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

  Dispatch 10 - Nkongsamba  

Dschang‑Nkongsamba (70km, 42mi).  Get a first look at rural villages, markets and schools.
Points of interest: Agricultural zones; predominantly coffee, then predominantly cocoa.
Cycling conditions:  paved, 10 of the first 16km on down the side of a mountain, then 30km of valley floor and 24km of rolling hills.


Malong-Dschang roadMalong-Dschang roadMalong-Dschang roadDepending upon the route you take out of Bafoussam and where you spend the night you will start on two different roads in route to Nkongsamba.  Leaving from Dschang the first three miles roll along nicely through the high country before you abruptly dropMalong-Dschang road Malong-Dschang roadoff the edge of the lush and precipitous escarpment (Falaise de Foreke-Dschang).  Fortunately there is a beautiful new paved road to guide you down but you want your brakes to be working well when you start.  Prior to 2005 mountain bikers could have used the route as a trials course.  As you drop you can feel the Malong-Dschang roadtemperature and humidity rise in tandem.  Ten kilometers (6 miles) later you reach the valley floor.  Only then can you can truly relax and flex you hands, shake out the tension in your arms and rotate your shoulders.  The twenty miles of the Mbo valley floor is very FLAT but it is not without its points of interest.

Malong-Dschang road: man head-carrying a chain sawThe first point of interest is more novelty than profound.  It would be a long list to chronicle every thing that is head-carried in Africa.  It wouldn't be too often that you would have to check for a chainsaw, but put it on the list.

Cocoa tree with a few podsCocoa farm drying cocoa beansComing from the coast inland there are a series of  agricultural zones or belts; oil palm, banana, pineapple, rubber, teak, cocoa and coffee.  These crops are grow in other places but the yields tend not to be as high.  Starting inland the commodities come in the opposite order.  In the valley we started see a mix of coffee and cocoa.  The man to the right is drying his cocoa beans, in preparation for selling them. 

coffee blossomscoffee beans (green)In general the coffee bushes seemed to be producing more to capacity in this area than the cocoa is.  Interestingly, there were bushes in bloom (though not a lot), bushes with green ponds (mostly) and bushes with ripe red pods (a few).  It is likely that the main picking season for this area is around thecoffee beans (green) coffee beans (red) ripefirst of the year and then a few months after that it will be time for any coffee blossom festivals.  Though I have never heard of one, coffee blossoms are as frequent as orange blossoms and there are orange blossom festivals.  Out of the valley and ten miles further down the road the coffee was riper and redder (right bottom).

Road construction crew in safety vests As much as it is sport to malign the roads of Cameroon, many are in excellent condition and we saw a lot of road work being done in some areas, especially between Malong and Nkongsamba.  Of course, there is a lot more left to do.  The construction methods were clearly labor intensive.  It is even more clear now that the road constructions workers have been issued bright yellow reflective vests.  On some sections you could see yellow dots along the side of the road stretching to the horizon.

Ngongsamba: boulevard street

Nkongsamba is a pleasant and quiet town, with a nice shopping district.  Ngongsamba: commercial streetIt was developed during the colonial period and used to be a terminus of the railroad that came from Douala.  Now all that is left to be seen of this transportation system is a few sections of tracks embedded around town.  The government is still here as represented by a street of official buildings.  We didn't dare try to photograph them but some of the architecture deserved to be shared.  On style, with oversized cement columns in front, could be called Cameroonian Federal.

We found slim pickings on restaurants again, but all you need is one.  We were directed to a sign-less door in need of painting, down an alcove, off a side street, away from the center of town.  The single room had four small tables and a dozen chairs.  Our little group took half of each.  We were dubious at first.  We weren't even real sure what we ordered, but the two older men who were the owned/staff the joint went to work with confidence.  When the finished product was served we had big plates with large portions of fish, rice and salad, and a plentiful basket of sliced French bread.  We left very satisfied.

Another big change when we came out of the highlands and drop off the cliff is we left the Grassfield languages behind and went to a whole new section of the linguistic tree: Bantoid>Southern>Narrow Bantu> Northwest.  Unlike the Grassfield languages which are believed to have migrated into their areas from the north, the Narrow Bantu languages are believed to have migrated back into the area from the south and southeast.  The most northern of this is Mbo of the Lundu-Balong>Ngoe group.  This is the dominant language along the highway to Nkongsamba.




Next dispatch.



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