Cameroon - Kakum NP
Day 128 (10 February) – Leaving Bamenda South
Bamenda to Korup National Park
We are making our way from Bamenda to Korup NP. The distance is easy to calculate but until we are on the road we have no idea how long it will take. It turns out the road from Bamenda to Bafoussam and Bandjoun is paved and in excellent condition.
Bandjoun is the biggest of the Bamileke chiefdoms and contains an impressive traditionally built palace. Each column (trunk of wood) is carved depicting scenes of daily life and special animals. There is a museum which displays beautiful beaded statues and masks along with musical instruments and traditional crafts.
We decide to move on from Bandjoun to look for a place to stay with our sights set on Santchou Reserve. As usual, the map and the GPS are not completely accurate and the distance is further than we think. We pull of the road into “My Country Inn” It looked new, clean and… deserted.
As we were poking around a woman came running up and said we could stay for 7000 a night (12Euro) – great! She offered to show us where to get something to eat but said we needed to go by motorbike. We elected Niels to go (he was able to negotiate using his car in the end). On her way out she said “That man (who had been quietly sitting in a chair) will give you 2000 before he goes to his room”. We asked again because it seemed a strange thing – couldn’t he just give her the money now. Or later? She repeated “That man will give you 2000 when he goes to his room and then you will give it to me when I get back”. Yea, ok, fine. It seems a bit weird but whatever.
Off she went with Niels. Stanley had pulled a chair out front of the terrace to take in the evening. As he sat there in his hat and sunglasses the man handed over 2000. It turns out the guy was waiting for a prostitute to show up and only would pay the room when he was going to use it. Stanley took the money and the couple disappeared into the room. Stanley was in temporary management of a brothel. It turns out, all other occupants of the “My Country Inn” were by the hour. We were the only “long term residents” – by comparison. But the staff were very friendly and the place clean. There were no prostitutes hanging around it seems you need to make your arrangements elsewhere and then come to My Country Inn.
Day 129 (11 February) – Road town to Ekondo Titi
We took a dirt road (shortcut) to the town of Kumba, where we had some omelets and coffee at Da Big Uncle restaurant. Just outside Kumba was a crater lake that could be nice for spending the night. But once at the gate the guards tried to rip us off by overcharging for ‘security’ and in the end making such a fuss we just left.
Back in Kumba it was Youth Day and all schools were celebrating. It was busy in the streets and we tried to drive through it. Locals are not always very nice in this town, as we met the Crater Lake guys; we were also stopped in one of the side streets were they took away the wooden boards across the open sewer and just asked ‘toll’ if we wanted to cross. What kind of bullocks is that??? We turned around and took another street.
We decided to get out of this town and push on for Korup National Park. To reach the park you had to drive a 100km or so, on a dirt road to the entrance town. The dirt road had a few obstacles with deep mud pools and it is always good to help out the locals that are stuck in the mud (plus it is fun when you can pull out a Toyota!).
Day 130 (12 February) – Mundemba
We took the day to arrange our walk in the park and rest a bit. Filter water, pack backpacks, and see the local market (not much to see).
Day 131 (13 February) – Korup National Park
Korup is Africa’s oldest remaining rainforest and scientists estimate that it is more than 60 million years old. Korup is primary tropical rainforest and has the highest number of species and natural genetic richness recorded so far in Africa. It is so rich in flora and fauna as a result of surviving the Ice Age. There are several traditional villages that still exist within the park boundaries. Many of the park staff are from these villages and know the forest intimately.
We met our guide, Chief Joseph, and his son (who would be our porter) outside the park headquarters in the morning and drove the 8km rough dirt track through palm oil plantations to the edge of the park. We entered by crossing a wood plank suspension bridge over the boundary river which should be added to our growing list of irresponsible places to bring your kids.
We were making an 8km hike to Rengo Rock Camp where we would spend the night. The walk took the better part of the day. We carried Senna and Eowyn walked with us. The forest was thick, green in every direction (including when you looked up). The air was wet and hot and we could not escape the heat – there is no breeze getting through the thick forest.
It was a beautiful walk and Eowyn made it the whole way! Some small bridges were missing and we needed to balance on small tree branches or stones to cross the streams. The tourist infrastructures, including bungalows at the camp sites, were destroyed by villagers after a park ranger shot and killed a boy in the forest. There is ongoing tension between the authorities and the villagers inside the forest and the infrastructure has not been rebuilt. We slept in tents and could take water from the stream.
We spent a peaceful night in the middle of the forest. There were so many sounds but you see nothing. Especially when the sun goes down – then is it pitch black!
Day 132 (14 February) – Korup National Park
On the walk back we tried to spot monkeys, and saw some white-nosed monkeys high up in the trees. It is so difficult to see with the thick bush. You think you see something but it turns out to be just a shadow, but then it moves, but maybe it is still just a shadow – or a breeze – or a monkey. Then ahh-ha! You catch a glimpse of a monkey high up in the canopy (usually you see the shaking tree before you see the monkey) but describing the location to another person is difficult. “It is up there, on that tree. No not that one! The tall one with the long branch. Green leaves. You know – that one!” By then they are long gone having jumped 10 trees away. Spotting monkeys wasn’t helped by the two smallest members of our group. If anyone said the word monkey Senna started with a chorus of “Monkey! Monkey! Monkeeeeeeyyyy!!” Julia tried hanging back with Senna so the others might have a chance but then she started in with “Papa! Papa! Paaaapaaaa!!” Eowyn was slightly better. We could explain to her that she had to be very, very quiet in order to see monkeys. She would pinch her lips closed and open her eyes wide looking around for monkeys and then say “Was that quiet!?” and “I was quiet, huh!?”