Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Departing Douala

Our exodus from Douala Cameroon began with a taxi ride to another hotel. Douala is at the mouth of the Wouri river and is the major port for the country. Development has not kept up with growth and the once ample bridge built in the 1950’s is now a bottleneck. Construction on a new replacement is underway slated for completion in 2019 according to our driver. It towers over the existing structure which carries a rail line down the middle doubling as a passing lane although I doubt if much rail traffic crosses the bridge. During mornings and evenings it can take an hour or more to get across so during a lull we changed hotels.
The fellow pulling our luggage into the room said there was an early bus, that left at 8 so to get there by 6. We accordingly set our alarm and were ready to go before any breakfast (or especially coffee) was available. The driver misunderstood our request, taking us to an unfamiliar, complete war zone of a “bus station” Certainly there were structures masquerading as terminals, decrepit booths  with little roof and less seating. On top of which, at that hour, no one was selling tickets. The rain in the night had filled every pot hole and depression which along with months of garbage, refuse and discards made for a fragrant and unappetizing  prospect to walk through. The amused patrons of the stand we arrived at offered no suggestions. So we commandeered another taxi to take us to the “early bus” stand.
Arriving at the now familiar bus stand it was almost impossible to enter due to the narrow entrance and dedicated taxi drivers, motorcycles and pedestrians streaming in and out. Mayhem barely describes it. Elke alighted to go purchase tickets while our driver jockeyed with the other drivers and entrance guards. He managed to convince them to let him in to disgorge me and the luggage then quickly escaped. After dragging our bags under cover, I stood watching while the line slowly inched forward. It was a long line. Snaking from inside where patrons were seated on benches and shuffled forward as tickets were purchased back again on itself reaching around the roof supports and a pile of luggage, well past the building and onto the “sidewalk” behind.
Out in the yard taxis continued arriving  with more passengers. Trucks and buses came and went backing up slowly with liberal use of the horn as the motorcycles and pedestrians negotiated around the moving vehicles with little concern. Aplomb I believe it is.
A couple of women came up to us who had been at the previous bus “terminal” where tickets were apparently sold out. An explanation for the chaos was soon forthcoming… school start on Monday so everywhere families and children are returning. By 11 o’clock when our bus finally pulled out they had filled three and were working on the fourth.

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