A LETTER TO CAMEROON VISITORS FROM EUROPE

 

How do you get from Loum to Nkongsamba ? That’s in Cameroon, and the distance is about 40 km/30 miles or so. You would think that it takes 30 minutes ? No – more likely 2 hours. And from your doorstep to there it’ll take you 3 hours.

First, you have to get up at 5 am and walk towards downtown Loum. The bus stop is actually not a bus stop but a strip somewhere along the main (and only road, a “highway” of about 10 m width) road. When you get there at 7 am you’ll find it impossible to get a minibus. Now what’s a minibus in Cameroon ? Usually a battered Mercedes 2t truck or a Toyota Hiace designed for 9 people. The thing is that they cram 18 people into that thing and off they go.

So, you arrive at the “station”. As soon as one of the buses approach, people start to run towards it. Elbows, fists, whatever available being used to shove people aside. People yell, push, because they know that the next bus may arrive whenever but not on schedule, because there is none.

Finally, you find yourself crammed somewhere in behind in a row of 5 people. In Europe, you try to be the first to get in to have a good seat. Here, you make sure you’re one of the last, because that way you might get a seat in front next to the driver and two other persons in the front row. The problem with that seat, on the other hand, is, if the driver wants to shift gears you have to shift as well, because otherwise he can’t get to the gear stick….but in case when the vehicle crashes or starts to burn it’s easier to get out of the car. Tires are expensive….

Mind you, we’re not in India where you can sit on top of the bus on the baggage piled up there. Also, quite often, the baggage on top can reach the same height as the car itself……

Now you get going. But hey, after 2 km: “Piège”. Means, road toll. Let’s wait for a while. Then, when the driver and the toll collector have finished the dealing about the toll price, another 15 minutes have passed.

Again you get going. After 10 more km the car suddenly stops along the road. People show up and start unloading stuff from the top. You start sweating as hell, because 35° Celsius and 90% humidity make you feel like taking a warm shower.

Get the hell going !!! Pfffhhhh…..finally another 30 minutes have passed by negociating the price for that cargo.

And again, after 2, 4, 6 km people along the street make signs they want to get on the bus. It’s a steady stop-and-go, until you finally arrive there.

And latest by then you have learned that you NEVER take public transport to go to a business meeting. Because you left clean and neat and arrive like after a day’s work.

In that case you take a private car for hire. Costs about four times as much (4US$ in fact), but at least you feel comfortable when you arrive. But do you feel ALIVE ?

That’s why I love Cameroon. It’s so HUMAN. You can, as a foreigner, live WITH the people or BESIDES them. And I recommend you to live WITH them. It will change your life and views. Believe me.

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