Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Gabonese Transport, Part 3

Near the beginning of this trip I took a bus ride in Mongolia. I described it in the blog like this:

Imagine a mechanical bull. That's right, the kind they have at those rodeo-themed bars. Ok, now imagine that you're sitting on that mechanical bull. Now, imagine that you're sitting on that mechanical bull in a closet. Now make that closet about half the size that you were just imagining. Maybe a little smaller. It's not just any closet, but more like Mrs. Trunchbull's "chokey" from Roald Dahl's Matilda. You know, with the sharp bits of metal sticking out of the walls so you can't lean against them. Ok, got it? Now, it's not just you on this bull.  It's you and your new friend, Sanjay, sitting sidesaddle. In the closet. Well, maybe it's more of a cubicle. You  can see over the walls a little bit. Now imagine that you take another 20 cubicles just like the one that you and Sanjay are in and pack them into a room of about 200 sq ft. Now put that room filled with all 43 of you on wheels. Now turn on all of those mechanical bulls. Now try to sleep. Welcome to the last couple of days of my life.

Oh yeah, and add in a puking kid, a couple of plastered old timers and three flat tires.

Since that day back in July, I´ve been bent and squeezed and crammed and prodded and strapped and balanced on all sorts of trains, planes, buses, boats, cars, trucks, motos, bicycles and even my own motorcycle for a bit. The roads have run the gamut from brand-new tarmac to a vague directional bearing across the steppe. I thought I had had some rough rides, but then I came to Gamba, Gabon.

Most sane people fly here. In fact, most of the westerners here either work for Shell (like my host), or are well-off tourists who are happy to pay upwards of $200-400/day to explore the nearby Loango National Park, so an extra couple hundred for the hours´ flight from Libreville isn´t so bad. I opted for the other route, described as a ¨route dur¨ (hard road) by locals. Psshh, no problem. I´m all about the ¨route dur¨

The vehicle

I fit behind the big blob.
When I bought my ticket, I had the option of ¨cabine¨or ¨derrière¨. Derrière was cheaper, so obviously that was my choice. I had a vague notion that this probably meant riding in the back of a pickup, but that´s not so bad. In fact, one of my best rides was in the back of a pickup in Cambodia a few years back with 25 sacks of rice, 15 dining room chairs, 2 other Americans (Dave and Elena, for those who know them), 13 Cambodians, all of our luggage, and a dog. The photo from that day actually is the background photo for this blog. On that day, however, our truck bed was slightly larger and I had just enough room to wedge my butt onto the edge of the truck, tuck in behind the cab with my center of gravity solidly within the vehicle, and hold on tight to some solid chunks of metal as we zoomed down the paved road.

In Gabon, ¨Derrière¨ means you get to share the space on a 2x6 strapped across the very back of the bed of the truck with three Gabonese dudes, grab onto whatever tarp or rubber straps you can bunch into your sweaty little fists and hope you don´t fall off the back. On the relatively smooth bits of road, that meant sitting was an option, as long as we didn´t hit any big potholes. Unfortuntely, there were very few ¨relatively smooth bits of road¨.

The Road

An hour after we pulled out of Tchibanga on the way to Gamba, we turned off of the ¨main road¨ and onto the road that ¨dances,¨ as my comrade on the bumper described it. Those of us on the back spent six hours on our toes with knees bent in an athletic, shock-absorbing position for the next six hours as we drove through some of the most loosely defined ¨road¨ I´ve seen. It ranged from bumpy dry riverbed to sloppy muck to actual currently running river:

Average bumps

Average muck

Average straight road

At least the hood is still above the water, even if the bumper isn´t...
In fact, out of all of the types of travel I listed above, there is one type that I was most reminded of as I balanced my way across the Gabonese countryside with a death grip on fistfuls of tarp: Dogsledding. It turns out, riding the back of this truck is very much like riding a light sled behind a strong team through a particularly rough portage trail, except with no handlebar or brake. One is constantly shifting weight from one foot to the other, thrusting hips from side to side to keep from falling off or tipping, and knowing all along that if a fall does happen, it might take a while for your ride to stop to let you catch up. On the plus side, hypothermia is the furthest thing from your mind, except as a seemingly nice alternative to the heat stroke that seems imminent from hours of exposure on the back of a truck in the equatorial sun.

Bridges are overrated
Occasionally we got breaks from our balancing act to maneuver the vehicle across two of the bigger rivers. One we got to bring ourselves across on the barge/raft shown above, and the other we had to wait for a larger, powered barge (which, in turn, we had to lift and push out of the mud by hand before it could start moving).

In the end, 8 1/2 hours after leaving Tchibanga, I arrived in Gamba, about 90km away as the crow flies.  The best part is, I get to do it all again on my way back! Here´s a bit of video from early on to give you a taste.

Oh yeah, and for the guys with me on the back, this is their ride to work.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"It's on like Gabon"

And then it wasn't. Then it was again.

Leaving Cameroon

When I found out that I wasn't going to be able to bring the moto to Gabon, I'd already gone through the trouble of getting a Gabon visa, and paid the associated exorbitant fees, so I was going. Conveniently, Evan and Lisa had a 5-day weekend around the same time that I was going to be heading down, leading Evan to utter the above quote before we left Douala.

Inspired by my 6-hour Gabon visa turnaround time, the plan was to go to Yaounde (Cameroon's capital), apply for Evan and Lisa's visas, get them that afternoon and cross the border the next morning. We'd then do a quick 4-day trek across the country, ending in Libreville (Gabon's capital, where I am now), where those two would fly home and I'd continue on my adventure. 

Unfortunately, international diplomacy and bureaucracy is incredibly fickle. As fickle, in fact, as the person sitting across the table from you when you sit down at the embassy. Regardless of most international regulations or any written rules (if they exist, and then if you can find them), whether or not you get a visa and how much you pay for it seems to be entirely up to the whims of the man or woman with the stamp. It was a good day for the Gabon lady when I showed up and handed over a pile of potentially useful documents (there was no list online, as the embassy has no website, and they don't answer their phone). Evan and Lisa, however, met the same woman on a worse day and, despite having far more documents than even I did, were refused the ability to even apply for the visa because they were missing one copy of a document (of which they showed her the original) that I did not even think to mention when I was there. C'est l'Afrique.

Mr. Murphy on vacay

On to plan B. Intent on a vacation, Evan and Lisa decided to head to the beach to relax for a day before returning to Douala, so we hopped on another bus (at this point I was very much missing the moto) and crossed the country again. I spent the day with them eating fish, drinking Cameroonian beer and enjoying some time with good friends in a far away place, then we parted again; I went back east to Ebolowa and the border (by bus. Again), and they returned home to Douala.

Pagne party

Solo encore

So, I was back on my own, back on public transport, and back into the uneasiness and excitement that comes with entering a new country. This border crossing I knew by far the least about, other than that I would at least be able to keep my currency (Cameroon, Gabon, Congo, CAR, Equatorial Guinea and Chad all use the Central African Franc CFA). After a quick stop in Ebolowa, where I stayed with another PCV, Annie, I hopped a bus, then a moto, then a taxi to the tiny border town of Bitam in Gabon.

Another visit to a PCV! And an example of Cameroonian buses

Since I didn't really know what to do in Gabon, I decided to spend the day relaxing and planning the next three weeks that I had in this new country. I'd heard that Gabon was more expensive than its neighbors (implying more well-off people, as well), and after seeing three or four cyber cafes in a town with only a single paved road with some side trails and a consistent supply of electricity, I was impressed. Little did I know that this would be the last time that I would see either of those things until Libreville.

Bitam. They also had people who actually came out and picked up trash!

Instead, my next week and a half in Gabon would be more dictated by the natural and village life around me than the developed, connected town and city life I had come to know in Cameroon. That being said, the expense of Gabon was not an exaggeration. 

This is how much fun I have in expensive, jam-packed minibuses.

My first stop was Makokou and Ivindo National Park, in the NW of the country. This is a park known for its jungle and the Kongou Falls, so I thought I'd try to go on a bit of a trek to see both. After overcoming the initial sticker shock, I decided to tag along with a couple of Austrian brothers, Ulrich and Clemens on a 3-day trek with the staggering price tag of $360 (This amount of money is almost equivalent to the amount I spent in my entire 3+ weeks in Tajikistan). Gabon was starting to look like Mongolia: expensive to get anywhere, expensive to do anything, hard to travel alone and especially on the cheap, but rewarding if you were willing to shell out a bit of cash here and there.

An example of a Gabonese hotel room. My back was against the opposite corner when I took this photo.I could see the neighbor's room through cracks in the boards. Still, more expensive than air-conditioned hostels in Central Asia.

The Jungle

So, after a day of exploring the city, we were off! The three of us were loaded into a taxi, brought into the park, separated from our cash, then plopped in a pirogue (dugout canoe) for our 2-hour ride down the Ivindo river, deep into the jungle.

Our guide preparing for the mini-rapids

Immediately after setting foot in our camp, our guide pointed out some elephant footprints on the shoreline. This was just the first in many sightings of sign (elephant, boar, gorilla and panther tracks and scat) and live animals (mandrills, other monkeys, a type of otter, many birds, countless species of insect, spider and millipede, and eventually two live elephants!) Here are some of the few I was able to document, along with some vegetation. I apologize to the nature photographers and artists who read this (Floris and Jess in particular) for the quality of these photos.

Elephant footprints!

Grasshopper. I should have put a finger in for size comparison, as they are equivalent lengths.

Crazy vines. This one was over a foot thick in places and felt more like a tree trunk.

La mante religieuse

Fungi! It was tiny, size of a quarter each

Panther poop!


Antfest. There were so many different kinds of ants in this jungle...

earthworm writhing to escape the ants (unsuccessfully) 

flowering vine

Crazy roots. Apparently they provide good shelter when an elephant is charging you.

Crazy buttress roots. Not so helpful with the elephants, but good burial spots, apparently.

Army ants in formation. The column is about 2in wide.

Gigantic caterpillar!

Part of the Kongou Falls

The platform overlooking the falls with Remont, Ulrich and Clemens
Leo, Remont, Clemens, Ulrich and I at another set of Kongou Falls

Eventually, our time for adventures was over and we had to return upstream. We settled into the pirogue for a 3-hour ride back up the river. These hours were punctuated only by shifting position to hide from the sun, occasional bird sightings, and almost swamping the boat in a few rapids. Then, just as we thought we were out of the park and back on the road, we (almost literally) ran into two elephants! One was on a marshy island in the river (pictured below), while the other was on the bank. We watched them for several minutes before their huge bodies disappeared into the seemingly impenetrable forest.

Sleepy, sun-beat pirogue-ers on the way home


Back to the "main" Ivindo NP camp

Gabonese Transport, part 1

Once back in Makokou, the Austrians and I spent one last night together before parting ways (although I'll be meeting up with them again later this week when I go to Lambarene). My next stop was the town of Lope, a little equatorial village on the edge of another Gabonese National Park of the same name.

The minibus, and the roads.

Thinking that transport here would be like other places I'd visited, I assumed that I'd be able to get some sort of bus or taxi or car or train from one tourist destination (Makokou) to another (Lope). Wrong. It turns out most tourists in Gabon either a) don't exist, or b) are rich enough to drive themselves, hire a car entirely for themselves, or fly wherever they want to go. Since I surely existed and was sorely short on cash (turns out only Libreville and Point Gentil have ATMs), neither of these applied to me. Instead, I was told to take a minibus to Booue, then hop a train from Booue to Lope. Easy enough.

Pangolin bushmeat. Yes, these are endangered. Yes, the lady in the car bought it for $5.

Then I remembered that this is Africa. a 4-hour drive to Booue is actually 9+hours of finding a minibus, waiting for it to fill up, driving around town while the driver performs various unexplained errands, finally leaving, then stopping at every bushmeat salesman on the road (plentiful) so the lady in front can haggle for some illegal endangered (but delicious) meal. Once finally arriving in Booue, I figured the train would be easy enough to find. Wrong again. When I asked at the station about the next train, I was told that it wouldn't leave until the next day. Actually the next night. Actually, it left at 1am, so basically two days from now. "You want a ticket?" "No. Are there other options?" "I don't know, I just sell tickets." "Thanks..."

Just before I left to wander in search of a new taxi, a local came up to me and brought me to a couple of police officers. Until this point, all police officers in Gabon had done for me is look at my passport, try to find something wrong, then comment on all of my visas and stamps, so I didn't have high hopes for these two. In contrast, they told me to follow them over to the freight terminal and invited me up into the engine with the conductor to leave 20 minutes later on a train to Lope! Hitching trains suddenly became my new favorite form of travel.

Front row seat!
Since I've already written far too much for one post, I'll limit my description of Lope. In short, it was similarly expensive for guided tours ($60-$150/day), much less jungle, much more savannah, many fewer animals for sighting (by me), and an even tinier associated town than Makokou. On the first day I teamed up with some teachers from the American International School of Libreville (one was a friend of Lisa's) for some overrated tours. The second day I decided to head out on my own to wander some of the trails of the park. I was hesitant to go off trails (I'd heard stories of "savanna vipers") or into the jungle (monkeys are scary...), so I stuck to the ridge trails, read a lot, took a nap, and walked back out of the park around dusk as thunderstorms approached, just in time to get a long lecture in French from half a dozen park workers who were appalled that I had entered the unmarked park grounds without a guide (an unposted requirement, apparently). I arrived back at my tiny hotel room just as the deluge hit.

1500 year old rock carvings

Turtle tracks

Ogooe river

Lope National Park

Fun tracks, let me know if you identify them (finger for size comparison)

Gabonese Transport, part 2

After my 2 days in town, I was out of money and it was time to get to Libreville, A/C and ATMs. I started by heading to the train station, asking about trains (again), hearing about the 3am train (again), asking about alternate options ("les AUTRES trains...") and then a first: The police officers at the train station told me something to the effect of, "Oh, you want to get to Libreville, you don't want to wait until 3am and you don't have much cash? You should just go into town and hitchhike! The trucks come through pretty often, sometimes they'll take you for free, or a little something. They'll  have you to Libreville in no time!" Suddenly, my motivation for travel was rekindled. Hitchhiking in Africa? Done.

An hour later I found myself in the cab of a mercedes truck on its way from Franceville to Libreville. My driver was Cameroonian, so we were able to talk all about my time up there, politics, Central Africa and, of course, family. An hour after that, I found myself here:

How many truckers does it take to escape a mud pit? 11.

One truck was already stuck in the mud (from the night's deluge) and one was crippled with 3 blowouts (probably from attempted tows), my driver managed to power through the pit and come out unscathed, which was lucky because he then got to tow his partner's truck out, then the two successful trucks together towed the original truck out, who then towed the next truck that came along and got stuck out, so finally traffic could move both ways. Meanwhile, the truckers who weren't actively involved in the towing operations were rearranging wheels and spare tires on the crippled truck. La fraternite des chauffeurs


Finally, after being dropped off at a broken bridge near Libreville 6 hours later, I hopped another two taxis into town, met with Nick and Terry, the teachers I'd met in Lope, and settled into their air-conditioned, wifi-enabled, laundry-machine-equipped, beachfront apartment. Luxury is nice, sometimes, even when it's relatively simple. I got to accompany them to their school this morning to explore and remember what it's like to get kids who aren't used to actually thinking about science to actually think about science. It was a good day.

Nick's classroom (SS/LA)

Terry and his classroom (Science)

What's next

I shall soon be leaving this lap of expensive luxury to make my way south to Lambarene, at least one other National Park, and eventually on to Congo! No telling when or where I'll find internet again, so no promises on the next post. Until then!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Anglophone adventures


So I spent the last two weeks taking my moto through the NW and SW (anglophone) and W (back to francophone) regions of Cameroon. Internet was pretty terrible througout, so I stockpiled stories and photos to dump them on you now. Rather than try to do anything chronologically or choose between photos and stories, I have instead plopped all the most interesting photos here with all of the memorable stories. 

On the road! This was taken before most of the dust happened...


First off, some bad news: I won't be taking my moto outside of Cameroon. I had high hopes for the Cameroonian bureaucracy, but it turns out that it will take anywhere from a day (heavily bribed) to months (average) to get my registration and an unknown amount of time to get the license plate. Both of these things I need to apply for my Carnet de Passage from the CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) so that I can legally cross borders with the bike. The Carnet takes a minimum of 6 weeks processing time, plus shipping. I don't have that much time, so I'll be headed to Gabon and Congo the old fashioned way.

Stamps and photos. That's what makes it official


The gendarmes set up roadblocks all over the place. I was a little worried about them at first, since they apparently stop everyone. However, I have only been stopped twice thus far and they've looked at my (incomplete) paperwork, nodded, and waved me on. I think they're afraid to argue with a white guy, or they just don't care.


Over the two weeks and couple thousand kilometers, I saw all sorts of roads ranging from the high-quality multi-laned paved variety to... other. 

Sometimes they were smooth

Sometimes they were rough

Sometimes they were hilly

Sometimes they had lava
Sometimes they were idyllic country carriage roads

sometimes they were rutted (i watched a box truck half disappear in the rut to the right)

sometimes they were muddy

Sometimes they were more like single-track mountain bike trails

Sometimes there was no road

Peace Corps Volunteers

Up until now, I'd been staying with locals or Couchsurfers for most of my trip. Once in Cameroon, however, Evan and Lisa introduced me to a whole new jackpot of free housing and local knowledge: The Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV). Lisa had been one here a few years ago and put me in touch with her friend, Ryan, in Buea, through whom I met Nate, my next host, who told be about Ashley (below) and Ryan and Jamexas in Kumba, who set me up with some people in Mamfe who ended up not being around, but connected me with Cynthia and Eric in Bamenda, then Kristin in Njinikom, who introduced me to Steven and Alina in Fundong and called ahead to Christian in Kumbo who put me up for a night and we had drinks with Shannon and Ryan before heading down to meet 13 PCVs who all happened to be meeting up in Mbouda to celebrate Eric's birthday. They're the ones who gave me Annie's number, with whom we'll be staying in Ebolowa in the South before going to Gabon.

A common PCV (and Cameroonian) pasttime
PCVs are great for several reasons: 1) a refreshing taste of American culture in a very different place. This can be a good and bad thing, as it does remove one a bit from the local culture. However, this is why it's great that they are 2) very well connected with the local community, introducing their guests to interesting local people, cuisine, culture and places. 3) They all tend to be pretty cool people, as it's a self-selecting sort who decides to leave all that is familiar and comfortable and well-paying for two years to bucket bath, eschew moto riding (as per PC rules) and eat inordinate amounts of cassava on the other side of the world.

if I were a baby still, I would want to get weighed every day just to sit in this swing
As someone who came very close to becoming a PCV myself (I deferred my application in lieu of Outward Bound and independent travel the day my acceptance to PC Armenia was sent. I still have the welcome packet), it was great to get a glimpse of what life is like for a PCV on the ground.

Educating the mothers
Another side effect of staying with a tight network of PCVs all over a country is that you become intimately familiar with all of the Peace Corps drama and gossip. After a week, I had gathered enough gossip from my previous hosts that I was actually the bearer of new information for my next hosts, as I knew more than even they did. I still hope that I never actually meet Josh, knowing about how he's getting med-sepped from PC because he got robbed in Bamenda, but it's not so surprising that he's leaving because he wasn't so comfortable here to begin with and he's kind of just using it as an excuse to leave without having to ET which is worse and it sucks that he got robbed but he was kind of dumb for walking around commerce ave at 2am when there are always tons of taxis around and he was kind of asking for it to begin with but he's still a cool guy and will probably be missed when he's back in the states. Especially since he has no idea who I am.

The PCV gossip mill: "the only thing that actually works in Cameroon"


The first word I learned in Pidjin, a language spoken in the anglophone regions of Cameroon that's loosely based on English. It doesn't quite have a direct translation in English, but it's used daily here whenever you see someone in an unenviable position. Carrying a heavy load down the road? Ashia. Working in the hot fields? Ashia. Crashed your moto? Ashia. Hung over? Ashia. Have to go to work? Ashia. No job? Ashia. Riding your moto on a local street? Ashia. The response is almost always a smile and "thank you!".

"White Man!"

First off, there aren't many white people here. Those who are here are generally government or aid workers and mostly concentrated in major cities. A few make it to the villages, but usually in a taxi, company car, or riding on the back of someone's moto. When I come riding through, the look I get is generally ambivalence (lots of motos around), confusion (why is he wearing those weird clothes?), recognition (Whoa! Is he white??), and reaction (Waving, pointing, smiling and screaming "White Man! White Man! White Man!"). The same is true for white women, or people of any ethnicity who are culturally western or "white". Even some local Cameroonians who have lived in the states or Europe for a few years can lose their "blackness" and get nicknamed "the white" by their friends.


Once, I realized I missed a turn, so I pulled over to look at my map. The road was mostly deserted, but a young boy was walking his bicycle up to me, so I took off my helmet, turned to him and said, "Good morning! How are you? Is this the road to Buea?" The boy froze, his eyes went wide, he fumbled with his bike to try to turn it around, gave up, tossed the bike to the ground, turned tail and sprinted 50m away to stop and watch me cautiously. Dumbfounded, I just sat there watching and thinking, "This actually happens?" He didn't return to his bike until after I had ridden away.


After a few days of unseasonal rain, the true dry season set back in. The result is a lot of dust. I'm told it's better than mud.

Not the best fashion choice in a society that would rather "buy clothes than buy food"


On the way way from Kumbo back to Njinikom, the road turned back into the crazy single-track that I'd seen before. This time, however, I had to go up and over a 2500m (8200ft) pass. At one point, the road was so steep that even gunning it in 1st gear wasn't working and I stalled out. It was too steep to push the bike up on my own, so I put it in gear and ran alongside it while gunning the engine of the passengerless bike. After about 10m, I realized that I was running uphill pushing a motorcycle at 8000ft and collapsed, panting. About an hour later, I finally crested the summit and prepared for an equally steep downhill on the other side.

unfortunately there is no inclinometer on my bike, but you'll have to trust me that it's steep


I took my first (and hopefully only) two tumbles on the bike around the ring road. Both times I was barely going walking pace, if that, so I was fine and the bike was fine. The first was on a super steep, rocky, single-track of a road from Fundong to Bua Bua. I had stopped to let another bike pass (the locals are crazy on these bikes... I'm impressed) and getting started on the downhill again was tricky, leading my to tip my bike over. No biggie. The second time was taking a turn up a hill on a crazy dusty road just before Kumbo. Turns out dust is slippery. A bruised foot, loose mirror and plenty of "ashias" later, I was back on the road without a problem. 


Despite my bike being new, I've had to do a few repairs. I intentionally bought a cheap Chinese bike because I knew it's what all the locals rode, so if I ever had any problems anyone with a wrench could probably help me fix it. In most ways, I was right. My starter cables got caught in my chain once, locking up my chain and back wheel (I was going slow, thankfully) and rendering my bike effectively dead. Within moments, someone passed by, took a look at the damage, and started loosening bolts, tearing out wires, twisting them back together, taping things and tightening bolts again. I was back on the road in an hour. 

Clearly the best location for a repair shop

Other times I'm not so lucky. My front brake was rubbing, so I took it to the street where all the mechanics hang out. Apparently anyone with a box of tools can set up shop and pretend. I think they just mess with people's bikes until eventually they learn what they're doing. The guy who I came to dismantled my brake, then jammed his screwdriver between the pads to jack 'em open (rather than try to adjust the spacing and alignment, which is what I was thinking the plan was). So not only did he mangle the pads, but he also took off a little rubber gasket in the process and took 30 min to put it back together. When he was finally finished and the brake was still rubbing, he said, "oh, it's squeaking?" and applied oil to the disk. Thanks, dude. Nothing is better for a brake than greasing it up, I'm sure. It took a full day of riding the front brake to squeegee all of the oil off so that it could actually provide some stopping power. Win some and lose some, I suppose!

you can see a bit of my starter cable on the bottom there...


Most of the places I was in were hilly jungles, which leads to lots of waterfalls and pretty vistas:

they smelled nice

NW Cameroon

Met these guys while riding around Mt. Cameroon. They took me to see their swimming hole

This waterfall was surrounded by a church and images of the virgin mary

almost hidden waterfall in a not-so-hidden valley


In Africa, you see some crazy bridges. Some are super-modern overpasses that connect to dusty dirt roads on either side:

not nearly enough use to justify it, but it was nice to ride on

Some are leftover from pre-WWI German colonialism:

People still use this one

And some are straight out of Indiana jones:

Locals opt for the ferry here


I passed through tons of villages on this trip. Some big, some small, some anglophone, some francophone, some with electricity, some not, some with paved streets, others with walking paths. Here are some of the images:

Back in the land of Christ (with some juju mixed in)

Mt. Cameroon (4000+ meters) beyond Buea

A small village school

Said small village (I unfortunately forgot the name)


I saw this snake jump from a tree to attack the frog:
Then I think we scared it off and it let go:

End of story.


Africa has lots of them. I've seen some crazy spiders and crickets and cockroaches, not to mention all of the flying things that like to eat us.
That's a big pile of termite house

Whatchu lookin' at?


In Kumba (SW region), I stayed with a PCV named Ashley for a couple days. She, another Canadian aid worker, and I went up to a local crater lake to go swimming. There are these crater lakes all over Cameroon, and some spit out toxic gas from time to time and kill everyone and everything in the area. We just hoped that this wouldn't happen and headed on up. On the walk in, Ashley was explaining that there were rumors that you could see monkeys along the trail, but that nobody she knew had seen them and the locals all said they had moved away from where people are. As such, we didn't see any monkeys on the walk in despite our eagle-eyed attention to the jungle around us.

Then, while swimming, we heard an insane ruckus from the treetops across the lake. Pretty soon we saw two chimps chasing each other around the trees (it sounded like it must have been at least a dozen, I guess they're just really loud...). Even the locals were psyched, as seen here:



Unfortunately, I didn't take many photos of food this time around. Imagine lots of root vegetables (cassava, manioch mostly), or rice or plantains with some sort of sauce or beans or meat.



Off to Gabon and Congo! Hopefully I'll be able to upload some photos along the way.