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February 7, 2013 / samwilson60

Back on track in Yaoundé

The only thing obviously lacking at the Presbyterian guesthouse in Yaoundé was food and drink, so before even trying out the shower we thought we’d best pop to the supermarket down the road, stopping for a quick one at our local on the way. It wasn’t quick enough, unfortunately, and the supermarket was already closing as we rocked up. We’d already enquired about food – just for future info – at the bar we’d visited, and despite the reasonable blackboard menu outside, all they could offer was sardine sandwiches. Another place round the corner had an even more wishful menu and greatly inferior toilet facilities, but the one thing they could cook us there and then was chicken and chips. We promised ourselves we’d try harder in future but settled for safe and familiar for now. It was much tastier than the setting had suggested and was all we needed before calling it a day.

We were so looking forward to a peaceful night’s sleep in our grassy, tree-filled haven, we couldn’t believe our ears when we both awoke a few hours later. In amongst the usual chorus of dogs barking in the distance, there was some much more alarming grunting and growling just outside the tent. In our half-asleep state it sounded like a pig to Sam and a werewolf to Cat, and yet we were both semi-aware that it was human. It was very unsettling as he audibly lapped the tent and car a few times, setting off all the dogs again in the process. He apparently wandered off, things went quiet and we eventually drifted off, only to be awoken again by the early morning call to prayers.

Despite the disturbed night, and still without knowing what had really gone on, the next morning was a morning of many achievements. We’d learnt from our mistakes and started with the supermarket – a wonderful place full of Lays crisps and crunchy biscuits (our two luxuries of the day). Fully laden with shopping, we then stopped in at one of the internet cafes in our little district – another really promising find. It felt cool and spacious, the connection seemed good and, far more importantly, it had a toilet. It took a while to place the smell, but when we realised it was bleach Cat nearly kissed the man on the desk.

As well as the usual internet faffery, we also wanted to try out the call boxes. Despite brief respite when he took the antibiotics in Abuja, Sam’s not been right ever since and one of the aims of coming straight to Yaoundé was to see a local doctor, for real this time. But we also wanted to check we weren’t going to get in trouble over the travel insurance by suddenly doing something hasty. The call box system was rubbish, and not even as cheap as expected, so Sam just took the local mobile outside – much more comfortable, audible and affordable! And surprisingly pleasant to boot.

We got to the local clinic in time to ascertain that they were a real doctor’s surgery offering what we thought we needed (finger’s crossed) and booked an appointment and some tests for Monday morning. After that it was high time we dropped off the shopping, but by no means the end of the quest. Our next stop was the mechanic’s round the back of the guesthouse, where we had the same old fun and games but with much fewer people, and just one spring. It came fully assembled as before, but this time they agreed, and actually proceeded, to take it apart. We negotiated a pretty good deal, and may even have walked off with a bit of a win on the dollar to CFA exchange rate – this was serious achieving.


We’d earned a drink by now, so headed round to our local and took the opportunity for a long-overdue phone call to Rosie. It was all too perfect, as we later discovered when Cat came down with the dreaded, but by now easily identifiable, food poisoning. By evening we’d established that far from being the tasty chicken of the night before (which we both ate), the culprit was probably the dodgy bananas from earlier that day (which Cat stubbornly kept eating, hoping the next would taste better, whereas Sam just hoyed his out the window).

By evening we’d also identified our visitor of the previous night, when someone wandered into the grounds of the guesthouse, clearly in his own world but making precisely the noises we’d woken to. It wasn’t half as alarming in the light of day and the staff at the guesthouse confirmed, in the most un-PC way possible, that he was from the “nut house next door” and was prone to “going off on one when he’d had a few”. We were initially thrown by their flippant assessment of his obviously troubled state of mind, but on reflection they were actually very accepting of him. We just wish they’d introduced us before bed.


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