My first hike to Mt. Cameroon
If you still consider me a hiker, you would wonder how in the world that I could stand it with the beautiful and mystic mountain almost right behind our house and I have not climbed it in the two months since we arrived! Well, that's the way it is in Cameroon, nothing is exactly what you expect! First of all, I was told that it was not safe to hike there without a guide. There seems to be no recreational hiking around here. I had a hard time to find anyone who could tell me how to get to the trail head to get started. Then I was told that I not only needed a guide but also needed to hire a carrier to take my water and food from the tourist office if I truly wanted to take a hike. Everything seemed to be such a big deal, that I just could not get there earlier! We have been here in Cameroon now since the end of September. Finally, last week, we met a young man who is interested in doing his graduate degree in Environmental Science at ETSU who quickly agreed to take me there. We went to hike on the mountain last Saturday, Nov. 17.
The trail head is only two miles behind our house. You can see from the sign in the corresponding picture section that they do not want any one to go up there without permission. We have heard that it is because of "safety" reasons. Daniel and I arrived at the trail head by taxi at 8am. The first section went through some farms and past a jail house. You could see mostly women working in the fields with their children. They were very friendly, greeting us and wishing us a good journey. Then we went into the rain forest. According to Daniel, the forest is not as dense as it used to be because of too much cutting, legal or illegal. We saw huge ferns and big trees, heard and saw a lot of birds, and certainly many, many wild flowers. There were a few trail clearers, working on the elephant grass along the trail, apparently hired by the tourist office. The grass is so tall that it will cover elephants - I suppose that is where the name comes from! We saw also a few runners who were practicing for the race coming up in February, which is for people in super shape to run the 74 km trail up the mountain and back in 4.5 hours! There was only one stream with water along the way and that was the water source for the whole town, Buea. After four miles, I was already exhausted. It was apparent that I have been working in the office for two months without exercise! Daniel was the one to encourage me to keep going to Hut-1. There was no let down, it was just up and up! I could not remember that I was ever in such bad shape after only four miles before. Finally, I was delighted that Hut-1 was in sight, we had lunch there and "ran" down in two hours.
So now I have been there once to test the mountain slopes. I feel a lot better having been introduced to the conditions. I hope that when Steven comes to tackle the whole trail next February I will be ready - maybe with guides and carriers!