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February 14, 2013 / samwilson60

Waiting it out by the sea

The next morning we did all we could to busy ourselves but by early afternoon it was undeniable – the ambassador had forgotten us, or worse. We had no option but to descend on the embassy ourselves, where we were greeted by the now familiar steel gates. The nicer of the two ladies eventually appeared but she was clearly oblivious to the agreement we’d had with the ambassador (i.e. that he’d do all he could to sort us out and would call by midday regardless). She was the one who’d told us it was enough to just put “hotels” on the form and submit next-to-no supporting docs the first time we’d applied, so we nodded politely at all her suggestions then politely asked for our passports and money back. It was obvious we’d have to do the leg work and come back with a new ‘dossier’ next week. Back at camp, together with the bus-load of overlanders that had joined us the previous night, we called a family friend in Libreville and petulantly studied the option of bypassing Gabon entirely. In reality, we were fairly confident we’d be able to come back the following week with a letter of invitation, which should be enough even for the fancy new computerised visa system, but in the meantime we had Sam’s birthday to think about. There was now no way of celebrating atop Mount Cameroon but we were both adamant we weren’t going to spend the day in the city. The best plan we had was to head to Kribi, the seaside getaway of choice for locals and expats alike. We were wary that it wouldn’t be entirely our cup of tea but were prepared to pay over the odds for a change and were drawn by talk of a waterfall spitting out into the sea. With any luck, we could take the scenic route, camp wild somewhere on night one, then arrive by the sea on Sam’s birthday, ready to blow the budget on something other than chicken and chips.

We found a scenic route, if not ‘the’ scenic route, and spent most of the first day putting the new spring through its paces, getting a real mixed bag of directions as we went. The spring seemed to hold up well; the directions less so. Once we’d heard the word ‘Kribi’, we were confident we hadn’t made any irreparable wrong turns and hauled up in the best quarry camp to date, in the heart of some tropical forest midway to the coast.

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We’d packed up and were setting off just as some 20-somethings were gathering up the courage to come over for a coffee and some cadeaux. That aside, we were glad to be on the road early, with almost 100km of piste still standing between us and the sea. By now we were confident of our navigation, though, and we actually arrived relatively easily. The most surprising bit was the hotel search in Kribi itself – the first place we tried offered us a space for the tent on the beach under the palms, along with the best toilets we’ve seen for weeks. Granted, the food and drinks were overpriced, but we’d been preparing ourselves for much worse – and hadn’t factored in the entrepreneurs along the beach, undercutting the hotels in plain sight.

It was paradise – the calmest sea we’d seen for months, perfect for swimming and healing all wounds – physical and emotional – in the process. Likewise, the sand was perfect for lazing around on but equally suited to early morning sprints (or as close as it gets these days). It was a bustling hotel, but as popular with Europeans as Cameroonians it seems, and it made a nice if notable change to be holidaying among locals too. Plus, the beach itself was for the most part deserted.

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The holidaying locals were more apparent than ever at the Chutes de Lobé, where we were pounced by touts in the car park but then overlooked to the point of feeling almost like intruders – never quite going unnoticed but as close as we’d got since setting foot on the continent. The falls themselves were more like rapids as they entered the sea, but they were stunning nonetheless and the playful atmosphere was lovely.

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Back at the hotel, we played some games in the sand and Sam made a new (birthday) year’s resolution to carve his own Awale board from some local wood. Within the hour, he’d sourced said wood, from an unsuspecting local craftsman a little taken aback by the request but as game as ever to make a sale. The birthday presents now amounted to a metre and a half of beautiful wood, a knock-off Cameroon football shirt and some understated Beninese lounge trousers.

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We stayed a second night primarily so as to watch the Cup of Nations final but we both had to admit to quite enjoying being beach bums too. Sadly, Burkina were out of their depth against Nigeria, but the night was fun and we left very satisfied with our weekend getaway. We reluctantly took the more conventional route back to Yaoundé and arrived at the Presbyterian guesthouse as if it were home, albeit a home that still had no power. We were gearing up for round two with the embassy the following morning but for that we needed internet, so we really had no option but to haul up in the bar over the road and wait for the lights to come on. A good few beers and lots of meat later, the street lit up and the music started pumping – but to our great dismay we didn’t have the invitation we needed in our inboxes. Time to call it a night and come back in the sober light of day.

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One Comment

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  1. leelee / Feb 14 2013 10:13 am

    nice trousers sam. and a happy happy birthday to you matey! xxx

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