Cameroon / Cameroun: Country of Contrast
Bicycle Africa / Ibike Tours

  Dispatch 1 - Douala  

Arrive in Douala.  Douala has the look of a third world port city, which it is.
Points of interest: economic activity and division of labor by gender and age.
Cycling conditions: paved, flat, 10km if you ride in from the airport.


Douala, Blvd de la LiberteDouala is a full city.  More than any other African city I have been in, it throbs.  Music fills the air from every other storefront, car and kiosk. While at 8 AM the streets are still relatively quiet, by 9 AM they are full of cars, motorcycles, mopeds, carts, vans, taxis and bicycles, the side walks of full of people and vendors - well in fact they all sort of overlap; car encroach on the sidewalks and people walk down the streets. The city seems full of purpose and is all surges and flows like blood through an artery, though here instead of red and white blood cells and platelets, the stream is cars, pickups, bicycles, mopeds, vans, taxis, buses, push carts and trucks.

Pictures of the city on this page are few because urban Cameroonian seem to love to make issues of picture taking.  On the one hand they want you to praise the country and say what a beautiful and wonderful place it is, but if you try to take a picture of something to show your friends what a beautiful and wonder place it is be prepared for someone to come out of nowhere and make a not so beautiful and wonderful issue of it.

The service at the hotel restaurant was slow and lack luster and the food undistinguished, so we set out to have breakfast where the Cameroonians have breakfast.  A few blocks from the hotel was a big crowd at a table Douala breakfast: woman cooking at omlete tablewhere a woman was cooking vegetable omelets.  Sounds great to us!  It looked like a good bet so as space became available we sat down.  With the omelet you could get a baguette and coffee, tea or chocolate.  If you want the bread will come spread with mayonnaise.  Forgoing the mayonnaise, the omelets, bread and coffee were unanimously acclaimed as excellent.  Liking the food always makes for a good start to the day.  (The picture was taken with the permission of the chef.)

Douala: farewell to Julius and YauThe overall initial reaction to Douala from the group split between excitement and overwhelmed (or was that appalled and scared.)  Regardless of the nuance, it was unanimous that it was time to get out of there and see more of the country.  With some trepidation we mounted the bicycles and heading out into traffic. For this I am happy to report that the consensus is that bicycling in traffic out of town wasn't as bad as everyone expected it to be.  While the motor vehicles can be squirrelly, especially the taxis, the speeds are not too fast and the drivers in fact gave us plenty of space while passing our bicycles. 

Douala: Sculpture at roundpointIn a traffic circle (rond point Diedo) at the edge of the downtown there was a twelve meter high statue, made largely of found objects, that at first take is sort of a techno-man. It was not clear to us what the symbolism is or what it commemorates, but it is provocative.  It was done by the famous Cameroonian artist/sculpture Joseph-Francis Sumégné.  He calls it "La Nouvelle Liberté (1996).  The is not a lot of public art in Douala, but what there is is generally very striking.

Our hotel had a swimming pool, which for a fee non-residents could use -- typical in Africa. 
Douala: le Nde Hotel pool on the weekend
On the weekend the pool drew a large and lively crowd.


 Next dispatch.

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