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  • Day137

    If first impressions matter, then Cameroon is going to be a corker! After crossing the border I'm greeted with 100 miles of beautiful smooth tarmac sweeping side to side and up and down through the greenest rainforest. I'm in a post malaria euphoria and having a ball.

    Even the small niggles are just entertaining at the moment. On leaving Nigeria I got told off for parking too near the flag pole. Oops! Then on the beautiful smooth road I stopped to water the rainforest - as I finish I hear a crash. The wind has blown over the bike....into a ditch! No problem, wave down the next car, get 4 people to help me retrieve it, then back on the way.

    I arrive in Bamenda earlier than expected, so go and visit one of the many crater lakes nearby. Wow is this a stunning setting, beautiful clear water surrounded by forest.  It's also brilliant because this area is at altitude, and so I have bearable temperatures. That evening I'm back in Bamenda and whilst watching the football in a bar I get speaking to a couple of guys who tell me all about Cameroon. When I said I'd been in Nigeria their comment was "you've passed through hell my friend" - maybe a tad harsh.

    The morning comes around and I'm off to travel the famous Bamenda ring road, 250 miles of mud track in the mountains. Well I'll admit to being a tad nervous, the rains should have started already, and I still don't have a new rear tyre - I have no idea what's coming. Well the answer is a bit of everything. I've had smooth tar, sand, dried mud, rocks...but no rain.

    On the way I stop at a traditional fondom. These are local chiefdoms that have existed several hundred years and have largely been left to exist by the German, British and Cameroon governments. So I get shown around the Fon's complex by one of the Fon's wives, but I'm a week too early for their grass cutting festival. The political structure is really interesting and developed, but too long to explain here. There is also a museum with amazing wooden life size carvings, but unfortunately photos aren't allowed.

    Onwards I move and go to stock up in the last town before the wilderness really begins. This proves quite difficult as today is 'ghost town' day. Every monday the 2 english speaking regions go on strike to protest about the treatment from the francophone government. In these areas there has been no schooling for 6 months and 3 months ago the government cut all internet to the regions. This is one of the reasons my update is late, but it's probably for the best as criticising the government can get you up to 11 years in jail!

    1-3) Lake Awing and surrounding mountains
    4) The bike having a lay down
    5) The Fon's temple
    6) Pimp my ride African style
    Read more

  • Day139

    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 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

You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of Cameroon, Kamerun, Cameroon, Kameroen, Kamɛrun, ካሜሩን, Camerún, كاميرون, Камерун, Kameruni, ক্যামেরুন, ཀ་མེ་རུན།, Kameroun, Camerun, Y Camerŵn, Kamerun nutome, Καμερούν, Kameruno, کامرون, Kameruun, Cameroun, Cameron, Camarún, કૅમરૂન, Kamaru, קאמרון, कैमरून, Կամերուն, Kamerún, カメルーン共和国, კამერუნი, កាមេរូន, ಕ್ಯಾಮರೋನ್, 카메룬, کامیروون, Cameronia, Kameruuni, Kamɛrune, ຄາເມລູນ, Kamerūnas, Kamerune, Kamerūna, Kamerona, കാമറൂണ്‍, कॅमेरून, ကင်မရွန်း, Khameruni, क्यामेरून, କାମେରୁନ୍, کېمرون, Camarões, केमेरून, Kamerûne, කැමරූන්, Kaameruun, கேமரூன், కెమరూన్, ประเทศแคเมอรูน, Kemaluni, كامېرون, کیمرون, Ca-mơ-run (Cameroon), Kamerunän, Orílẹ́ède Kamerúúnì, 喀麦隆, i-Cameroon

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