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

  Dispatch 4 - Ndop  

Bamenda‑Ndop (42km, 25 mi)  The reward for climbing out of the valley is picturesque highlands.
Points of interest:  farms, Foulba village, Ndop Cooperative (coffee)
Cycling conditions: paved, 16km rolling, 5km challenging climb; 20km with rolling grasslands, a major descent and a relative flat stretch in the upper Nun Valley.


Bamenda breakfast stand serving rice and beansWhile the people of Bamenda were up and moving around the city in mass by six -- especially students heading for school -- there seemed to be no restaurants ready to serve breakfast.  The best option for breakfast is the relatively informal providers (mostly women) who bring a collection of pots from home and set up at tables along the road, often near intersections.  There is some variety of the specifics in the pots but they tend to be on the theme of a couple choices of each carbohydrate (rice, potatoes, yams, casava, plantain), sauces (tomato based or greens) and protein (beans, fish, meat, chicken).  They may seem informal, but they are in fact Eating a Cameroonian breakfast of rice and beansvery established.  At our choice for breakfast this morning  though the woman worked from a table outside, she had a covered dining room which was packed with what seemed like regulars.  The only place for us sit was the "overflow bench" in the front.  This worked out fine because the air was clear and warm and we got a better view of the comings and goings.

Bamenda highlands: scenery in the grassfields Bamenda-Ndop road: highland scenery in the grassfieldsIt was a good thing that we had a pretty hardy breakfast because after seven miles of relatively easy riding there was a tough five mile long Sagbo Hill.  Not to complain too much because it is the hills in the area that give it a lot of its beauty.  At the top there was beautiful fertile rollingBamenda-Ndop road highlands: road and waterfall countryside, complete with Bamenda-Ndop road highlands: large farm complexwater falls cascading off the nearby escarpment. And as the 1960's song says, "What goes up must come down.  Spinning wheel have got to go round."  As much as the road climbed earlier, it descended later.  But if it wasn't for the views this would not quite be justice -- Bamenda highlands: geography from past volcanic activityit might take more than an hour to cBamenda highlands: volcanic escarpment and waterfalllimb five miles and it will only take about ten minutes to loose it.  It is not only the panoramic views that are a reward, but also details like the variety of crops that are grown, flowers and the architectural styles.

crops potato crop flower

Bamenda-Ndop road highlands: grassfields sceneryThe final leg was on the floor of the Upper Nun Valley, which is quite flat. The is one village that stands out because it is architecturally different, the mosque, which are rare in this area is prominent and the people are distinctive in dress, adornment and appearance.  The explanation is that it is a Fulani or Fulbe village.  This is an ethnic group Bamenda highlands: boys and horsesthat traces its roots to Senegal.  The are traditionally cattle herders and warrior horsemen.   Over centuries they have migrated overland across the Sahel (grassland zone to the south of the Sahara).  They are a significant ethnic group in the north of Cameroon and their aggressive arrival there a couple century ago created a domino effect of other ethnic groups moving/being pushed south.  The pocket of Fulani here is veryBamenda highlands: boys and horses isolated and there arrival was peaceful. 

Ndop: typical housingNdop is a quite residential and trading town.  It seems to be a cross roads for a number of road going out into the Ndop plains.  It provide a variety of government service (post office, utility offices, etc), gas stations and mechanics, a daily produce market and the assorted shops typical of a Cameroonian town: tailors, bars, beauty salons, dry goods, more Ndop: typical housingbars, bakery, auto and motorcycle parts, photo studio and more bars.  Outside of the center, people have food gardens around their houses.  It is a nice walking town.

We stayed at the Green Valley Resort.  I bring this up to point out it would probably be called the Ndop: Bike Friday ready to go in the Green Valley Resort courtyardGreen Valley Motel any place in North America.  It was in a residential area, very quiet and had a nice courtyard, but lack any amenities that you might associate with a resort, except for the presence of rooms.  It advertised itself on a sign by the main road as "hectic spot for weekends and other leisure moments."

Today's task of mapping the local languages was almost as easy as mapping the villages.  Leaving Bamenda we passed through Nkwen, where they speak Mendankwe-Nkwen.  Seven miles down the road is Bambui, where they speak Bambili-Bambui and three miles after that is Bamali, where they speak Bamali.  The first two languages are in the Mbam-Nkam>Ngemba group and Bamali is in the Mbam-Nkam>Nun group.  After Sabgo Hill it became a little more complex and fuzzy again.  In the Upper Nun Valley a number of languages are spoken, most in the Narrow Grassfields>Ring>North group.  Around Ndop Bamunka seems to be the primary language, but there are also some other Ring languages and Nun languages, and at least one Fulani (or Fulbe) village, which migrated from northern Cameroon, but has its linguistic roots in Senegal.  The full description of the language is Niger-Congo>Atlantic-Congo>Atlantic>Northern> Senegambia>Bantoid>Fulani-Wolof>Fula>Eastern>Fulfulde. 


A noteworthy change in the road from Bamenda to Ndop since 2000 is the asphalt surface.  Here are a few archive photos from earlier times:

Bamenda-Ndop road in 1986 Bamenda-Ndop road in 1986  Bamenda-Ndop road in 1986: with elementary school students Bamenda highlands: escarpment and waterfalls Bamenda highlands: escarpment and waterfalls  Upper Nun Valley Upper Nun Valley Upper Nun Valley Upper Nun Valley Upper Nun Valley


Next dispatch.



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