Should you want evidence that central Africa’s jungles are being destroyed I highly recommend driving between Douala and Yaounde in Cameroon. Actually I don’t recommend driving, even less so cycling. Just stand on the roadside, but not too close, and observe. This is a highway dominated by trucks. Trucks transporting enormous tree trunks – their 20-metre long trailers loaded as they hurtle towards you and the coast and empty as they journey back towards what remains of the continent’s equatorial rain forests. It’s a sad and scary sight, these speeding monsters helping to bleed Africa of its lungs, but it’s been going on for years and seems unlikely to stop or be reduced any time soon.

This 300km highway between Cameroon’s two largest cities needs to be wider. Better still another road should be built, but that would only destroy more forest.  With its location on the coast Douala is the end point for traffic coming not just from the capital Yaounde, but northern Cameroon, as well as landlocked Chad, the Central African Republic and probably the jungles of Congo and parts of Gabon. So it’s an important road, and needless to say a busy one.  It’s also well-paved, at least by African standards. This is a problem for the cyclist – traffic moves as fast as humanely possible. One stays in the hard shoulder, when it’s there.

There are few towns or even villages along this highway. It cuts through the jungle, which is the only interesting thing about it. But with the deafening roar of a logging truck approaching you there is little opportunity to hear or look into that twisted tangle of greenery. The jungle feels close around you, yet distant at the same time. Why could there not be a cycle lane winding its way through that other World where engines don’t exist? That comes in the Congo perhaps. Everyone using the highway wishes to leave it as quickly as possible. In a vehicle the journey is a 3 hour drive, or less, on a bicycle 3 days.

I stayed in unadvertised rooms along this road. They were small and and cheap ($5-10 US) and I found them behind roadside bars, of which there are many in the small towns that do exist. In the day time such establishments might get used by the hour – “for a siesta” as one truck-driver told me. Very convenient if you want to get drunk and, well, I think you know what I’m talking about.

I don’t have any photos from this stretch of road. Partly the traffic, but also the dust-filled skies provided little inspiration. I just wanted to arrive in Yaounde, like everyone else, and after that long and relaxing stay in Limbe the road was tiring – both physically and mentally.

And so here I am, passport back in my hands this morning with a visa from the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Two days ago I also collected a visa for the Central Africa Republic. I had anticipated problems of the ‘letter of introduction/invitation’ type, but it appears money is all that really matters. Neither visa is cheap, particularly if you request a 90-day stay, which I have done for DRC. I don’t anticipate spending 3 months there, but I want time on my side in what will be Africa’s largest  and most challenging country on this journey.  Just for the record, a visa for CAR costs 55,000 CFA ($110) and is issued in 48 hours, and a 90-day visa for DRC is 105,000 CFA.

Central Africa Republic visa

DRC visa

Hiromu is here. I met him outside the Central Africa Republic embassy in his favourite hole-ridden shirt. I made some comment to how suitably addressed he was, but translating sarcasm often doesn’t work. On his head was a new sun hat with “kiss me quick, squeeze me slow” written across the front. ‘Why did you buy this hat?’ I asked. Well I already knew the answer.

He is staying over at the Foyer Presbyterian, which is a Church run guest-house/camp site,  along with several other overlanders, whereas I’m surrounded by more western furnishings in a teacher’s apartment belonging to the International School I spoke at yesterday. I hardly seem to have gone anywhere in the last several weeks. Really keen to start moving. There is however, one problem remaining. My Cameroon visa expired earlier this week, which will present problems if I don’t do something about it when I arrive at the border. More about that in a future post.

Hiromu  at the camp

Overlanders in Yaounde

Beer o clock