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

  Dispatch 6 - Kumbo  
  Jakiri‑Kumbo-Jakiri (46km, 28 mi) Visit the cultural, political and economic center of the Banso' people.
Points of interest: Fon of Nso' palace, Society houses, MusArts Museum.
Cycling conditions: paved and dirt, rolling hills through verdant forest and farmlands.

Jakiri-Kumbo road Jakiri-Kumbo road: waterfallThe ride to Kumbo was one of the group's favorite.  Could it be because it is largely paved?  Is it because we didn't carry any packs? Or, is because the ride is very pretty and Kumbo was very interesting?  Actually, the group says it is the latter!


Jakiri-Kumbo roadJakiri-Kumbo roadMost of the route is paved, the noticeable exceptions being the section right out of Jakiri and the section right before Kumbo.  Which raises the question, why doesn't the government pave the roads near towns where it would probably benefit theJakiri-Kumbo road most people?

 Jakiri-Kumbo roadThe is still a lot of tree cover around Kumbo and a number of rivers and streams run through is so it has a very nice setting.  The built sections of town are distributed over a number of hills -- Kumbo from a distanceprobably seven because that is the classic number of hills for a city. Kumbo: Catholic ChurchThe most prominent building in town is the Catholic Cathedral.



Kumbo: Fon of Nso's PalaceFon of Nso's Palace: first courtyard for public meetingsFon of Nso's Palace: entrance to first courtyardOur first stop was the palace of the Fon of Nso'.  He is the Fon of the Banso' people (speakers of Lamnso'). The front of the palace has a large square to handle large public gatherings.  From this there is a hallway which leads to the first Fon of Nso's Palace: throne in first courtyard for public hearingscourtyard.  The courtyard is used for events involving the Fon, his senior advisors and a limited number of citizens.  At the head of the courtyard is a dais with a throne and other royal art.  Fon of Nso's Palace: throne in first courtyard for public hearingsThe same throne has been here for at least twenty years.  The throne is supported by a leopard and people and while seated there the Fon could use a lion as a foot rest, showing that he is above and more powerful than all of these things.  Advisors would sit to one side and the public on the other.


Fon of Nso's Palace: throne in 2nd courtyard, for private hearingsFon of Nso's Palace: entrance to private quartersAnother hall way leads to a second, smaller courtyard, which has a throne and is used for more private audiences with the Fon.  At this throne the footrest is a crocodile. Through a door out of this courtyard and a few twists and turns and you get to the doorway to the Fon's private quarters (right).  We weren't invited in but the Fon came out to meet us (from a distance), asked us where we were from and about our visit to Cameroon, and wished us well on our journey.


Fon of Nso's Palace: Men's Society house

Fon of Nso's Palace: Men's Society buildingKumbo: Nso' mens society houseOutside the palace there are a couple other points of interest connected with the elite ranks of Banso' culture.  Now a days these buildings belong to men's societies that are involved with service projects and preservation of the culture.  Historically, these were secret societies of hunters and warriors.


Kumbo: Mosque Fon of Nso's Palace: Men's Society buildingThe large mosque next to the palace has an interesting story.  The Muslim population in Kumbo is rather small and the Fon, himself, is Catholic.  Historically, the mosque was at the top of the hill where the cathedral now sits.  The Fon offered the Muslim a site next to the palace for their mosque if they would remove the other from the top of the hill.  They accepted the opportunity to be closer to the Fon.  The cathedral was then built at the top of the hill.  It is not clear what the timing of all of this was, who knew what when or where there are other back stories to the transactions, but today the buildings are firmly established where they are.
Water fufu and greens Rice and okra, rice and greensAfter a hard morning of sightseeing it was time for another meal.  On the left is a sample of "water fufu" and on the right a plate of rice and okra, and rice and what is locally called "huckleberry".  The latter comes from a low growing plant that has no resemblance to a North American huckleberry and has no berries on it at this time of year.


Peter Musa and Ibike group MusArts Gallery: MusArts Gallery: After lunch we went to MusArts Gallery, a gallery/museum that was started by a respected local sculpture Daniel Musa and is now run by his son, Peter Musa. The gallery is located about three block behind the main Catholic Cathedral. MusArts Gallery: The gallery has a collection of piece that the Musa'a have carved and collected. Peter is happy to welcome travelers and guide them through the collection and explain the purpose and symbolism of the items.

MusArts Gallery: wooden bicycle MusArts Gallery: MusArts Gallery:

Kumbo: talking to wood carverKumbo: Yileh the wood carverThe ride back to Jakiri will be remember for a particularly interesting exchange that started as the purchase of a few banana.  We came to learn that Yileh, the banana seller is also a farmer with a variety of other crops, including coffee.  In additional to that he is a sculpture, so he brought out a sculpture.  When our group almost got into a bidding war over the sculpture he said he had another almost like it.  He went back for the second statue and brought a couple of other piece.  The other pieces weren't as interesting to the group, but he sold both of the statues.  When ask why he didn't have a sign out announcing his artwork for sale he said then he would have to spend a lot more time carving so he had and inventory and he would have to be there a lot for the occasion that someone might stop to look at his wares.  As it was, what started as the sale of less than $1 of banana end with sale of a couple of statues that equaled a good months pay for many Cameroonians.

Back in Jakiri for the night we surveyed the town for dinner.  The choice of restaurants seemed to be the one we had eaten at the night before and that didn't overwhelm anyone in the group.  That pretty much left the women roasting fish and frying potatoes on the side of the road.  The was one stand just outside the hotel so we didn't have to go far, and we could get drinks and use the tables and chairs from the bar connected to the hotel.  The women cooking the fish were very engaging and the food was excellent so we had a great time eating "fish and chips".

Bicycle rear rackA final note: Africans can be very resourceful and great problems solvers.  Generally it is difficult to attach a strong rear rack to a bicycle with a rear suspension system.  This image demonstrates that it can be done.


Palace of the Fon of Nso, Kumbo

Fon of Nso's Palace: wood carvings

Fon of Nso's Palace: throne in first courtyard for public hearings

Here is one of the Fon's thrones, which he later came and sat on.

Fon of Nso on throne in first courtyard for public hearings

In the event that an audience with the Fon is granted, you are preceded by a retainer.  When coming into the presence of the Fon the proper etiquette is to: clap your hands lightly to attract the Fon's attention and wait demurely until it is granted.  Commoners don't shake his hand.  Don't sit unless he invites them to and then don't cross their legs in front of him.  When addressing the Fon you avert your eyes, bow your head and cover your mouth with a hand.

Kumbo: group leader with gift chicken from the Fon of Nso

Perhaps it is not easy to see, but in the basket on the back of the bicycle is a chicken.  It was a gift from the Fon to our group.




Next dispatch.



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