Cameroon has been very exciting. We’ve driven through jungles, climbed mountains, and relaxed in idyllic beaches.

Only 3 or 4 trucks a year do this western section of the African continent. Back on what we call ‘the Milk Run” where dozens of trucks are running at any one time, the Western Trans has a bit of a reputation. There’s a disproportionately low number of overland crew who can tell the stories of the West and as a result the places and activities take on a legendary quality. The two places usually referenced with the most pride are the now off-limits route through what was then Zaire and the Cameroon logging road. Yellowing, curled edged photos that have been posted up in campsite bars for years show that those telling the stories aren’t necessarily exaggerating when they tell you about the obstacles they overcame. The photos are of trucks, listing over at a 45 degree angle, getting swallowed up by sticky, red mud, surrounded by a forest that looks ready to consume anything that stays there too long. There are photos of passengers and crew alike looking haggard but excited. Trucks have died there. Spirits have been broken. You look at those photos and either say “Man, I’d love to do that.” Or “Never. Absolutely avoiding that at all costs!”.

There are two routes from Abuja to Cameroon. One goes north and around the east side of the country down to Cameroon and the other more or less goes straight down to the neighboring country. The city of Jos falls along that northern road. Jos has had a flare up of regional violence and travel warnings have been issued. We don’t consider Nigeria to be the friendliest place we’ve come across so we decided to take our chances with the southern road which feeds right into that infamous logging road. During the wet season it is completely impassable but we’re at the tail end of the dry season. After hassling some fellow overlanders and the folks at the embassy for information, we determined that it was do-able. So, from Abuja, we headed south and arrived at the Cameroonian border after a couple days.

We had even more trouble getting out of Nigeria than we did getting in. Suffice to say, we overwhelmed the 5 officials inside the immigration office. If any of them listed “excellent organizational skills” on their resume they were lying. It wasn’t easy but we followed their discombobulated process. After completing the formalities for half of the group a man came in and started demanding that we show the receipts for our Nigerian visas. You know, the ones we got back in Mali and that half of us have either thrown away or misplaced. His claim was that if we couldn’t produce the document that we had obviously forged the visas and would have to pay the $130 again. It wasn’t even clear whether or not this man actually worked for the Nigerian government or if he was just some troublemaker in a horrendous, fluffy, sky blue outfit.

After about 3 hours and a little negotiating, we finally got out of Nigeria and into Cameroon. How things changed when we crossed that bridge! Immigration was a breeze. The officials in the office there were wonderful.

The next morning we set off on that fabled road. It was the obstacle course that we had expected. Dips and ruts and narrow passageways featured on this dirt path that carved its way through dense jungle. It was awesome.

Gav expertly negotiated the uneven earth while Mac and I spotted, making sure the truck could safely pass over one section of road or another. The rest of us walked alongside the truck, some bearing shovels and picks, ready to leap into action. The trickier parts of the road would be surveyed and Gav would give instructions on what needed to be dug out, what needed to be filled in, and what needed to be widened. We would spend hours chipping away at the hard earth and use it to fill in the ruts and even out the surface a bit. I believe that the Cameroon roads authority owes us payment for all the improvements we made. Or at least a little thanks.

Our hard work was punctuated by stops in villages for some local fare or pineapples and at idyllic bush camps situated next to waterfalls or jungle-lined rivers where the fishermen caught dinner and the rest of us washed the sweat and the dirt off our bodies. The area was breathtaking.

Despite the fact that we were in the middle of the jungle, we still found a way to get beer. At one stop we put Phil on the back of a motorbike to get a ride to the nearest village. We kept the former occupant of the seat Phil was now on, a Pygmy witchdoctor, as collateral until our companion (and the booze) was safely back in our company.

As you would expect, the experience of the terrible road wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but for more than a few of us the logging road was the highlight of the trip. It was hard work, it was remote, there were elements of uncertainty, there were insects. You get adventures by paying for them with things like sweat, blisters, bug bites, and fear. Adventure was well earned on this stretch. This was how some imagined all travel though Africa to be. While I can see the appeal, thank goodness it isn’t all like this otherwise I doubt we’d even be through Mali by now.

The truck did well. We didn’t get stuck anywhere and the damage was minimal. Parts of the truck do sit quite low. Even with our best efforts to avoid hitting any of those parts, we knocked off an air tank. This looked like trouble. Luckily, it only rendered the brakes slightly less efficient. Considering that we couldn’t go much faster than 30kmph on the best parts of the road, this wasn’t much of an issue. We managed to get that fixed in no time when we got to Limbe. A bent registration plate which was fixed with a few taps of the hammer was the least of the damage. What suffered the worst was our now somewhat mangled bumper and plastic cover from the indicator light which got, well, smashed. That happened when Mayumi launched into a frustrated rage. She’d gone days without any ice-cream and went a little ballistic with the mallet and chisel she had been using to chip away at the side of the road. Or maybe I’m making that last part up.

It took us 3 days to do the 80km. Too short in some peoples’ opinion. But what was ahead turned out to be pretty great as well.

We pulled into Limbe the day we left the logging road. We parked the truck outside a seaside hotel that let us camp in their parking lot. Limbe was wonderful. It had something for everyone. There was a great little primate center with lowland gorillas, chimps, drills, and mandrills. Sarah went at least twice. There was a botanical garden, some great restaurants, and a few good little bars. Dave, Greg, and I went bird watching at the base of the mountain and saw a couple endemic species. Limbe was also where some of us got the opportunity to climb Mt. Cameroon.

Mount Cameroon, so I’ve been told, is the highest mountain in West Africa at 4,095 m. Pete, Phil, Sean, Mayumi, Chris, Spots, Gavin, Jeremy, Katey, Dan, and Gav all summitted. They started off at the town of Buea and made their way up the Guinness Trail to about 1300m where they spent the first night. Phil and Jeremy spent that night battling mice that had infested the hut they were camping in. The rodents seemed to think that Phil’s bag would make a nice meal and that any food Jeremy had was communal property.

The next morning after a tough and exhausting climb they reached the peak at about mid day. On their way down they crossed 200 year old lava fields where they witnessed a fire swiftly sweeping across the hills. That afternoon they came across 13 active, steaming craters. At night they made camp at a place called Mann’s Springs. The last day they were lead through a gradual jungle path. Everyone rated the experience highly.

We headed down the beach town of Kribi after that . Though the beers were overpriced, the waterfall into the ocean and the beautiful beaches were fantastic. Unfortunately, Dan missed the highlights here. He did get to have the unusual experience of visiting a Spanish African hospital, though. I’m happy to report that he’s fine now but was looking a bit grim there for a while. We thought we might have had our first malaria victim of the trip. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case. Kribi is also where Lena got to celebrate her birthday in the truly chaotic African style, complete with discos, police hassles, and accident prone taxi drivers.

We’re in Yaounde now and have obtained our last visas for the western portion of the trip! Woo hoo! Yaounde has been nice. We’re situated right around the corner from a bakery that caused a few of us to hyperventilate from the excitement upon entering. Those few inches along the waistline that most of us have lost are quickly being regained thanks to quiches and cakes. This is where we’ve found the fastest internet in Africa and some of us have been spending a lot of time and money catching up on certain important tasks like downloading the latest episodes of South Park. Today, Swiss Mike is leading a group to see a football game.
I can’t help but also mention the two low points of our stay here : The strict water rationing we’re forced to follow and the damage done to some of our personal belongings by the wettest and most violent and rainstorm we’ve seen all trip. I love irony.

We take off for Gabon tomorrow but sadly, we’re leaving a few behind. Mayumi’s bag was stolen last week. Unfortunately it was the bag with her passport in it. While the Japanese embassy here in Yaounde was quick to give her a replacement passport, the visas she’s obtained over the last few months can’t be replaced in time. She’s going to head off for South Africa and Spots and Katey are going to join her so she’s not alone. Lena’s also taking off to visit her mom and Craig in South Africa. We’ll see them all again in Cape Town.

Next, we’ll be visiting Lope National Park in Gabon where, with any luck, we’ll see some forest buffalos and forest elephants in addition to other fauna. From there we head south through the Congos and Angola. We’re aiming to hit Namibia around the end of March. We’re anticipating lots of rain and lots of excitement in the weeks ahead.