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

  Dispatch 11 - Kumba  

Nkongsamba-Kumba (80km, 50 mi)  Back off the highway into banana and rubber plantations.
Points of interest: rural villages, plantation worker housing, markets. Filaria Research Center near Kumba.
Cycling conditions: 40km paved and hilly, 20km rough dirt, 20km laterite dirt.


Cocoa pods on the tree After Nkongsamba we seemed to get into a more productive cocoa zone -- maybe is was the part of the season, maybe it was the soil, or maybe it was the elevation and microclimate, but the trees were much more ladened with pods than we had seen further inlands.  It is interesting that we generally each cocoa sweetened and coffee is often drunk bitter (black).  But in there rare, forms straight from the pod, the coffee bean is sweet and the cocoa pod is bitter.

Pineapple plantsPineapple plantsFor the next section of road plantations of new crops came faster than changes of language.


Pipeapple fields forever - to the horizon


Papaya fruit on the tree (pawpaw)And then orchards of papaya (pawpaw). 

Papaya fruit on the tree (pawpaw)




Ngongsamba-Loum road: teak trees along the road Ngongsamba-Loum road: teak trees along the roadPlanted forests of  of teak.


Loum, Cameroon: pineapple and banana plantationsLoum, Cameroon: banana plantationsLoum-Kumba road: man pushing trailer of bananaAcres and acres of bananas.


Loum-Kumba road: oil palm treeLoum-Kumba road: oil palm tree with oil palm kernelMiles of oil palm (Remember Palmolive soap?  This is the "palm" in "Palmolive". The olive is olive oil,


Loum-Kumba road: rubber tree plantation forest

Loum-Kumba road: rubber tree plantation forestLoum-Kumba road: rubber plantation forestAnd vast plantations of rubber trees.

Rubber workers typically make less than two dollars a day -- it may not make Nikes cheap, but it keeps the costs of the input low so that proceeds can go to the multinational companies and the professional athletes that advertise them.  Loum-Kumba road: rubber plantation worker housingOh, the workers are often supplied one or two bare rooms of housing.  This perquisite comes without indoor plumbing.  The system also mean that if the worker want to move their labor to another employer they loose the roof over their head at the same time, or if the bread winner in the house dies everyone else in the house become homeless.

Loum-Kumba road: latex rubber scrap

This is a table of scrap latex "cup".  Usually the a rubber tree is tapped in the morning and the "sap" drips into a cup.  A few hours later the tapper come back past all of his trees and collects the liquid latex into a can or bucket.  If more latex drips into the cup and coagulates it becomes "cup".  It is collected and eventually processed but doesn't make a high quality product.

Loum-Kumba road: Ebonji town Loum-Kumba road:Loum-Kumba roadWe left the main highway and pavement at Loum.  99% of the next stretch of road to Kumba was some form of solid (clay, rock, gravel) so don't be too mislead by the fact that 25% of this set of pictures shows a quagmire.  It is just that quagmires seem to attract the attention of photographers.  Loum-Kumba road: mud hole quagmireSome of the quagmires on this road were deep and doozies.  As much as they slowed our progress (you know all the time you spend taking pictures) to a person we agreed that were would rather be walking our bikes around them than being on a truck going trough, and sometimes stuck in them.

Loum-Kumba road: Ebonji town, woman using traditional backpack young boyEven with the large agro-industry economy in the are there is still plenty of evidence of tradition, like the use of traditional style back packs? Is it by choice or necessity.  The agro-industry is connected to the global economy.  Is any of it trickling down to the rural Cameroonian's life?


Loum-Kumba road:Snack time on the bridge (left). The photo right understates what is happening and was about to happened.  It shows a line of studentsLoum-Kumba road: school spread across the front of the school.  What is not as clear is they are starting to rush the fence.  About five seconds later they were swarming over the fences.  It is unfortunate that there is not a time lapse sequences of the event.  Who knows how much our little disruptions set back education in Cameroon.  This wasn't an isolated incident!

Julius repairing tire sidewallJulius repairing tire sidewallPerhaps the total mileage, or perhaps the rough road accelerated the deterioration of the tire sidewall at the bead, but it was now time for repair. With a piece of tough flexible fabric (I have also seen thin leather used) and stitching al and thread, in short order the tire had a reinforced sidewall and was back on the bike, inflated and underway.  The skill set required are part tailor, part cobbler and part bike mechanic.

Kumba: sports recreation area Kumba: church on the hillKumba comes into view when you emerge from the rolling hills and forest.  In contrast to the last stretch of roadway, it is quite flat.  Between the eastern suburbs and the city center is a river.  Along the river is a large recreation complex which includes swimming pools, playKumba: river running through north side of town grounds, gardens and sports fields.  It is very attractive.  We haven't seen any facility like this in any other towns we have passed.

Loum-Kumba road: banana plantationOur linguistic odyssey stayed in the Lundu-Balong>Ngoe group most of the dayLoum-Kumba road as we passed from language area to language are.  Starting in Nkongsamba, Mbo is the primary indigenous language.  South of Nkongsamba, through Manjo towards Loum the primary language changes towards Bakaka.  Between Loum and Tombel there are not a lot of people, but some place in that section the language changes to Akoose.  And then before before we reach Kumba the language changes to Oroko in the Lundu-Balong>Oroko group.  If you are confused, it is all down in the lower left hand corner of the chart.  (Both photos at the top of this paragraph were taken near Tombel.)




Next dispatch.



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