Lynn & David travelling in West Africa travel blog

Crater Lake, Kumba, Cameroon

Pirogue

Bailing for our life


Friday 1st March 2013

Seme Beach Limbe to Kumba Cameroon

Generally when we write the blog David writes first and then Lynn adds detail and embellishments. Today is different – Lynn is writing first because it just wasn’t David’s day really.

Woke to light rain and rushed to get the swimming things that were on the small patio. Because it was still fairly early David decided to have another attempt to upload photos but to no avail, and to plenty of frustration. We decided to have breakfast and try again in the reception area if there was time. Breakfast at this hotel doesn’t take long as it consists of baguette and butter, with a cuppa. More unsuccessful internet. The continual problems with the web frustrate David no end. Lynn decided to pay the bill but the machine wouldn’t take her card – so David had a go too but unsuccessfully. Eventually the hotel said that the machine wasn’t connecting – David asked why the ‘f’ hadn’t they said that at the start and saved our time. So we had to pay with cash which we hadn’t wanted to. So then, the hotel had no change. Of course they did but they didn’t want the bother of having to get it. So David had to give all our precious small money. I tell you the above so you can get a picture of David’s day so far…

So we go by taxi to the bus station for the bus to Kumba. One is waiting with several people on already. We take our seats. This is a mini-bus with 2 seats on the left of each row, then one fold down seat. Total of 3 in each row. But of course we know the rules now – 4 people to every 3 seats! An hour and a half goes by – the back row is filled to the satisfaction of the driver, our row is also filled – but there are not enough in the other rows. Traders call in – boiled eggs, frozen flavoured ice bags, 2nd hand clothes, diaries, calculators, hankies, yoghurt in a cup, and so on. Suddenly there was a rush and the bus seats filled and off we set – well at least as far as the service station a few metres away to get some petrol. Eventually we were off and hurtled through Limbe, narrowly missing everything. The drive passed as usual – no need for seat belts (not that they have them) as we are all wedged in tightly. People get off and more people get on but eventually we arrive at Kumba and transfer to a taxi for the drive to the hotel. All taxis look like total wrecks – rust buckets! The hotel was a huge complex but rough concrete so it looked quite stark. The receptionist was very miserable and allocated us the room furthest away. We are fairly certain we were the only guests so that was a bit mean. The room was huge, the furniture an odd assortment that looked like it had been tossed in and placed where it landed. The bathroom had new fittings but only cold taps – no hot water obviously. The toilet had the best flush we have ever experienced in Africa but no toilet seat.

I must now tell you that another bad moment had arrived for David. As we got out of the taxi at the hotel he noticed that he had the key to the previous hotel still in his pocket – how he had missed it I don’t know as it was on a large thick leather shape. He had to own up to our guide, who phoned the hotel. They said that if it didn’t get returned that day, they would charge another day of the room! So now, even though we had been running late due to the bus, our guide Evaristus had to make arrangements to somehow get the key back. First we rushed back down to the bus station where he paid a driver 1,000 CFA to take the key to Buea (about 1 hour back down the road) and give it to Evaristus’s cousin. Then he had to phone his cousin and ask him to collect it from the red mini-bus that would be at Buea in about an hour and take it to the hotel. It was a lot of trouble and David felt very embarrassed. Fortunately it all worked out OK and the key got back.

We then finally headed off for our afternoon program (very late), stopped off at a bakery in town for a snack and drove out to a crater lake just outside town. We arranged with a local man to take us by pirogue (wooden canoe) across the lake to visit a village on the other side. We had to wait quite a while whilst he bailed out the water that was lying in the pirogue – supposedly from heavy recent rain. Seats were prepared – Lynn had a broken oar and a piece of cardboard, David a piece of broken plank and a piece of cardboard, Evaristus a couple of pieces of wood. We managed to get on board, sit down and off we set. Progress was quite slow and shortly we noticed some water in the bottom again. The man paddling reached down into his bucket and threw Evaristus a margarine container to bail out the water. Then David, whilst fiddling, picked at a piece of something on the wood which he immediately realised had been blocking a hole which now allowed a healthy amount of water into the boat! He had to spend the rest of the journey with his toe stuck in the hole…. Meanwhile Lynn had noticed a leak underneath her and stuck a finger over it. Lynn also noticed a small fish swimming inside the canoe! We continued on like this – Lynn and David both blocking holes with appendages, Evaristus bailing faster and faster the further out into the lake we got and the paddler stopping every now and then to bail out more water with a tin plate! As you can imagine this voyage wasn’t quite the relaxing time we had anticipated. Add to this the wind got up and it was against us, the paddler was getting tired and sounded as if he was having a heart attack, and we were judging whether we were close enough to the shore to swim with our limited skills if necessary. Happily after an hour we reached the other side! So we had arrived at the village but because the canoe trip had taken so long (after the bus taking so long, and the issue with the key taking so long) we now had little time before heading back before it got dark. We entered the village and visited the chief who was very pleasant but almost blind due to cataracts. We both held an obligatory baby and then bid our farewells and headed back – this time walking on a path around the lake through the rain forest. We had hardly commenced the 2 hour walk when thunder started and before long the storm hit. Believe me, the walk didn’t take 2 hours as we kept up a very fast pace but very soon were wet through to the skin and the path became very muddy and waterlogged. At one point David slid over and landed on his back in the mud – just wasn’t his day at all! Eventually we got back to where we had started the canoe ride and just had to walk up a very muddy road for some distance, our shoes gaining height with all the mud stuck to the soles. Our guide had made arrangements for the taxi to return but of course it didn’t and so we started to walk back into town. By now the rain had stopped and once we reached the housing area we came across another taxi. The driver didn’t appear very willing to take us – who can blame him – we were dripping with water and muddy. Money talks though and soon we were on our way back to the hotel. You should have seen the faces of the staff – you can imagine what we looked like – and it hadn’t even rained a drop of water there even though the lake was only a couple of kilometres away.

We felt better once we were showered and changed into dry clothes and our other clothes washed and hanging up. After our aperitif we headed up to the restaurant for dinner. I won’t go into details but we were the only diners and it took an hour for the meal to come out, the food was beautifully presented but fairly tough, and the power went out just as we had finished leaving us in the pitch black. Fortunately the lights came on again and we made it back to the room and went to bed. Enough of that day and let’s hope that tomorrow will be a better one for David!



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