Friday, 18 February 2011

Finally the Christmas holiday blog post

For those of you who have forgotten, Christmas occurred about two months ago, and while for you it was cold and snowy, for me it was hot and sweaty. I spent two weeks travelling in Nigeria and Cameroon, and will attempt to give you a summary below.

First to Obudu Cattle Ranch
The first part of my Christmas holiday involved seven of us, Beth a volunteer in Kano, and her man Dan, who visited from the UK, Heather from Kaduna, me, Richard from Lafia, Lucy (also from Bournemouth) who lives in Dutse, where she is seriously deprived of female company and alcohol, and Sarah, a Dutch volunteer who lives near Calabar.
Intestine road - view from cable car
So off we went to Obudu Cattle Ranch. This is a proper tourist destination, with proper tourist prices, we stayed in a small guest house, Abebe’s to avoid such prices. It is beautiful and has been called Nigeria’s lake district, we walked down a steep hill, in fact it was more like a mountain, to swim in a freezing river, walked back, drank some beer and sang some songs in the evening, and enjoyed a trip in the cable car and swim in the pool complete with water shoots and slides!
Clearly something was funny!
More Obudu photos

Then to Athi
Athi is a drill reserve, the drill being a monkey, related to a baboon. It provides a habitat for monkeys that will eventually be released into the wild, these have often been intercepted when people try to smuggle them across borders, its also houses some rescued chimps. It is also a rather wonderful place to relax and chill out, as you will see from the pictures. There is no mobile phone reception there, but we did get a daily alarm call from the pit latrine, unfortunately Beth managed to drop her phone in the poo! Needless to say at seven the following morning it sang from the depths!
More Athi photos
To Akpap Okoyong for Christmas!
Dutch Sarah bravely invited six Brits for Christmas to her little village Akpap Okoyong, it took us a while to learn to say that. The village is also known as Mary Slessor village, she was a Scot who campaigned for the end of the killing of twins, traditionally twins were seen as a bad omen and had to be killed at birth.
Fixing a throttle cable in the dark, with the engine running, no wahalla!
Our journey to Akpap Okoyong, was a bit stressful, we had arranged to be picked up from Athi at 8am, no sign of our driver by 9, and no mobile phone reception. Fortunately there was an okada driver (motor bike taxi) and I was sent to the village to order seven bikes for the one hour trip to the village. Even that journey took around 15 minutes and was a bit too exciting for my liking due to the rather steep wet road. So when I got back with seven bikes and drivers, I was relieved to see that our car had turned up, of course we paid the bikes, before squeezing seven of us plus driver into the car, we went for five in the back, and two on the front passenger seat. A couple of times we had to “dismount” to make it up a hill, and the driver also hit the engine with a rock but eventually we made it to the main road and then to Ikom.
Pancakes and Bucks Fizz for breakfast on Christmas Day
The next journey took us to Calabar, where we did a Christmas Eve “supermarket dash” before proceeding to Akpap Okoyong. Our driver said we should swap vehicles as the alternator wasn’t charging, it was already dark so we said drive on. Then the throttle cable snapped, he just happened to have a spare one and fixed it with the engine running and in the pitch dark. We tried not to get run over, become victims of armed robbery or kidnap, we succeeded.
Finally we made it to Akpap Okoyong, Christmas Eve 9pm, and so to bed!
My poem from Secret Santa
Christmas Day, Bucks Fizz (gin, orange juice and sprite) with pancakes for breakfast, no stockings as Santa couldn’t find a chimney, scrabble, fish and chips for dinner. We had an afternoon walk, presents from secret Santa, and dinner complete with crackers. Only problem was when the water disappeared unfortunately before we gutted the fish! We managed to get some more, and fortunately it returned the next morning, but when we went to bed we were rationed to 3 bags of Pure Water each, that’s about 1.5 litres, to drink, wash with and clean our teeth!
Christmas Dinner
More Christmas Day photos
Boxing Day off to Calabar
So next to Calabar, for the carnival and the route to Cameroon. I liked Calabar, compared to other Nigerian cities; it seemed much cleaner and calmer. There are litter bins, no okadas; and good public transport. The carnival was fun but not quite up to my expectations, the atmosphere was great though, lots of Nigerians out to have fun, and as it was purely carnival no fear of “trouble” unfortunately that came later, to Abacha Barracks on New Year’s Eve.
Calabar carnival
More Calabar photos
Cameroon was fun, but brief, three days climbing a mountain, two on the beach and back! The mountain was great, really hard work, we started at 1100 metres above sealevel and reached the summit the next day which is 4095m, so basically it was a steep steep climb. It was beautiful though and very interesting being an active volcano, last erupted in 2000. As we walked through the lava flow, some was just ash, the more recent, but other areas, had started to host their own habitats. Some of it reminded me of a coral sea bed. I asked our guide whether there were local beliefs about the mountain, he said that they used to sacrifice albinos to the mountain when it erupted, now they sacrifice goats instead. The guides are mostly former hunters, and have been trained as guides to give them an alternative livelihood. Bush meat itself is not bad, we got to eat some unknown species, likely to be rat or squirrel, yum! but it includes threatened species such as chimps and gorillas.
We made it 4095m above sea level
After the mountain we went out in Limbe to welcome in 2011, and just about managed to stay awake until midnight, and then had a couple of days on the beach before returning to Naija!
Is this the sea or the ocean?!
More Cameroon pictures
Differences between Cameroon and Nigeria
OK a big disclaimer, I have spent six days in a very small part of English speaking Cameroon and nearly 12 months in Nigeria. However it seemed quieter, ie not the Nigerian insistence on turning up the volume so loud that everything is distorted, “horning” for no apparent reason, nobody shouted Oyibo, Baturi, or Onyocha (Nigerian terms for white person) or equivalent words, apparently they don’t have such words in Cameroon. Pepe was optional in Cameroon, but the people were less friendly, I think. I didn’t get to taste much Cameroon food apart from fish and plantain which was very good, but is also good in Nigeria. There was of course the spaghetti omelette!
Choosing fish and prawns for lunch

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