Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Field trip on the Ring Road-Menchum Falls- Bafut to Befang and back

After some time the city, meetings, research and visits to the farm aren’t enough. We want to see some of this country so called a friendly taxi driver to take us on a tour.
 First stop the Bafut market to pick up a few snacks. Then to a nearby bar for some white mimbo or palm wine followed by a stop at a spring for some fresh water.
The road out of Bafut is dusty, clouds of it settling on the bananas turning their leaves red, Potholed and rough in places we swayed back and forth as Eric the driver negotiated each stretch and avoided oncoming trucks and minivans. The road twists and turns into valleys, around mountains,  past villages and farms. These smallholdings with minimalist rectangular redbrick buildings, unplastered and roofed with corrugated “zinc”line the road between sections of forest and  field. Often there were children and occasional adults staring as we drove past.  Upon spotting our faces the children would chant “whiteman, whiteman” to which I, as often as possible, waved in reply.
The road began to descend, briefly became paved and as we approached each corner Eric honked a warning. Often there were great holes, missing pavement, bone jarring drops and it wasn’t always possible to avoid them. But the terrain was spectacular, miles of mostly untouched tropical forest the mountains draped in shades of green punctuated with flashes of orange and red flowers. Valley and hill as far as the eyes could see without any evidence of cultivation.This is the sacred Bafut forest, protecting the watersheds and vegetal heritage of the kingdom. Unfortunately for the photographers it wasn’t possible to stop, although that narrow view seldom expresses the majesty and verdant fecundity of the scene.As the road again levelled out we crossed over the  Menchum river and  entered a broad valley.
Rice growing alluvial landscape, fields separated by ditches and flapping clothing suspended on sticks to scare away the birds. The elephant grass easily 3 metres tall where it wasn’t hacked down and piled beside the road. There were numerous highly rutted access roads down to the water where young men and boys poled their broad canoe shaped boats back and forth.

The boys dive down with buckets, scoop the sand into the boats then shovel it onto shore to be loaded later into trucks and transported to Bamenda. For a brief while we were tailed by one of the trucks, coming up behind us as we scraped our way out of one of the biggest potholes I’ve ever been in. The side of the road even with the windows of the taxi. Definitely don’t try this in the rainy season.
I attempted to take notes on this trip, writing the occasional undecipherable word as we careened and bumped along till pavement appeared again. Eric would then accelerate till the pavement gave way while I attempted to read the occasional sign naming each village.

It was quite warm in the car, the mimbo in the recycled soda bottles continuing to ferment, building up  pressure. We had the windows open but every passing vehicle would raise such clouds of dust we were rolling them up in  fruitless attempts to keep it out.
Crossing the river again we came into an area of grasslands, the rolling mountains denuded of trees except in the narrow clefts and valleys between hills.
 Then again beside the river and arrival at the falls.
  Just below the road is a small picnic area and viewing spot with a cement fence to keep folks back from the sheer drop.
 A tremendous amount of water cascades down with incredible turbulence sending spray out  from top to bottom. Not much if anything would survive that fall. We stepped back and enjoyed our picnic, slowly releasing the pressure on the  warm mimbo  till we could drink it.

Then a short drive down to the crossroads at Befang; north to Wum and west to Benakuma.

By this time we’d had enough of the driving and chose to turn around.

 Stopped at the top of the falls to wet our faces and watch the boys shovel sand from boat to shore.

And again at the bailey bridge to take pictures,  then caught a few views as we climbed out of the valley  on our way towards Bafut.
 The road was not any less bumpy on the return.

No comments:

Post a Comment