Traveling is a challenge in Cameroon

There are a few decent buses that travel between a few of the large cities in this country. Well decent for Cameroon. I always buy two seats so I have my bags near my lap and not another person. There are four seats across but the bus companies shove in a fifth person so that everyone is on the edge of their seats literally. Squeezed and sweating together, few people ever complain. I constantly have to hold up my two tickets before someone tries to sit on my lap. That white woman bought two seats, but thats our life, they are thinking. They are used to being herded into public transport without any respect or caring for their discomfort. Whenever I discuss the inequalities and frustrations in this country, the response is c’est la Cameroon; this is Cameroon. The one thing they seem to agree on is their helplessness as citizens.
I had been using public transport since I arrived in the country two months ago. I had figured out how to avoid waiting hours until a shared cab was full and rarely did I ever take a bus because that could mean hours waiting for every seat to be taken and then to load everything from bicycles to huge stalks of plantains on top of the bus. I found my own personal taxi driver who I would call the day before I was leaving, agree on a time, buy 2-3 seats and by morning he would have all the passengers lined up and we would leave within minutes. I drove around a lot with Leo on the back of his tiny motocycle, a Suziki 150 hp but he was a huge guy and I ended up sitting on the metal rack. He was a great driver but one of the last times I rode with him, he lost control of the bike and we ended up in a ditch by the side of the road. Luckily we were going slow so no great injuries. From then on I hired guys with heavier bikes that actually had a seat for a passenger. The day I left Fundong to catch the bus from Bamenda to Douala, my
taxi driver, Joseph was so concerned about my safety that he called me when my bus reached Douala. This brings up the issue of taxi drivers and the owners of the taxis.
The taxi owners are a greedy arrogant lot, not respecting the men who drive for them. We had been returning from Bamenda a few weeks earlier, I on my bi monthly excursion to the supermarket to augment my diet of tomatoes, onions, potatoes and papaya and load up on crackers, juice, olive oil and la vache qui rit since it doesnt need refrigeration. The owner of the car was sitting squeezed in the front seat with three other people, yes four in the front of a small Toyota. He told me they would be going back to Fundong in two hours so I jumped at the opportunity for a no hassle return. Two hours turned to five, I hanging with the workers at the supermarket passing out French made cookies as they recounted the frustrations in their life.
The security guard worked 96 hours a week for $50 a month, the typical salary in the villages and had to support eight children. Whenever I ask why did you have so many children, they shake their heads and smile, thats our tradition. I did my usual speech on less children equals healthier educated children etc. but I dont see this changing in these countries until they can rise out of poverty. Back to the taxi and Joseph. We finally started our journey back with the owner of the cab in the front and next to me, a school teacher from Fundong that we picked up in town. Halfway back to town, we took another passenger and from that moment on, the school teacher had taken up half of the back seat, coughing in my face and leaning against me. When I could control my anger no longer, I pushed him away, letting him know I had bought two places and to get off my lap. Everyone was proud of me and the obnoxious guy got out at the next town. Almost home Gerald, the owner of the cab who worked in the courts as a stenographer, invited me to take a short ride to the village of Meli to see his bar and grocery store ten minutes from Fundong. Ten minutes became four hours as we passed three SUVs carrying various government and military officials who had been checking the quality of life in the villages. Gerry jumped out of the taxi and ran to the fleet of officials, inviting them
back to his bar for a few drinks. The procession turned around and we all bumped along on the unpaved dirt road back to Meli. That was the night I made all my connections and realized most of these government officials were as I assumed. They were lucky men and women who had known the right people. The only one who impressed me was the agro forestry supervisor who in his drunken stupor tried to explain to me why and how the countrys electric was privatized by the government. In other words they sold it to a private company who had raised the prices but did not expand the coverage or maintained any of the equipment thus daily outages which lasted for days at a time in the remote villages. Sadly the company who runs the electric power is a large American corporation called AES. The complicity of corruption is this country involves European governments, and world corporations. I am still investigating how deep it runs.
While I was gathering information from Gabrielle, the drunken agro specialist, everyone else was in various states of alcohol consumption, demanding my attention so they could explain that canda (somewhere between hot sex and fucking) was the greatest pleasure in life. It was almost eight pm and Joseph the driver who had gotten up for work at six am was exhausted. I asked him if his boss was always inconsiderate, sometimes he said. After several requests Gerry, agreed to leave but he kept partying at a bar in Fundong and Joseph drove me home as the rains began. I only made four trips to Bamenda to buy food in the six weeks I was in Fundong because the thought of dealing with the transport turned me so far off. It would take hours to go 100 km (75miles) in broken down shared taxis with bad drivers and four in the front seat. So I waited until I had finished my work in Fundong to do any serious traveling. I soon found out that no matter where you go in Cameroon, unless you have your own vehicle, it is a nightmare.
The day I left Fundong, Joseph drove me to Bamenda and I bought two seats on the bus to Douala. The bus arrived at the central station in Bonaberri, the worst slum in Douala. Mostly dirt roads with pot holes filled with stagnant water, especially during the rainy season, when there is a terrible malaria problem because the government does nothing to improve the conditons. An onslaught of young men surrounded the bus, trying to help you get your luggage and take you to a taxi and demand as much money as they could. I thought the guys who took my bags were the taxi drivers so when they took me over to a taxi and the driver wanted 4000 cfa,(the usual price is 3000) I made him pay the young men for helping me, finally yelling in French that I knew he was overcharging me so if he wanted the fare, pay the guys. The driver became more and more belligerent when he realized I was going further than he thought. Taxi drivers are a challenge anywhere but in poor countries that are con men. My next excursion was on the bus to Kribi, on the coast.
This was actually the best bus service I ever found in Cameroon. It left on time, did not squeeze people into nonexistent seats and was clean. Kribi was suppose to be the jewel of Cameroon,the vacation spot for the weathy from Douala and Yaounde.
Unfortunately since Exon Mobil put the pipeline in from Chad through the north east of the country down to the coast, the ocean was no longer blue but black. There was obviously huge amounts of oil spillage. The government was getting a lots of bucks from Exon and since no one complained Exon did nothing to clean it up. So I never had my beach vacation in Kribi thanks to one of the richest corporations in the world. Traveling in Cameroon will be continued..

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