We spent our first night in Africa at the Star Land Hotel. The hotel was impeccable by Cameroon standards with modern amenities and a nice food selection. This was by far the nicest place we would stay during our trip and served as a nice transition to the country.
Michelle arranged for a driver, Julian, to take us around the country. He lives near her village in Eastern Cameroon. On our trip he drove a yellow truck emblazoned with the MTN logo on the front and sides. Our luggage was tied to the bed of the truck and covered with a large tarp.
MTN is a South African telecom giant that appears to be in a fierce battle with the French multinational, Orange S.A. for Cameroon customers. Advertising for both companies was ubiquitous throughout the country with signs plastered on nearly all available surfaces and store fronts in Douala and elsewhere.
Julian was unfamiliar with the confusing Douala roads, so he enlisted the help of his friend to navigate us through the city from our hotel. We piled into the backseat while Julian’s friend sat up front and helped navigate.
The drive from Douala to Michelle’s village, Dimako, is listed at 8 hours and 12 minutes on Google Maps. The route we took is shown below.
Unfortunately, the drive took closer to 10.5 hours after accounting for traffic, poor road conditions and multiple “security” checkpoints. However, it provided a good chance to see the country.
The roads directly outside Douala were badly in need of repair and Julian had to constantly swerve to avoid potholes or slow down when obstructions blocked the road.
Our drive to Dimako passed us through the outskirts of Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. In the interest of time, we decided not to stop. After driving through the city, we took a quick break for lunch.
Lunch was at a small roadside “restaurant” where we ate an interesting dish that was a hybrid of tomato omelette and spaghetti. Or maybe it was just an omelette with spaghetti in it. Either way – it was one of my favorite meals on the trip.
The food was made to order on a small stove top.
After lunch Amy and I stopped in the street for a quick picture before we continued on.
The remaining drive was long and uncomfortable. The roads were already bad during the day – but after the sun set they became downright terrifying. Julian drove way too fast considering the poor road conditions: low visibility (of course there are no street lights) and lots of unexpected turns. The presence of huge lumber trucks speeding along in the opposite direction, weighed down with massive payloads, added to the real sense of danger.
Another danger was the inexplicable presence of pedestrians walking down the middle of the road at night. Julian swerved at the last minute on multiple occasions to avoid hitting people.
We passed several accidents on the drive. These were made all the more frightening by the presence of large crowds gathering around crushed cars or toppled motorcycles with no sign of forthcoming (trained) emergency assistance.
Needless to say, we survived the drive. We had left Douala before 11:00am and (finally) pulled into Michelle’s house a little before 10:00pm. From Ang Mo Kio, Singapore to Dimako, Cameroon. It was a long trip.