2019. Chute de Nki.
2019 in NKI
In 2019 i returned to visit Nki Parc in Cameroun. I was there in 2013, with the catastrophic event of being chased out by AK47 carrying poachers . This time my guard was better equipped. This time we went all the way, but it was not easy..
Goal : to cross Nki, from west to east
- Local Louis Fon Che put up travelling details
- He planned the only way he saw possible, to cross down to Chute de Nki, a waterfall on the Dja river.
- From there he knew the way by boat, we chartered one ahead
- Time spent in the forest was planned to 15 days.
- Plan was go by bus and bushtaxi to Ngoila, then walk from there
Here is from my diary :
29th of Dec 2018
Said goodbye to the family yesterday. Lua hugged me. She doesn’t like me going. Jais does`nt either, but he show a wounded remoteness. He is loving, but hides. Laila knows that the whole family is one great sensitive softness. And that I am often the one who kicks it. I don’t want to hurt them. So what am I doing here? 12.000 m above Sahara’s descending sun on the way to Cameroon? It is a thought that developed into an action. A thought that could go many ways. But I have the ability to let these thoughts grow, follow a path until so large that I cannot find a way out of it. I can imagine I’m not
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. 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 with after hiring a young guy that 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 vailable.
Going into the forest there is 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 was 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 , 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…
All the gear was devided out. We had hired 5 porters, beside Gadaffi and the WWF appointed guard. The guard was a young guy, fresh from the army, carrying a 1936 belgium one-shooter riffle and some ammunition. The guard was the responsibility of WWF and Louis Fon Che. Louis had asked for an older experienced guy, but this guy showed up in the last minute, and there was no discussion. An older guy joined our group as well. He was the canoe padler for our soon to come cross river transport.
I carried only my photogear, but it alone was a 20 kilogram sack. Not much compared to the 25 kg and upworth sacks the portes 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. Claus had the latest heavy walking boots a modern equipment retailer back home could sell him. He shook his head on my decision for the crocs. He would rather die than wear them. ” Boots will protect me”.
We departed around 9 am. Going on a trail, it was pretty easy walking. We crossed some streams on the way. I walked straight through the streams in the Crocs. 5 minutes after my feet were dry and happy. Claus tested his boots, they were waterproof. Until he came in too deep and had one of them flooded. The first day we covered 25 km. It was through mostly plantation of Cocoa, Manioc and small abandoned huts were Cocoa and Manioc was dried outside. The owners were only around when in season. Small paths lead from one parcel to the next and inbetween the forest claimed parts of the track and made it hardly passable. But the day was giving us hope of a manageable hike.
From 3 PM and on we start to hear a roar through the forest. It was clearly water making noise in the distance, getting louder as we moved on. Claus and I started excited to discuss what the roar meant. A waterfall og just a tough current? We could n`t wait . We had a short rest at one of the abandoned huts. A guy where resting there, showing us the Catch from the river. Catfish mostly. We took a short photograph session, recording the species. There was no wish to stuck up the supplies with soon smelling fish.
We sat out from Yaounde in the bus for Bedoua.
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 .
Preparing 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.