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Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by mrwwwhite, Jul 27, 2011.
Amazing report, looking forward to seeing more
Can I ask what body/lens you are using?
In England they say Timbuktu to mean the same thing! Great RR and photos - the full frame shows up the lesser compacts used by most.
We're using a 5dMKII + 24mm f/1.4L + 70-200mm f/2.8L. We sure miss a point&shoot which would have been easier to use in some cases.
An Enchanted Night In The Rainforest Changed Everything
On the 9th of October there were presidential elections scheduled in Cameroon. The dictator Paul Biya, in power for over 20 yrs, was the expected frontrunner for yet another 7 years term. On the 30th of September an opponent of the current regime fired a gun in Douala, and the police found an unexploded grenade in Limbe, at the Elecam hq. On the 13th of Octiber our Nigeria visa would expire, so on the 4th we were heading from Abuja to the Ikom border, with the intention to cross into Cameroon and avoid the capital during elections or to bushcamp next to the border.
There 3 ways into Cameroon: the good tar up in the north, through Maiduguri and the highly unstable Boko Haram territory. The overlanders' hell, the dreaded Ekok-Mamfe piste, marred by lorries and loggers' trucks and potentially hazardous during the last weeks of the rainy season. Or the ferry from Calabar to Limbe, that we could not afford.
The eastern Nigerian states are visibly more lively and prosperous. Small, colorful villages, mud brick houses with zinc roofs, fresh food markets, streetside restaurants with delicious food, plantations. People are friendly, food is cheap and we zoom by police checkpoints without being stopped.
The roads are bad though, so after Obudu we decide to crash overnight at Afi Drill Ranch. Emi and Oli, the Brits overloading in a Landie who we'd met in Lome and who are ahead of us in Gabon, told us to stop in Afi, if we had the time.
The air is moist, the forrest is soaking and we are rolling through dense high vegetation that hardly allow any sunlight in the undergrowth. The track is narrow and goes up and down for 15 km into the dark heart of the rainy forest. It rains every day, sometimes even more times a day. The tires slide easily or the sticky mushy clay, so a fall is imminent. We bite the mud two times, but we arrive in one piece, yet covered in dirt and with rivers of sweat flowing from the forehead to the boots.
We're in the deep bush. There is no GSM network, no electricity and no running water. Afi Drill Ranch is the research camp of Pandrillus, a conservation project dedicated to saving the primates and the forest of Cross River state from extinction. The camp is bordering the wildlife sanctuary established together with the state government. The project receives short teem visitors who can witness the daily work and learn about primates conservation. We are welcomed by 2 American long term volunteers, Amanda and Jens, who show us around.
Dimineata stim ce avem de facut, si dupa ce vizitam baza, plecam spre Calabar pentru a ne pune in aplicare planul.
We are completely exhausted. Soon we lay down in our tent, pitched in the bamboo shed.
The night is magical. The darkness burns the eyes and is hardly interrupted by myriad stars and immense fireflies. A choir of forrest sounds - amphibians, insects and nocturnal mammals - completely new to our ears. We let this new energy burn its imprint into our DNA.
We're having a scottish breakfast in the middle of the rainforrest
We are camping right by the main drill enclosure, next to the crocodiles and the duika, in the yard of Pandrillus HQ, which is also the home of Peter Jenkins, the founder of the project. Him and Lisa Gadsby arrive in Nigeria while overloading in Africa. They had a 10 days transit visa and a meeting with destiny. They discovered that the Cross River subspecies of drill monkey, assumed to be extinct, was still roaming the forests, and they embarked on a race to save them. More than 20 years later, Pandrillus has become one of the world's most successful conservation & captivity breeding of an endangered species projects. It is amazing that such a project exists in the impoverished West Africa and in Nigeria, of all the places. To us it was logical to volunteer our time and effort, and a privilege to be accepted. We sorted out our papers (visa and laissez passer extension) and went shopping for working gear (trousers, long sleeve shirt, shoes) from the second hand shacks in the market. By the end of the week we were already back in the midst of primary rain forest. We were not to exit this unique but dwindling wildlife sanctuary for the next four weeks.
All superlatives seem to be used allready here, so...subscribed
Information provided by Pandrillus. Photos by us.
Pandrillus is a Nigerian NGO that promotes survival of one of Africa's most endangered primates, the drill monkey. The main activity is the Drill Rehabilitation & Breeding Center project (nicknamed "Drill Ranch"), conducting conservation research and survey work in Nigeria and Cameroon, where it also co-manages the Limbe Wildlife Center. The project also provides sanctuary to 28 rescued orphan chimpanzees, the older ones living in their own natural forest enclosure at Afi Drill Ranch, while the youngest live together in a chimp nursery in Calabar.
What is a Drill?
Bulli, the challenging male to the alpha in Group 6, Ochu
Drills (Mandrillus leucophaeus) are large, short-tailed rain forest monkeys, endemic to Cross River Sate, Nigeria, south-west Cameroon and Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea. Drills have a smooth black face, males have wider faces with intense magenta and purple coloration in genital area and around the cheeks, and they can surpass 45 kg. They have a particularly well-formed thumb, they communicate with facial expressions, vocalizations and specialized behaviors. Unlike most monkeys, drills are semi-terrestrial, searching the ground for food (fallen fruit, roots, leaves, insects, invertebrates), climbing the trees to forage and to sleep at night. They are also semi-nomadic, traveling long distances in the forest, perhaps following fruiting seasons of different trees. Like most primates, they are highly social and live in groups of 15-30. At certain times of the year super-groups of up to 200 animals can occur in the wild, allowing individuals to leave the group they were born in and join another, thus preventing in-breeding. Unfortunately these extraordinary animals are in danger of extinction. Hunted illegally for bushmeat, with only 40,000 sq km of natural range impoverished by logging, farming and human developments, drills are a top conservation priority among the 60+ African primate species. Little is known of drill ecology, as they are elusive and not well studied in the wild. The world population if wild drills is less than 10,000 and could be as low as 3,000.
The first step is to learn exactly where drills still live and which populations have the best chance of survival. Liza and Peter completed in 1989 a survey of Nigeria and covered most of Cameroon (which has over 60% of world's drill habitat). Drills are protected from hunting in Cross River National Park in Nigeria and the Korup National Park in Cameroon. In May 2000 the Cross River State Government created the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, where wild drills, gorillas, chimps and other endangered species survive. Still, forests are difficult to secure against poachers. Former hunters are being employed as wildlife rangers, to patrol the sanctuary, in an award-winning community-based protection scheme. Recently Peter has created the first ever Task Force that is fighting illegal logging in an attempt to protect the wildlife habitat of these endangered species.
Drills are rare in captivity and they reproduce poorly in zoos, where they lose some of their native instinct and are not likely to successfully return to the wild. While conducting survey work in 1988, Peter and Liza discovered infant drill in villages, by-products of hunting of nursing mothers shot for bushmeat. They decided to salvage this potentially valuable conservation and genetic resource and to raise the primates in natural-sized social groups in their own habitat. The Pandrillus project promotes habitat protection education and awareness about the importance of endangered wildlife conservation.
What is "Drill Ranch"?
The Ranch started in 1991 with 5 drills, and by January 2009 298 drills - over 75% of captive drills in the world - were living in Afi. Most drills were donated by citizens of Cross River; some were recovered by wildlife or park officers, or police. Two monkeys were recovered from Asia, from the hands of international smugglers. The project never buys animals, because it's illegal and we must not encourage wildlife trade. Drills usually arrive as infants and, after quarantined, grow and live together in 1 of the 6 groups, in solar-powered electric enclosure of naturally forested drill habitat in the Afi River Forest Reserve, Boki LGA, Cross River State, Nigeria. The first group of drills was flown by helicopter to Afi in 1996.
The project is home to Africa's first captive drill birth and world's first ever twin birth in captivity, and has witnessed more than 200 births since its start. The nearest villages (Buanchor and Kataba) benefit greatly from the project: permanent staff is employed from there and most animal food is purchased from local farmers.
The wheelbarrows with fruits for one of the 3 daily feedings. Each will feed a group of drills, the scarcity of the food encourages the drills to continue foraging and prevents them from becoming dependent.
The project has been working for this pioneering event for over 5 years. If the project will be able to maintain sustainable protection of the Afi Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, the super-group of over 130 drills will be released from Enclosure 1 on Afi Mountain, in a carefully monitored program. The Graduation will be a worldwide premiere and is scheduled for 2012, during fruiting season, with various scenarios planned. The super-group is expected to split into 3 to 5 groups, and the larger males - who will potentially assume dominance within the new groups - will carry collars.
Chimpanzees in Drill Ranch
Another world record is about to be completed in Afi Ranch. The staff is working on the largest ever naturally forested enclosure for chimps, a beautiful 12 ha of primary rain forest, where the rescued chimps will be living a decent life, along members of their own species. Chimpanzees are 99% genetically identical to humans and after living in miserable captivity for years - in poorly managed zoos or as pets - they cannot re-adapt to life in the wild. The project offers home to rescued chimps, but does not encourage captive breeding. The chimps in Drill Ranch are divided in 2 heterogeneous groups, dominated by 2 alpha males: Willy and Jacob. The oldest chimpanzee is 42 years old and there is also one lowland chimp, rescued from Guinea, named Pablo.
How is Drill Ranch funded?
The project is funded by direct donation in Nigeria, the fund-raising efforts of Pandrillus Foundation in the USA and Rettet den Drill in Germany. The Cross River State Government provides monthly contribution for staff salaries and animal feeding and has donated a vehicle and funded eco-tourism infrastructure that brings in revenue. Non-national staff, including Liza and Peter, work for free, with about 40 Nigerian staff on salary. The project has a tree nursery where native species are being grown from seedlings, then sold for a modest fee to the forest department for re-planting. Pandrillus works in cooperation with the Cross River State Forestry Commission, Ministry of Environment and Tourism Bureau. Pandrillus offers a yearly grant for a green project developed by a Boki villager.
Day 118. We reached the 30,000 km on the clock, and the next km will be only logged while moving to our working sites or going to the next village, Buanchor, where sometimes there is GSM signal.
Working day starts at 8 a.m. with a staff briefing, there is also a 12 am - 1 pm lunch break. Crew boys - supporting personnel who perform most endurance tasks - finish work at 4 pm, the rest of us at 5 pm. We cook our own fod, dinner being sometimes served in the secondary staff shed, where we cooked and socialized, learning words in local dialects, how to use wild vines for the traditional Nigerian food (like egusi) and abusing the local staple, garri - a casava flour that we used for pancakes, tortillas and deserts.
We are deeply grateful to our colleagues, the management and in particular to Peter Jenkins, for the opportunity to work together in one of the most successful and important conservation projects in the world.
Proiect Satelit 1 & 6/ Satellite 6 & 1 works
Cutting and pre-drilling the frame pieces
A quick run to Ikom, to sort out our Laissez-Passer extension
After work we would relax in the communal area, the main shed
The view from the main shed towards the Afi Mountain it's never the same.
Satellite 6 - 2 days, individual work
We replaced rotten wood, fitted the panels with mesh, repaired broken frames, built new platforms for the quarantined drills and designed, built and fitted door stoppers for the sliding doors that connect the satellite to the enclosure and that separate the 2 compartments inside the satellite. After work we cleaned the site from debris and transported all scraps to the garbage pit and to the storage from where wood can be recovered for making fire.
On the Canopy Walkway, the second largest in Africa, suspended at over 30 meters in the trees.
Lianes are parasite plants typically found in the tropical forests
A parasite tree is slowly murdering its host
At the magic tree in Buanchor: the village GSM antena.
Kids in Buanchor
We completed and assessment of the entire built base, highlighting: what needs to be fixed, replaced or improved in visitor and staff cabins, sheds and animal enclosures, we tagged with red tape the fence poles that are must be changed, suggestions for an improved layout of the vet shed, tool shed and fuel shed in relation to the main staff shed and the working area. We proposed 2 washing points (water birds) with easy access from the toilets and water source (stream). One important aspect is using as many materials from site as possible and keeping the budget to a minimum.
Our second survey work was assessing the new chimp extension which is a big operation: we proposed an improved working flow taking into account manpower and materials availability and sources (gravel and sand are difficult to bring to the site because the terrain is quite irregular and even marshy). We proposed a prototype for the 7 bridges that would ensure easy access around the enclosure for maintenance staff and an ATV. We proposed solutions for terrain works in particularly delicate areas (2 marshes and one area very difficult to cross). Bridge proposal follow a few main ideas: using materials already on site, using as little concrete as possible to keep pollution to a minimum, keeping the site clean for debris, building a cheap wood strecher-like container for concrete mixing (to avoid several pits difficult to clean afterwards) and following a simple but strict work flow.
Riding the truck to Buanchor
American pancakes with garri and bananas by Jens
Shaua-Shaua, the wild pineapple. In the background is CJ.
Changing the brake disc, thanks to our invaluable friend, Harry.
Those are great photos... in particular, the adult male drill is absolutely spectacular... as is the chimp.
I love Your trip! Good luck and i'm waiting for another stories :)
You guys have done some great work at Afi Drill Ranch. As a resident of Africa I appreciate the challenges in such a venture.
Thanks for the updates and please contact me when you are in South Africa. I would like to show you around my little piece of paradise. See my website below.
Thanks Bernard, We'll contact you when we reach SAR.
Our Stint with Pandrillus - Part II
Former star president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo arrived at the ranch 10 years after his first visit. It was an intense team effort to prepare the camp for his visit and it was great fun to have him over and to get to know him. Years back in Galati or Bucharest we would have never thought that us, two ordinary Romanians, would get to know the president of Nigeria, and the most famous and powerful nevertheless.
President Olusegun Obasanjo posing with the ebony that he planted here 10 years ago. Ebony is one of the most precious essences in Africa, it's very resistant to humidity and was traditionally used for bridges in Boki region, but is now under threat of being forested into extinction.
At the chimp platform where I had build 2 new visitor benches. CJ is the star of the day, making a brilliant presentation for Obasanjo and the entourage
Obasanjo signs the guest book, while Peter Jenkis acts as the man in the shadow.
Asuko (senior drill keeper in group 1 & 6) shows Poto, who is rather unhappy to be disturbed from his usual daytime sleep
President asked us to take a photo with him, and we happily obliged. Now we are waiting for Jonathan.
Presedintele fac cunostinta cu personalul.
The strong jaw of the president next to more ranch staff: Tony (group 1 & 6), Gabriel (group 2, 3, 4), James (group 2 & 5), Rose (housekeeping), Thomas (group 5, fence maintenance)
Cleaning and maintenance of the two big and crowded chimp satellites was top priority. The faces, solids and liquids are difficult to collect and remove from site. Problems are: staff medical issues like frequent eye and skin infections, pools of dirty matter where mosquitoes quickly reproduce generating an unmanageable infested area and most of all, pollution of the nearby stream via a channel that carries all dirty waters. We proposed a septic pit: 95x155 cm, 1.60m deep, concrete walls, no bottom. We would lay gravel and then sand on the bottom of the septic, allowing the dirty matters to slowly be filtrated. The solids would by then be partially be consumed by insects and the surplus can be shoveled to the main garbage pit. The septic would be connected with a concrete gutter to the satellite, and would have a wooded pedestrian cover, making it easy to maintain and service. We would fit the septic wit an overflow: PVC slotted pipes that would direct only filtered liquids and meteoric water to the stream.
We eliminated the polluting drain system towards the stream, we closed the gutter in the satellite, we marked and dug the pit
We sent crew boys for sand and stones, which we then pounded to the desired granulation. We designed the concrete recipe.
We built and placed the forms. As we were using scraps, we struggled to level the faces.
Forms, reinforcing wire and overflow drain fitted
With my crew boys for the day: Mathew and Godwin. We prepared a semi-wet premix on the floor, then correct the consistency in the wheelbarrow, and poured with a metal basinet. We vibrated with an old iron.
Walls and washing platform done.
We dismantle the forms. The walls are not perfectly plane, but the concrete is impeccable
Godwin covers the drain with soil
We poured the connection gutter to the satellite.
Typical staff & visitors photo. From felt to right: Jens (from Oregon, volunteers for 1 year), a German visitor, Asuko (Senior drill keeper, from Calabar), Mageed (vet and manager), Ana, visitor & driver
From left to right: me, Nasseru (welder), Ana, Asuko, Celestine (driver), CJ, Mageed
Rose, Ana, Franca
Me, Peter, Ana, Godwin, Emmanuel 1, Amanda, Mathew, takam, Tony, Thomas, James, Gabriel, Robert, Emma 2
Final group photo, the departure morning.
Harry Poto - a 1 year pot adult, rescued after suffering a life threatening injury to the head. Its a nocturnal low rank primate, it feeds on fruit and insects and has chosen to stay in Afi, nobody knows why.
Green Tree Viper - the adult measures about 40-45 cm, it's poisonous but not dangerous. We saw it sleeping one cold wet morning by our water tank. The next morning, it was gone.
The many amazing butterflies that lives in Afi, some as big as a palm are still little known. Their food of choice are rotten bananas.
Lala, the wild civet baby who arrive in the cam soon after us. She is barely 1 month old and her mother and sister were killed by some farmers. While we were in camp, I was her daddy, nursing her with milk and taking her to matinal and evening outing in the undergrowth. Civets grow to the size of a Labrador, are nocturnal and carnivores, but unfortunately orphan babies have a less than 40% chance of survival.
Rhinoceros beetle. It lives in the palm stem and its larvae are edible. This one is a male.
Pius, the 4 months old porcupine who is recovering well after severe injuries from a drill attack. He will return to the wild within a couple of months.
Chimpanzees In Afi
There are two main groups: the chimps in the natural enclosures and the ones in the satellites, who will be release in their new world record home next year. Chimps in the satellite have been rescued from miserable captive conditions. They have never experienced freedom and the chimp extension is destined to provide them with that for the first time in their life. After spending all their life close to humans, these chimps can never successfully return to the wild.
Waiting for their new primary forest enclosure to be finished
Murphy, the former alpha male in the enclosure
Pablo, a lowland chimp with a slight paresis
Our coworkers from the Afi camp didn't keep their promise to hold us hostages to the project. We secretly wished that somehow we could linger longer, in spite of the pricey Cameroon, Congo and DRC visas already in our passports. But our time to move on had come. And we have been dreaming of Cameroon - nicknamed "miniature Africa" - for a long time. The 9th of October presidential elections had passed peacefully, instead of turning into a bloody conflict, as predicted by the foreign news agencies. Paul Biya had paid for 7 more years of direct acces to Cameroon's wealth and power with a few campaign t-shirts and some bags of cash.
We had taken the visa in Abuja: 1 photo, application form and 50000 CFA. Gas is aprox. 595 CFA/l.
9th of November, last days of rainy season. We zoom from Afi to Ikom, where we fill up for the last time with the dirt-cheap Nigerian petrol and call home. 20 km farther we cross the border from Mfum to Ekok, where the Cameroonian customs officer has some troubles figuring out that our visas are still valid. A few hours and 7000 CFA later we have a Laissez passer for 14 days and we start rolling - late as hell - on the dreaded Ekok - Mamfe road, possibly the most difficult of its kind in all of Africa.
A Nightmare Begins
We are fierce and climb steeper and steeper hills of unsealed mud that has petrified under the scorching sun. Where pools of water linger, the laterite sinks our tires into a sticky swamp of hell. The Chinese are working at this road and they say in 2 years the legendary over-lander's nightmare will be buried under smooth tarmac. For now, the beast is alive and is claiming all our mental and physical energy. Ana walks the toughest parts. It's all challenging, but we are coping well.
Romanians say that "one must not celebrate before the race is over". At a crossing, through a crater the size of a lorry, I feel the clutch on fire and my rear wheel just dead. I'm stuck, I have no clutch and people come running. I know I don't have a spare clutch, nightmare begins. As it turns out, we are on a plantation, where a 10 houses community has set camp to profit from the traffic to Nigeria. We carry alu-boxes, dry sacks and our frozen souls under a palm shed, then we push the bike uphill. A woman fetches us water to shower and plant on Ana's lap a 7 months baby who makes a wee. At might we drop exhausted and in a state of disbelief on our punctured mattresses. In the morning we begin the damage control operation: we have some food (oats, tea, 2 cans, 1 soup) and 4000 CFA (6 Euro). We buy garri, sweet potatoes, Magi, sugar, bananas and oranges and we sent scooter-taxis to Ekok to charge a borrowed SIM. After 4 weeks of conservation work in Nigeria, there we were, living among poachers, smelling the daily catch of bush meat (porcupine, monitor lizard, tortoise) in the villagers' pots and listening how illegal loggers cut rare trees, then ship them to Nigeria on floats during the night. We have to renounce all privacy, constantly scrutinized and hassled by curious passengers, dozens of truck drivers and mechanic wannabes. Kids begged for any plastic spoon and old sock we dared to use. By the third day we were forced to buy at inflated prices the oranges and potatoes that villagers had picked from the floor behind their house. By night, drunken people debating loudly our situation kept us awake, with alarming key words like moto, rich, money, Abuja, kidnapping. When we barely managed to close an eye, the goats and roosters would begin a delirious routine, feeding our paranoia. Every day we felt more tired and hopeless. We missed our scheduled live TED conference, but we somehow managed to contact our Abuja friends and our families. Harry bought a replacement clutch, FedEx-ed it to Abuja, from where it would be trucked to Ikom, then carried over the border by a taxi.
It was the 5th day in Nsanaragati when saw the first white faces. Another overlander's vehicle had gotten stuck in the pothole that had claimed our Tenere. Jacques, Delphine, Lea (4,5 yrs) and Elisa (3 yrs) had left Toulouse for a year long African adventure by Land Rover Defender. It was Elisa's b-day, Lea had a fever, but all they said was: "rescue team is here". We took their generous offer to be towed to Bamenda and after 30 minutes of packing, we were attempting something we'd only seen at Dakar.
Lea is resting with high fever while Gillian is watching.
The shed where we lived for 5 days. © Delphine
The impossible becomes possible on the infernal 10 km to Eyumojok. No image can begin to describe what is like to actually be doing what we did, but that's all we have to remind us of this improbable experience.
One day the Chinese machines will burry the Ekok-Mamfe legend under tarmac.
Resting on some cocoa bags with a high fever from exhaustion. In the background, the car we later helped out of the mud.
The epic day ended with Elisa blowing her 3 candles at the bivouac. © Delphine
We wash our vehicles.
The road to Bamenda took us another two days, because the good tar is alternating with unsealed patches.
Brilliant camping spot, in the middle of the primary forest. Rain comes over indeed, but we medicate with Pastis and hot dogs.
In Bamenda we camp at Foyer Eglise Presbiteriene and spend our time doing laundry, shopping for necessities, finding a shoe guy to sew our disintegrating slippers and emailing home.
Concha, a protein powerhouse served for breakfast in the north-west
The other overlanders we had met en route are already in Congo and informed us that DRC and Angola visas are impossible to get now, because of the upcoming Congolese elections that are expected to become violent in the buildup. They got stuck in Pointe Noire and had to ship their vehicles (2 cars + 2 bikes) to Namibia and fly via JoBurg. A very scary and expensive option, we are hoping that as we already got our DRC visa we might get lucky with Angola as well in Matadi, if we can reach it before our Congo and DRC visas expire. In the meantime, our clutch arrived in Abuja and will be shipped to Yaounde where we will pick it up next week from the UPS office. With days to spare, we decide to take a joyride on the famous Ring Road in our french friends Landie.
The 370 km Ring Road is the most famous piste in Cameroon, crossing a very diverse ethnographic area, home to many of the 280 distinct tribes in the country. We stock on food for the 3-4 days offroading: potatoes, vegs, grasshoppers, fruits.
Yam mountains in Bamenda market
First day: we drive on the piste to Bafut, where we opt out of visiting the local chief compound, because of the tourist tax worthy of a major european museum.
Veggies and grasshopper salad for lunch.
Lea practices for Dakar
One has to earn the perfect camping spot. So after a dignified struggle up on a hill covered in wild flowers and thyme and after some intense machete-gardening, we pitch our tent by a pepper tree and a guava. We would wake up with the most incredible view.
Morning grooming. © Delphine
The locals are herders and they look rather north-african. Mohammed and his sons pay us a pleasant visit in the morning.
The countryside is so beautiful that it's soothing to our recent memories of Nsanaragati.
Lake Bamendjing, that famously has a gas pouch on the bottom.
The second day the track becomes almost unpassable at times, with huge holes and ravines that run through the middle of the road. Jacques graciously allows me to drive for the first half of the day and even if it's a tough job, I am having a lot of fun doing it.
In the evening we camp on the edge of a mountain. We start roasting our sweet potatoes and the excellent beef we got from a butcher in a village. We are soon surrounded by a large muslim family, complete with the two wives and many kids. They give us some space to eat or dinner though, only to visit us again the next morning.
The third day we get going quite late, having to struggle with a leaking differential. The road feels smoother and it twists and turns among logged hills, rice paddies and tea plantations.
The green curvy landscape reminds us of our homeland mountains in summer.
We have lunch in Nkambe: rice, beef stew, chicken, boiled plantain and ero
With our now impeccable sense of finding the right place, we pitch our tent in another super place. On the edge of a eucalyptus forest, with a breathtaking view of the surroundings: villages are dotting green mountains and we see cattle returning home and sun setting down in an explosion of colors.
At over 2300m, the air is fresh and cold. A warm shower, a fire, a Bordeaux and a plate of cabbage with beef - cooked with local ingredients - complete a memorable day.
After 4 zen days, we're back in Bamenda and back to our troubled reality. We organize transportation to the capital Yaounde, where we are expecting the clutch. Our only option is to take the night bus, so we bargain hard for the 30 Euro ride. The vehicle was stolen from the EU aids bulk and is barely recognizable under the load of yams and live pigs. A woman stuffs her chicken under my bike, and with only 2 bottles of water, some ground nuts and what we are wearing, we hop on at midnight, only to descend at 6.30 the next morning. It was impossible to close an eye, but somehow someone manages to steal our mobile during the night. On arrival we ignore the rude hasslers in the bus station, push the bike uphill to a Total and hitch a taxi ride to the meeting with the Vidals.
We apply for the Gabon visa (photo, form, 50,000 CFA, 48 hrs) and we set camp on the lawn of the unfriendly presbyterian center, the cheapest accommodation in Yaounde.
The huge water towers are local landmarks. Nearby, flourishing commerce: call booths and candy stalls.
There's plenty of french boulangeries in Yde, so we feast on buttery viennoiserie.
In the afternoon it's barbecue time: fresh mackerel and tilapia brought in from Douala and served with plantain chips and pepper sauce.
The clutch arrives
2 weeks after the bike broke down, we manage to collect our precious parcel.
We are high with joy. Finally we will fix our bike and get going.
Suddenly, my brain freezes over. The clutch discs don't fit! Even though Harry has explained to wemoto.com that we only have one chance to make it, they just sent us the wrong parts. We hit a new dead end.
Later, we would learn that the parts were for the old Tenere.
We pull the cover over our sick bike and we hop again on the Vidal bus. Our fiends suggested we should wait with them in Limbe, which is closer to the entry port for another parcel. This time Harry orders the second clutch from off-the-road.de, who will ship by DHL in about 5 days to Douala.
On the road again, we sample some banana leaf wrapped manioc.
And spicy fish stew.
Coke reigns supreme here.
But beer is still cheaper than water.
The green gold of Cameroon is constantly being lorried out and illegally shipped from Douala to every corner of the planet.
A vision of Mt. Cameroon. The lava giant rises above the ocean at 4090m.
We camp in the parking of Seme Hotel, on Mile 11 beach, where the girls' grandfather is expected to visit with a bag full of french gourmet foods.
Everyday we lunch on bushmeat in Batoke village: gazelle, wild rabbit, with manioc and corn on a cob.
In Limbe we feast on fresh fish in the traditional port. Mt. Cameroon lures us again to climb it, and we decide to go for it during the next 2 days.
After the 1999 eruption, a cloud of volcanic ash changed forever the Limbe beach: now black sand is washed ashore by the warm calm waters of the ocean.
ITW was here!
To be continued.
To Dr. Anghelescu (Med Sport Clinic), who helped me to walk again and to our friends Andreea Popa & Dumitru Buda.
We start our ascent in Buea, the hub for guide and porter hiring, where we stock on supplies and food. We will follow the shortest, steepest way up, the Race Track. This is the path taken during the annual race to the top, that famously logged in a stupendous 4 hrs. record! The route will take us through 4 distinct geo-climateric zones: tropical rain forest, savannah, alpine and finally steppe.
The 2 of us plus Delphine, Jacques, Edmond the guide and porters Mahindi, Jonas & Ibrahim start the climb at 10.30 in the morning.
We climb the first 500 m through plantain farms. When we finally entered the forest, the air is cooler and there are beautiful tropical flowers and birds.
We take our first break at 1500 m in the 100 yrs. old Hut 1. Our lunch: sardines and bread.
Hours later we are climbing the steepest part: the path is covered in high savannah grasses and in petrified lava.
At New Hut (1800 m).
Stunning scenery. Perfect clouds are tumbling down into the abyss.
Jacques & Delphine
A little after 6 p.m. we hit our target. We reach Hut 2 (2800 m) where the cold wind blows us into the shack. We gather around a steaming pot of Indomie and spaghetti, then we cuddle in or sleeping bags and tent.
At 4.30 we have to wake up, eat our disgusting chocolate sandwich and blindly follow Edmond towards the summit. Only me, Ana and Jacques chose to continue, and we are rewarded with the most amazing sunrise of our lives. The day slowly opens into an explosion of new colors and the birds offer an exclusive concert of delicate music.
Strange trees covered in moss appear from the ghostly layer of fog.
At Hut 3, at 3800 m above the sea level. Unfortunately Ana was forced to forfeit the ascent here, because of an acute headache.
Me and Jacques climb the final 300 m through a weirdly lunar landscape and breathing becomes more difficult with every step we take.
The Earth curvature is clearly visible from the top.
ITW is on the summit!
P.S. The Race Track is a difficult choice. We carried for days our wounds: solar burns, bunions, blisters, cuts and swollen nails. A longer - 3 or 4 days track may be a wiser option, but we are pround and happy to have conquered another dream.
As usual..GREAT pictures....keep them coming....and good luck with your onward journey..
You have already climbed to the 'top tier' of adventure riders. Compared to those of us riding in the 'civilized' world, your adventure is unbelievable.
Absolutely phenomenal! Amazing story and outstanding photography!
I can only imagine how you felt when you saw the wrong clutch discs.
These two little girls will have a wonderful childhood.
P.S. Next time, (hopefully there will be no next time), when you need something for Tenere just send me PM. Maybe we will find something...
Thank you. Please know that your efforts are greatly appreciated. Godspeed.