Village de Ngoyla Quartier Zoulameyong
Tarzan, the flashback of youth reading old yellowed books featuring expeditions in completely unknown jungles teaming with dangerous animals, treasures and hostile natives, sounds in the black forest heard from a blistering campfire while the flickering light shows the worried faces surrounding the fire. Lying in a warm tent on a smelly old madras i fancied be out there totally in the mercy of faith, in a completely unknown world.
That was in the back of my head the first time I went backpacking in jungles, and this time was no different. Yes, Maybe different facing the fact, that not even the locals knew their way.
The first routing was carved out by my local fixer, Louis Fon Che, an Anglo speaking Cameroonian who I have known for 10 years. He has been my only steady contact in Yaounde.
He was weary of my request. Where did i exactly want to go? This was unclear, since there was no routes, no landmarks, no itinerary from other travelers online. Absolutely virgin in terms of arrangement. So the simplest request from me was traversing the area from west to east, as west is entry point.
The day before we took
some local transport
to the BaAka village,
to confirm our porters
would be there at 600 AM,
and be sure,
who would go.
Actually we were meant
to walk the 5 km,
but then this guy
Louis then answered that he used to go to Chute de Nki ( at an unknown to maps location ) along Dja River. He used to go there with WWF researchers to help counting Forest Elephants. They went by boat upriver from the town Moloundou. Going through the forest was untried. I sent him 300 euro to cover expenses to go to Ngoila, village of departure, in advance, to find a crew that knew the way. He came back very fast after hiring a young guy, who claimed he knew the way. We were soon to regret this trust.
The plan was now to go to Ngoila and from there to the Bai named Ikwah. Crossing the river at the smaller waterfall called Chume. Of these landmarks are only the village shown on maps available.
Mr White, Ibrahim and Louis
crossing the marketplace
Going into the forest we found there was no path. 6 years before it was a known route, still difficult to track but at least some of the crew had been there before. This time I was the one who had been there recently, the rest had not. So there were some discussion, since the new official route to Ikwah was at huge detour north and south , via the village Messok. There was no map and no precise description of this route. My understanding was it was a cardrive to Messok, and then 60 km walk at small roads, more accessible. Less interesting. So i asked that we should go by the same route i went the last time, direct east. The problem with this route was that nobody had used it for 6 years, so it might be closed or impossible to track, since the forest grow back. But the shortcut and my insisting made Louis say yes. Reminder not to persuade locals into do it your way… They say yes because you pay , but you might end up with a solution far from your wish…
We sat at a junction in the village the night before, setling the last details, drinking a beer and watching the sunset.The village of Ngoila is maybe 1000 inhabitants, widespread and the local market sold us rice, beans,oil etc for the trip ahead. Sitting there we agreed all of us to meet at the auberge ( where me, Louis and Ibrahim stayed for the night ) the next morning at 6 am, to make a good headstart. I asked the crew to please try out their own baskets ( in which the locals carry everything ) to see if they were able to carry all our stuff. I for one had a great white sack plus an equipmentsack, which both had to be carried by 2 porters. Louis told me to sit back and relax, it would be no problem.
Next morning I was up just before sunrise. The Auberge was unmanned, no water, no electricity, no nothing.. everything was quiet. Louis got up at 0630 when I called him up. Ibrahim at lot later. I was just sitting there, listening to the insects. Nobody came, nothing happend. I was packed and ready, but food and equipment was in sacks and boxes from the shop, not packed at all. Then, after even more time, Louis and Ibrahim went to get Mr White and the 4 others. After a while they came proud back with 3 of the crew, I sent them back after the last 2… Around 830 they started packing, arguing, distributing all the stuff. I guess around 930 we started walk. Nobody was ashamed they had not been there on the agreed time 600 am. This was Ngoila, not a meeting in wall street..
At last, walking again, I had looked forward to this moment, i recalled the small cocoa farms we passed, the small fields of manioc. We had 30 km to walk this day, but we were fresh. I carried only my photogear, a 20 kilogram sack. Not much compared to the 25 kg and upworth sacks The Porters carried. Footwear is the most important equipment. The Porters had either worn through shoes, cheap Chinese rubber shoes, or flip flops. My preferred shoe was a pair of Crocs. After 4 hours we started to hear the waterfall Chume I had visited the last time. The place for crossing the river.
We camped for the night at around 3 PM. A few huts lying not far from the river, used by the villagers when hunting and fishing. The guys put on a fire, boiling water for cooking and coffee. A local guy was hanging around. A boy who new the others, this was clearly a used hunting area, a place for the youth to hang out. They went on his piroque, and came back with the contents of the daily catch : 2 snakes, already drowned. I saw the first when they were places on the ground next to the fire. I was quite annoyed not having been able to photograph them alive, and since i didnt know about the net i complained they didnt ask me to take pictures of them before killing them, then they told me about the net and the drowning…. alas. I learned how to prepare snakes for dinner instead.
The young guy with the pirougue took me to take pictures of Chimpe falls once again.
My tent came up for the night. I went insecthunting, and had some good
Macro Shots of interesting spiders.
Coming back the snakes had been devoured already. I then had beans and fish…
Arriving in Ngoila, we were dumped in the only hotellookalike in town. It was ok, there was a door and a bed. And an outdoor toilet, where i found the spider you see in the picture.. Nice 5 cm guy waiting for a cockroach .
aring the trip at WWF in Ngoila.
We met at WWF headquarters the following day. Louis Fon Che and the driver showed up, telling us they were heading back to Yaounde. The driver, as agreed, but Louis? Louis said he had informed WWF to give us the best men. But we had agreed Louis should come along on the trip as leader for the crew. But suddenly he had an appointment in Yaounde… We were very disappointed, but he reassured we got the best men. Sorry to say not all were the “best men”.
He left, and we prepared to leave as well.