Friday, May 20, 2011

The North Versus the South

The transition from the southern part of Cameroon to the northern is quite drastic. The humid lowlands and humid highlands are full of dense green vegetation, and then once you cross into the sahelian north the country begins to look like arid plains. Trees become sparse, the ground looks dry, and the vegetation is not as thick or lustrous. The heat is intense and dry. After a few short days my nose dried out and would occasionally bleed. Cold beers gave temporary relief from the fiery sun.

After in service training I traveled up to the Northern region. My first stop was at Lake Lagdos where Hippos and monkeys are known to hang out. Myself and some friends stayed at a hotel on the beach and had a picnic. Then we camped out on the beach and drank a few beers in front of a bonfire. We did see a Hippo swimming in a grotto just two hundred feet away from our beach. On the afternoon of the second day we took a boat out to the island in the middle of the lake called Madagascar. There was a small Muslim community and a giant mountain of boulders to climb.

The following day we traveled up to Maroua in the extreme north. As if the impossible were possible, it became drier and hotter. The city itself is beautiful and lined with rows and rows of giant trees providing shade. The main boulevards are covered in trees such that sunlight barely breaks through and touches the dusty road. There was plenty delicious goat and sheep meat to be found on the streets here. Dried dates and street soy, or rather street tofu were available which can't be found in the south. The majority of the population wear light colored robes and sandals. Throughout the day loud calls and sirens alert the unaware that it is prayer time in the largely Muslim north.

One day was spent resting before we (myself and some other volunteers sightseeing) headed to go see Rhumsiki, a mountain in the far north province. The moto ride to get their was possibly the closest ride I came to serious injury. The driver appeared to be Muslim and sober, but I can't say for certain if he had something to drink or not. Anyways the road was dusty and bumpy and he nearly lost control of the bike about four times in dangerous situations. At least he didn't understand English. We made it safely at night and had a delicious dinner at a restaurant that frequently has Peace Corps volunteers. The food was great and the night sky was beautiful. The next day we awoke early and hiked around the hills of Rhumsiki. It is a beautiful dry country up in the far north. Before we left myself and another volunteer decided to climb the small mountain right in the middle of town. Some of the village kids followed us and showed us some short cuts up the towards the top of the mountain. After a certain amount of climbing it simply became too dangerous for us to go any further. We stopped, and climbed back down.

The trip back afterward was uneventful. Back in the Adamawa I climbed Mt. Ngaoundere which was beautiful. The way back overland was great fun, this time with a buddy. Now back home the rain has come. Meaning it can be impossible to stay out during the evening. Rain has already saturated the ground. Whenever it rains it immediately starts puddling up and quickly becomes impassibly muddy. Which effectively locks me in my house.