Bamenda Trip I
There are totally10 provinces in Cameroon. Traveling from Buea to Bamenda, we started in the Southwest Province, passing through the Littoral and West Provinces, before reaching the Northwest Province, where Bamenda is the capital. The middle two provinces are Francophone, making even buying bakery products difficult for Tom. Fortunately, the Northwest Province is Anglophone. It took about six hours driving time. In Bamenda we selected the Skyline Hotel, which is on top of a cliff overlooking the city. Our windows opened to spectacular views below, especially in the mornings when the clouds covered spots of the city, making it look like a dreamland We used this hotel as our base, while our escort and driver stayed in another hotel downtown. They would come daily at a specific time to pick us up for the day's activity.
The west side of the ring road is along a river named the Noun, all the way to Wum. From many angles, the river looked like what V. S. Naipaul described in his book "A bend in the river". The country roads also reminded us of the road leading to the experimental forests of National Taiwan University near Taichung. Except for the rice fields, which looked very different from those in Taiwan, other scenes are interchangeable. (Apparently Cameroon farmers do not transplant the rice into neatly arranged rows, it seems that they just sow them directly in the fields.) We did not see any animals or tractors used to help farming either. All along the way we saw women working in the fields, reflecting what we read in our guidebook which says that women produce 70% of the farm products in Africa.
Menchum Falls is located on the river. It was quite impressive, especially when you consider that this is at the end of dry season. There were a couple of workers there building a fence around the overlook area. We were told that last year a French woman died near the Falls when she slipped trying to step over some rocks to see the water more clearly. The infrastructure for tourists in Cameroon is almost non-existent. The only things a Tourist Office can usually provide to the visitors are guides, who have no idea about what is their responsibility and most likely got the relatively high paying job because of their relationship with the Office. Our maps in the guidebook are better than what the Office can provide, since they usually do not have any maps at all.
The Bamenda area has a very mild temperature, warm in the day time and cool at night. With plenty of water resources, Cameroon is definitely blessed. They grow plenty of food for themselves and more, and will be able to become richer if they can improve their transportation systems and food preservation technology. Right now, the mangos are just starting to get ripe. All along the road you can pick up buckets of them cheaper than you can hire a person to pick them from the trees in the U.S.
Included in the pictures of this section is one of the Sultan's Palace in Foumban. It is a fairly large building for Cameroon and was built by the 17th Sultan, Njoya, in the early part of the 20th century. There is a record of the sultans of the Bamoun people dating back to 1392. The current one is the grandson of the builder of the palace and is the 19th in the line of succession. He retired in 1992 from a series of ministerial positions in the government in order to take on the responsibility of the sultanate. Njoya was quite a ruler. He invented an alphabet for the Bauman language and wrote several texts, including a history of his people, using the new alphabet. He also built several other inventions, for example, a grinding machine, which made life easier for his people. There is a throne room on the first floor of the Palace with three large thrones, all of which are used but at different times and for different reasons. The second floor houses a museum with clothing and weapons and jewelry collected by Njoya and his successors. The Bamoun people are predominantly Moslem so we passed many mosques on our drive. Interestingly, Njoya tried to create a new religion combining aspects of Islam and Christianity, to satisfy all of his people. Needless to say, he was not successful. However, we have been impressed with the fact that Cameroonians of different religions co-exist quite peacefully. This is especially notable considering the problems in neighboring Nigeria where Moslems and Christians have serious conflicts. We will try to talk more about religions later.