need to spend a night in Ghana, half a day in Abidjan, and you’ll
be arriving in Dakar before the end of the following day. The distance between Monrovia to Dakar is just a spit away. We are talking about a few miles separating the two countries located on the cost of Guinea. With a good boat, you might be able to make it in half a day.
Nevertheless, traveling from Dakar, the capital city of Senegal to Ngaoundere, located at the northern point of Cameroon is more uncertain. It is a journey of three to four days in one direction if your travel does not fall into any big national celebration. The government may need your plane or your train; so you need to watch the calendar and inquire about national holyday in both countries before you start your journey. It is always six days of travel whenever I visit the Evangelical Lutheran church in Cameroon or 8 days when I go to Bouar, Central African Republic. The day or time you travel makes a huge difference. It does impact the end result. Knowing the route and the sequences of the segments are equally important.
I’ve divided my travel from Dakar to Ngaoundere in two main routes and four segments.
The two mains routes are: Dakar-Abidjan-Doula with Air Ivoire or Dakar-Lagos-Douala with Virgin Nigeria which is my preferred route. The difference is only day of travel related. The segments are: (1) Dakar-Lagos (8 hours including transit time in Lagos); (2) Lagos-Douala (2 hours) by plane; overnight in Douala; (3) Douala -Yaoundé by bus (4 hours); (4) Yaoundé - Ngaoundere by train overnight in the train (20 hours or more).
If there is no delay, I made it to Ngaoundere in three days of travel. Otherwise, five days to one week is the minimum, you can plan. Another alternative from Yaoundé to Ngaoundere would be with SIL aviation fellowship team. But you need more than one person because of stewardship issues.
I can recount endless stories about travel in Cameroon. The encounters in plane, bus, and train are unique. These are memories that would cherish forever. I took the train last May 2008 from Yaoundé to Ngaoundere. I reserved and paid for one top wagon-lit in the sleeping compartment. I had my ticket and receipt that clearly specified the wagon, number and bed that I paid for. One gentleman arrived early and took my spot. For him, it
is no big deal. He arrived early regardless of what is on my ticket, it is a communal space. I should be happy to find an open spot. I was furious but I decided not to push my luck or show my resentment. Beside, I had 20 hours to get over it. During our long journey that evening to Ngaoundere, this gentleman opened the conversation and we exchanged names, origins, and current occupations. I am so hungry to learn about culture and places I resolved to push back my anger. Later during the trip, he offered me to share his meal. Officially, I refused because I already placed an order for the evening meal on the train which is true. But in fact, I was still mad at him.
I’ve learned that evening in the compartment that it is very offensive to turn down meal, water, and hospitality in Cameroon. People are offering you the best they have. The man realized that I was still mad at him. He took the time to apologize and explained the shock of culture. He thought that I was Cameroonian. He took the time to describe in menu details the absence of
personal space in the Cameroonian culture. By offering me to share his meal, this man was trying to make it up to me. I later learned that this guy was a member of the Evangelical Lutheran church in Cameroon that I was visiting. We later apologize profusely to each other. I learned my lesson.
Come join me for a ride to and through Cameroon by plane, train, bus and car.
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