Rain and mud – Cameroon on a bike

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One second I was upright going down a gentle slope and the next I was on the ground with the bike on top of me. It had rained on the night and the red clay road was a slippery as ice.

As slippery as ice!

It would have been easier to continue on the tarred road to Yaounde and from there onto Douala from where I would be flying to Benin to avoid Nigeria, but when I thought about the most memorable moments of my Africa ride I realised they had always been away from tarred roads, in places where nature still has the upper hand.

Away from tarred roads and in the middle of nature

My window of opportunity to ride on these roads was getting narrower with the approaching rains when the clay roads would become impassable. Although I wasn’t feeling at my best, I had to go for it or I would regret it later on.

No regrets!!

There was something about Cameroon that was helping my spirit. I found small things like neatly hanged clothes on the washing line uplifting, in my eyes, someone cared. The signs at the entrance of the villages with their well organised classification made me feel safe and put order in  my unsettled mind. Maybe it was all an illusion and Cameron was not different from Gabon but if it was, the illusion worked an slowly my spirits began to lift.

Neatly hanged clothes – someone cares
Organised!

The road I was on was beautiful, the forest around me thick and in the forest lots of villages with water pumps although I soon found out that many weren’t working when in a few of them I was back to walking in the forest for 10 minutes to find a water hole where I could wash, always under the watchful eye of the village children.

Water pump but is it working?

Being constantly in public display is the hazard of sleeping in villages but the daily rain provided me with the excuse to take refuge in my tent and eat my meals in a bit of privacy.

Watching my every move!!

Rain on these roads means mud. I had been warned by the locals that I’d encounter some and indeed I did. Fifty tons wood lorries make huge muddy holes on the road and each time I came to a bad patch I got of my bike and walked.

I had seen the signs
With the passing of each lorry the road got worse

Getting off the bike meant that it was easy to stop to talk to people.  My French was a bit rusty but good enough to be able to have a conversation. That’s how I found out that the toy the little boy was happily playing with had been made by himself, he was so proud of it that he let me push it for a bit up and down the road and that the beautiful flowers a woman was carrying were grown in her garden and every week she took a bunch to the Catholic Church.

He had made his toy with sardine tins
Flowers from her garden for the church

The Catholic Churches and Missions provided a safe place to sleep as guesthouses were in short supply in the remote road I was on. This changed once I got back on the tarred road. I particularly remember stopping at one in a settlement in the middle of a palm plantation. I had been cycling for a while through tidy rows of palm trees before getting to it. It was wet and muddy but the guesthouse was surprisingly clean and well run, as in the rest of this side of Africa there was no mosquito net so I put my tent on the bed and went out for dinner down the road.

Missions always welcomed me

I bought some fish and manioc from a food stall run by a young woman with a baby on her back and went to sit in the local bar to eat it.  It was Sunday and the place was busy with all the palm plantation workers on their day off. Crates and crates of beer piled high against one of the walls behind me and on a rickety table, a full P. A system was blasting out loud music. People came in moving to the rhythm of the music and queued at the bar for their beer. I queued with them, bought one and went back to my table. From where I was sitting I could see a big  flat screen TV on a wall with rows of chairs set out in front of it. No one took any notice of the Latin American soap showing on the screen and no one took any notice of me which gave me the opportunity to soak it all in.

Outside was raining again, there was mud everywhere and it was really dark. As I picked my way back to the guesthouse, I was expecting to see the small grocery stalls you find in villages but instead I saw stalls with low wattage bulbs selling old machinery parts, the oil in the puddles irisdecent in the faint light.

The next day I left the village in the rain and cycled towards a cross roads where I was going to meet George, a generous Greek living in Cameroon who had offered me a place to stay in Douala, my last stop in Central Africa. Good food, a comfortable house and interesting company was exactly what I needed and when in the pouring rain, I walked up the stairs of the plane to Benin I felt excited, wondering what West Africa would have in store for me.

19 thoughts on “Rain and mud – Cameroon on a bike”

  1. So glad to see that your wonderful optimism is returning and your spirits rising.
    The mud roads must make the going hard but the photos of the people you meet, sights you are seeing and your own smiling face make me smile too.
    May good fortune travel onwards with you Blanca!
    Maureenx

  2. Despite the rain and mud, things seem to be picking up for you Blanca! I enjoyed very much your brief account of this part of your journey. Do stay strong and safe, I know it’s very easy to say from this dude of the world. I did try to picture myself doing what you are doing, which only increased my outmost admiration for your adventure. Wish you all the very BEST in your West Africa chapter!

  3. Hola Blanca,
    Muy buen relato de este tramo. Como siempre uno se imagina estar alli contigo. Informaciones muy ricas para poder vislumbrar una travesia de estas en el futuro. Muchas gracias por compartir cada detalle con nosotros. Esperando con entusiasmo tu proximo relato. Saludos desde Brazil.

  4. OMG Blanca. What an amazing woman on an equally amazing journey – an absolute inspiration to those of us reading your blogs from the comfort and safety of our worlds! I was sad to read about your low spot – a hard place to be so far from home, family and friends. Having witnessed your courage, compassion and perserverance, I feel confident in your ability to deal with it.

    Sending lots of love and best wishes for safe travels.
    Babs

  5. how do you even push a bike let alone ride along a mud road? But I’m glad you’ve found some smiles and greetings on the way. much love, carol xxxx

  6. Very hard to keep going and to remember the joy of small encounters when you are tired and challenged daily. I am in awe of your tenacity and know it comes at a very high price. This is well outside your comfort zone. But you continue to find joy in spite of the overwhelming odds. This is something pretty unique. X

  7. You continue to amaze me dear Blanca with your strength, resilience and determination in the face of adversity. Sorry to hear about your fall- and all that mud but fantastic to see and hear about all the wonderful people you’re meeting en route. Sending much love xxx

  8. So happy your happy again Blanca. I managed to ride from Bolzano in the Dolomites to Venice last week. Only a matter of 165 miles but I did have the luxury of luggage transfer and a cosy hotel each night. I’m loving your epic journey it has really inspired me get out there and do my own thing too.. I started in Tallinn, Estonia, on midsummer’s day.

  9. Loving the gentle way you describe venturing along the mud path. The simple image of white hanging washing. Your tent on the bed – good lord, I have never had to do that. May the Greek guy offer you warm tasty food and a soft comfy bed and a long hot shower. Onward and upwards Blanca. Best wishes from rainy grey Dublin, xx

  10. Hi Blanca,
    Oh my goodness so much mud but so much beauty as well.
    Well done for taking the hard route to enjoy the countryside.
    Take care and look forward to youir next instalment.
    Love
    Alison x

  11. Hi Blanca, I’m sorry you’ve been having a tough time. Your pictures are gorgeous, really evocative of the beautiful country you’re cycling through. It looks like you met some wonderful people on the way. Enjoy your last few days in West Africa! x

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