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

 
 
     
  Dispatch 12 - Buea  
  Kumba - Buea (77km, 48 mi). We climb up the shoulder of 14,000 ft volcanic Mt. Cameroon.
Points of interest: Mt Cameroon, German colonial capital, radio station.
Cycling conditions: paved, rolling for 52km and climbing 15km of the last 25km.
 
     
 

Kumba: breakfast omelet tableI didn't know it when I took this picture, but it shows the best weather of this morning.  It also shows our breakfast omelet chief.  After breakfast we got underway.  A couple hours later it started to rain.  We selected the Cameroonian response; park the bikes and take shelter.

Kumba-Buea road: waiting out the rain Kumba-Buea road: waiting out the rain Kumba-Buea road: waiting out the rain Kumba-Buea road: waiting out the rain

 

 

Kumba-Buea road: wood fired cocoa drying shedDrying cocoaIn the course of the conversation, while watching the rain-show shower down in sheets, we learned that the village had a shed in the back with a wood fired heating system for drying cocoa (left).  More typically cocoa is dried in the open by the sun (right).  Because of the amount of fire wood consumed it would seem Kumba-Buea road: wood fired cocoa drying shedlike sun Kumba-Buea road: wood fired cocoa drying sheddried cocoa would be more environmental friendly, but if you live in the Mt. Cameroon convergence zone and you want to sell your crop it might be theKumba-Buea road: dried cocoa in bags ready to go to market. Kumba-Buea road: wood fired cocoa drying shedKumba-Buea road: wood fired cocoa drying shedbest alternative.  Clearly they were more clued into the weather patterns than we were.  After the cocoa bean are properly dried, it is packed an ready for market.

Kumba-Buea road: children in front of televisionAfrica is proud to be the source of the phase, "it takes a village to raise a child."  It looks like that is threatened with becoming, "It takes a television to raise children."  It is interesting that the walls of the house are decorated with some of the traditional symbols that we had seen other places, especially at the palaces: double gongs, elephants and snakes.

Kumba-Buea road: people coming back out into the open after the rain has ended.boy with bicycle T-shirtAfter the rain stopped people started to emerge from their shelters, interact and become more animated.  But it is interesting that the change didn't seem to be sufficient draw out any of the young television watchers.

Kumba-Buea road:

 

We continued under overcast skies but there were no additional deluges.  At times the Kumba-Buea road: ceiling lifted and the trees partedKumba-Buea road: Mt. Cameroon emerges under the clouds enough so that we could get glimpse of Mt. Cameroon.  We always had to imagine where the top might be.  Eventually we were no longer looking at Mt. Cameroon but climbing it.  About ten of the last fifteen miles of the day are climbing and we probably get to less than 3500 feet on the Kumba-Buea road: beginning the climb up the base of Mt. Cameroon.13,354 foot (4070 m) mountain, but that is a sufficient work out.Kumba-Buea road: beginning the climb up the base of Mt. Cameroon.

 


 
Banana flowerKumba-Buea road: banana plantation on the side of Mt. CameroonAt least the shoulder of Mt. Cameroon we came across seems to be covered with banana.  If the size of the project weren't enough, blue plastic bags, sometimes impregnated with pesticides, that are used to protect bananas against pests tied Kumba-Buea road: banana plantation on the side of Mt. Cameroonover the maturing banana indicates that it is probably an export oriented operation.  The blue bags are removed before the bananas are packed and shipped.  It is a good sign that the countryside is not covered with blue bags.  Environmental progressive banana growers are now recycling the bags and presumably organic growers aren't using pesticides.  There is no information one way or the other for Cameroon producers.

Buea: view of the lowlands towards DoualaOne of the reward for making it up to the old section of Buea is an expansive view (on a clear day) of the low lands, all the way to Douala.  Another reward is cooler and drier air.  In the morning it is almost crisp.

Buea: Former German Governors houseBuea early history was as the capital of the Germany's Kamerun colony in the decade and a half before and after 1900.  There a few vestiges of that period:  The former German Governors house (left) sit high on the hill. Buea: colonial era buildingsIt is now a presidential retreat for the president of Cameroon.  Lower on the hill are a variety of government office buildings (right) and residences, from the same period, are still being used and don't look too Buea: monument to Kaiser Welhelm.much the worse for wear.  Even Kaiser Wilhelm still gets a nod in the form of a corner monument.  It doesn't look like it gets a lot of traffic or even second looks, but it is not overgrown and the portrait is maintained.

Buea: old market areaBuea: old market areaThe old market area of Buea is a little below and off to the side of the Governor's mansion.  (The absolute newest parts of Buea, including the University of Buea (left) and a strip city, are 3-6 km lower on the mountain, where the air is warmer -- or hotter.)  Except for the million dollars views the old market doesn't haveBuea: old market area much to recommend it.  It seems to have changed very little from 1986 (two photos to the left) to 2007 (right), except for the roads are paved.  As the story goes the head of state came to Buea on one of his rare visits to Anglophone Cameroon and was appalled by the conditions of the roads Buea, 1986that he ordered Buea market, 1986them paved.  In the coarse of a few month Buea went from hardly a decent road in the town to having every road, even the alleys, being paved.  Western Cameroonians are rarely shy about complaining about how they are marginalized and don't get their fair share of investment.  It is a toss-up whether Buea support this contention of refutes it.

After Kumba the languages change from the Narrow Bantu>Northwest>Lundu-Balong group to the Narrow Cameroonian manBantu>Northwest>Duala group.  The largest language is Mokpwe, which is spoken around Muyuka, but in some villages in the lowlands from near Kumba to Limba.  To the west and at higher elevations Wumboko is spoken.  Out in the estuary, around Tiko, Isu is spoken by a small population.  (The photo was taken between Kumba and Buea of an unidentified man.)  

Addendum:

A few photo with local bicyclists taken in 1996:

local bicyclists with group in Buea local bicyclist with group in Buea meal with local bicyclists, in Buea

 

 

Next dispatch.

 
 

 
     
 

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