Friday, 13 December 2013

December 13  2013
I'm sitting here in Bamenda on a cool a grey morning looking out over the town below. The market as usual is busy with taxi's and motorcycles dropping off and picking up people loaded down with packages of things to sell or what they've purchased. From up here it's like watching an anthill peppered with tiny umbrellas, an occasional bus slowly working its way along the edge. Directly below us are houses, compounds mostly made of mud brick covered over with corrugated tin roofs. You can imagine what it sounds like when it rains. These buildings descend like steps, intermingled with bananas, papaya and mango trees down to the market. The sounds of people talking, yelling, banging away on metal, an occasional dog barking, children crying, laughing and playing mingled with loudly broadcast music and the ubiquitous honking goes on into the night daily.
Beyond the market the terrain rises slightly covered with concrete block buildings,  some apartments, but mostly business's. We walk that way frequently going downtown. One whole section is dedicated to car repair, parts and "service" the rusting hulks of cannibalized taxi's, vans and small trucks willy nilly lining the "roads". When it's been raining it is barely navigable on foot, rutted and potholed it turns into a quagmire with all the metal, broken glass and spilled oil unevenly distributed for blocks. The paved street two roads over to the right is like a racetrack, the taxis and motorcycles weaving up and down as the pedestrians squeeze between the parked cars and the live traffic, a constant stream of humanity walking back and forth with goods for sale on their heads, or delivering used car parts, business men in suits and women with babies.
 Not many tourists here, it's almost worth remarking when we see one. Ironically they seldom acknowledge me, some kind of denial that there could be anyone else having this unique experience, I know I've felt it myself, and read about others experiencing and describing it... Read any Pico Iyer? He nails a lot of the traveler's angst and dismay.
Beyond that commercial area up to the left a ridge with more apartment buildings rising up it's slopes and some open land at the top, likely a religious school or church grounds. Almost every educational facility here has Presbyterian or Catholic affiliations. And they seem to own most of the green space, beyond the individual garden plot everyone has to grow their sweet potato, corn or assorted yam varieties.

Behind all that there is more, and more of the same to the north and west but it's framed by cliffs that line the south east edge, houses and compounds climbing to the vertical limits.  We climbed up those slopes a few weeks ago to view one of the waterfalls.

I find it incredible how people can manage to capitalize on the slightest amount of barely level ground and punch in a garden. Although the gardens themselves are not visible from here, I recently saw fires and smoke so assume they are doing slash and burn as we approach the dry season.
Up top in Upstation, the government officials, high rollers and gentry of the place have massive properties with even more massive "houses" among the very old mansions built during and since the Germans were here 100 years ago. Apparently the view up there is spectacular. It was hard to see through all the hedges, walls and fences erected around their properties.
The view from here is pretty amazing, the mountains beyond blocking the sun's rise until 6:45, later lit up as it sets. It's a constantly changing panorama when the smog/mist clears.

I've been reading an old travel guide; this place has tripled in size in ten years; you can well imagine the infrastructure  challenges. The folks next door down below have an outside shower and biffy and put out buckets to collect their water or walk a few blocks to a seemingly public "tap" which I first thought was a leaking waterline. It may be, but recently some enterprising individual poured concrete around the outlet and installed a pipe. Everyday there are kids surrounding it waiting with their used plastic "jerry cans" to fill up and haul off.
The dry time is coming, when the Harmattan blows sand and dust off the Sahara, blocking the sun for days at a time and dropping the temperature.
Not enough for a white Christmas though.

1 comment:

  1. This looks great, man! I wish you were on Wordpress, or that I had a site here, so following would be easier. But I promise to pop in whenever possible and see what you're up to ;)