Saturday, April 30, 2011

Some More Time

Travel is tight in Cameroon. Cars, vans, and buses pack an extra person in wherever they can fit. You might even take a car with four people sitting in the front. The driver is literally sitting on someones lap. It can be hot, sweaty, and cramped, but I have no problem with any of this. It isn't that bad.

I left for training in the city of Ngaoundere on a cramped bus. The first step of my trip was to get to Bafoussam. Bafoussam is the Capital of the West region and on the way to Ngaoundere if you travel overland. I decided a while ago I would not be taking the train and would instead travel via cars and vans to the training. I would get to see more of the country. From the South West region to the Adamawa region, where Ngaoundere is situated, is roughly a three day journey regardless of which route you take. My first stop was to stay with a fellow volunteer just outside Bafoussam. Yaya is an entertaining girl and she put me up for the night in her house. She even brought some wild mushrooms back for dinner with caps the size of softballs. She made up a mushroom alfredo sauce that was delicious and then we caught up over a few drinks (it had been about four months since we had seen each other).

I left the next day for the east Adamawa. There I would stay with Hunter, a good friend. The travel agency vehicle we loaded into was a beaten up van. The frame had many dents and lots of rust. The windshield was cracked and the seats were falling apart. A real beauty, and fortunately the driver put me in the front seat which is less cramped and has a window. We left at one in the afternoon and should have arrived sometime around eight pm. Instead around six at night we broke down in the west Adamawa. Nothing but trees and dust around for miles. Occasionally a motorcycle, container truck, or another agency vehicle would pass by. We were stopped for about an hour as the driver and two mechanics changed the tire and tinkered with the axle. We continued onwards into the night. Around eight pm we broke down again. This time it was a different tire. This time it took almost two hours. I simply stood outside and stared off into the dark countryside. Occasionally lights would appear and sometimes flicker out in the valley down below. Somebody was down their, doing what I couldn't imagine. We continued on and finally hit a rest stop at eleven thirty at night. The stop was about an hour or two from my destination. Didn't look like there would be much time for catching up with Hunter that night. If only I had made it. Before we could get on the road again after our rest stop the mechanics had to fix another problem with the vehicle. Now it is one thirty am and we are back on the road. It is dusty and terribly bumpy forcing us to slow down and navigate the cracks and ditches at a snails pace. This was fortunate because one of our tires popped off after we hit a ditch badly. We lost control and crashed into a ditch on the side of the road. No one was hurt. I got out and called Hunter. It didn't look like we would be continuing in this car. Luckily Hunter told me of another volunteer who lived in the village I broke down outside of. He gave me her number and I called her up. She woke up and answered, and I can only think I have incredible luck. So I spent the night at her house before continuing on the next day (Thanks a million Kate M).

This day I was to travel to Banyo in the west Adamawa. From there it would be one more day to get to Ngaoundere and training. For this occasion I would be traveling in small passenger cars. Four people in the front and four in the back. From the village/rest-stop Bankim it took about five hours to get to Banyo and I had to switch cars once. I packed into the front seat for the first car and luckily got the window seat again. A new mother sat on  half of my lap for the ride. Her baby was quite cute and would occasionally try to reach out and touch my facial hair. Closer and closer he got, until at the very end he was able reach and touch my beard. He seemed very loved. Anytime he would start to cry out his mother new he was hungry and would breast feed him. Not out of the ordinary at all here in Cameroon. The second car I was squished into the back right next to a window that didn't open. One hour into the ride I found out I was squished next to a woman who gets car sick. The driver handed her a plastic bag and she started retching. As she is pressed up against me, dry heaving, the driver is navigating a terrible road full of bumps and ditches. Each one a threat to jar the woman's mouth away from her plastic bag. I guess you could say I was lucky again. Not much was coming out and we never hit a bad bump. I arrived clean and happy in Banyo where I would stay with Shannon. Banyo is nice. Good fish.

The next few days passed uneventfully and I made it to the Peace Corps training. The week of training in Ngaoundere was uninspiring to say the least. I continued my travels and began exploring the north of Cameroon.