If our bodies have been coping very well with Africa’s heat, dust and humidity until now, our electronical equipment hasn’t. After the camera and the GPS, now it’s time for the external hard disk, the communication system and several cables to cause trouble. Our time in Yaoundé is spent on looking for cables and the like. We leave late one afternoon towards Bertoua, from where a gravel road will lead us to Yokadouma and Congo-Brazzaville. Unfortunately, the tarred road to Bertoua degrades after Abong Mbang and turns into a slippery and dusty nightmare after Doumé. Apparently the sealing of the road is still unfinished… We arrive after dark in Bertoua, luckily the GPS directs us directly to a comfortable hotel. This is probably going to be the last electrical power and running water we’ll encounter for the next week or two.
We set off early morning towards Batouri. We don’t dare to speak it out aloud, but the gravel road seems reasonable and the sky remains more or less blue. Little traffic here, except for aggressively speeding logging trucks and a few heavily overloaded minibuses that creep slowly over the hills. Stretches of dense forest alternate with open tree savannah and there are far more villages bordering the road than we expected in this supposedly remote area of Cameroon. The people are mostly Bantus, but surprisingly there are also quite a lot of cattle-herding muslims that look very much like the Peul or Fulani in the North. Batouri doesn’t count a single square meter of asphalt, not even at the modern fuel station, where we get first-hand information about the road to Yokadouma. It should be a little bumpier than what we rode this morning, but not too bad either. Indeed, the weather remains dry and to our pleasant surprise we make it all the way along the border with the Central African Republic to the dusty logging town of Yokadouma before dark.
In Mambele, the conservator of Lobeke NP and his team are not inclined to let us ride the bikes for more than 100 km along a narrow forest track to a tourist camp at the Sangha river near the 3-country-point (CAR, Cameroon, Congo) for fear of us being blocked by fallen trees. We finally agree to be taken into the forest by a car next morning and then walk to swampy forest clearings with good chances of seeing elephants, buffalos, gorillas and antelope species. Our guide, the eco-guard and a porter draw our attention to whatever flies by, hangs or stands around and tell us everything they know about medicinal use of tree barks and plants. Rheumatism, by the way, is supposed to be rare here and can best be cured by a calming ointment of elephant dung…
|Black-and-white colobus monkey;other common species include grey-cheeked mangabey and greater white-nose monkey.|
|Male sitatunga antelope.|
|Early-morning view from the mirador at Djangui (Greater Savannah).|
|For more pics, see album "Autoroute du bois".|
With a slight hangover, we leave late for Socambo, the border town at the Sangha river. Luckily, the magnificently scenic road – that goes straight through the park – is even better here, due to less traffic and recent maintenance. When we finally arrive in Socambo, the last ferry is about to leave, so we take our time to arrange the paperwork today (and manage to avoid the repeatedly asked for “tax” or “fee”), spend the night in a very rustic riverside hostel and cross the Ngoko river tomorrow.