FugitiveApril 18, 2017 in Cameroon ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C
I'm probably at my 500th check by some kind of officialdom, but this one goes a little differently. I pull up to the rope across the narrow dirt road, the gendarmerie person slowly approaches, rifle in hand and asks for papers. Hand over the passport, all fine. Next he wants my driving license, all fine. Next he wants my vaccination card. At this point I know he is fishing and I just have a sense he is going to be difficult. Next he wants the motorcycle registration, but i make a point of taking back my other papers first.
Surprise surprise, my registration is 'not valid' as it's not issued in Cameroon. This is complete rubbish! He also says I don't have correct insurance - I do. It's quite clear that he is looking for some money, but I've got this far without paying bribes and don't plan to start today. Normally these situations can be solved by making it clear you're not going to pay and generally making their life a little difficult in return. So I start deploying my array of tricks.
After 2 hours I've made some progress, I've got myself to the other side of the rope and I can tell he is getting fed up with me, but he is still asking for a 'fine' to be paid. I've been exercising the 'I've got all day technique' whilst remaining sat on the bike, but it's not really working. So for the last hour I've had another plan. The bike is pointed in the right direction, I've left it in gear and the ignition is on. So all I need is for the guy to go to the bathroom. Lets face it a guy need two hands for a rifle and one for a piss, and there is no way he is going to turn around and prioritise the rifle midflow!
The only problem is the guy just doesn't need to go! I'm getting bored of this and I see he has his gun in an awkward position under his leg whilst he is laying down. Starter hit, revs up, clutch dropped, gendarmerie covered in dust - heart beating just a little fast. He still has my registration, but that's why I have colour photocopies - to leave with the gendarmerie!
Onwards I go as fast as the rocky dirt road will take me, in a different direction to what I told the gendarmerie. After another 2 hours I nervously approach another gendarmerie checkpoint. Asked for passport, go to hand it over.....can't find it! I can't believe this, I'm sure I took it back earlier, I can't have been so stupid as to speed away without my passport. I really can't face the idea of going back. Found - I'd just put it in a different pocket. Through the checkpoint without issue.
Another hour and the bike has overheated...in the middle of nowhere. After looking around I find the water pump is leaking. It must have been damaged when the bike blew into the ditch a few days ago. After a short walk to the nearest village I've filled up the radiator. Surprisingly it lasts to a garage to be fixed without overheating again. Turns out to just be a damaged hose rather than the actual water pump.
The next couple of days see me visit a stunning tea plantation, but first I had to negotiate the hardest road yet, all on my near bald rear tyre. First I choose the wrong path and get stuck in the mud as the path narrowed and deepened. After digging through the mud I find my clutch pedal, put it in neutral and get some help to pull the bike out. Then all I need to do is Straighten the brake pedal and follow the right path. I end up going through a puddle that has water up to the seat! Luckily I don't stall or drop the bike and I get out the other side. As always the cheap little Chinese bikes seem to negotiate this terrain much more easily!
1) The mud roads of Cameroon
2) How I looked after the mud
3) Just before Gendarmerie
4) The Bamenda ring road
5) Tea plantation
6) Banana anyone?Read more