Saturday, 26 January 2013

French Cameroons

February 21 (Saturday)1953 Land Mileage 3550
When we woke up, the birds were still in full song, with more joining in all the time.   We   finished breakfast to the 'Bird Chorus' and we were back on the road at 07h30.  Three quarters of an hour later, we were at the Frontier station between British Mandated Territory and French Cameroons, at the town of Gamboro.
A police permit was necessary to travel across French Cameroons between Gamboro and Kussere, but we had previously arranged this.    Out came the passports and permits yet again, and while we were there we had to go to the French customs as well! We managed to fill up with fuel and water, plus we also managed to do a bit of shopping to replenish the food.   Gamboro was where the ferry goes across the River Logone and this we managed to get on at 08h45, with our destination being Fort Lamy.   We were lucky enough to be on the move again right away, the ferry being "docked" on our side of the river, as you can see below! 
I have no idea why the back is down on the Land Rover, but I see it is!
Soon we were back on the road again and then onto a second ferry over the River Chari at 10h30.  

You can see some quite large vehicles crossed on these wooden ferries.
We drove on through lots of thick bush country and very rough roads.  The countryside changed very little, but nevertheless it was very interesting, with many birds and large very colourful butterflies seen.    How I regret we did not have books with which we could have tried to identify some of the beautiful birds and butterflies that we saw on this particular part of the journey.
At 15h30, another back spring broke; proof of what the roads were like.     We managed to find a sort of clearing at the side of the road and David and Dad got started on replacing the spring.    They were getting plenty of practice at this particular job!   This stop in fact turned out to be a blessing in disguise; a bus pulled up while they were working on the spring and informed us that a bridge was down on our route and we would be unable to cross.   This meant we would have to retrace our steps and take the road through Bongor.  We were still quite some way from the bridge, so the bus had saved us a lot of wasted fuel and mileage!
While we were busy with the spring repair, one of the locals came over with fresh cow's milk for us.   We gave him some cigarettes and he went off obviously delighted, but then so were we with the milk.  What a pleasure it was not to have powdered milk that night.   By the time the spring had been changed and knowing that we had to retrace the route, we decided that we should make camp right where we were, so we could set off first thing again in the morning.
February 22 (Sunday) 1953 Land Mileage 3669
On waking, we discovered that we were being watched by a quite large crowd of the locals who suddenly appeared on the scene.    They appeared to be a 'gang' of men who were going out hunting; they carried spears and all they wore was a thong, presumably of animal skin, around their waists, with a small piece of skin down the back, which we guessed was to sit on.   We had not realised that this particular area was quite so primitive.   One of them put his finger into the jam we had been eating and from the look on his face, we gathered that it was not approved of!  Our 'farmer friend' of the night before, brought us some more milk and he went off with a few gifts that we gave him. We were soon on our way again, away from the broken bridge.
It was thirty six miles before we came to the cross roads that turned off to Bongor, this was on the Logone River further down from Fort Lamy.   We pulled into Bongor at about 09h15, so we had not really wasted that much time on our diversion.    We found a very immaculately dressed Frenchman, who took us in hand.   We explained the situation to him, and asked him what he thought would now be the best route for us to take.   He was very angry that the authorities in Fort Lamy had not informed us of the situation; he said that they must have known which route we were most likely to take and the bridge had been down for a while.   He took us to his house which was quite beautiful, situated on the edge of the River Logone.   It was incredibly cool inside and he offered us long iced orange drinks that were delicious.   The Frenchman gave Dad a Cognac, but he admitted afterwards that he would have much preferred the iced orange!   Dad then said he was afraid that we did not have enough petrol to make up for the detour.   He had not taken on a full load previously, as he was trying to keep the vehicle as light as possible to save the springs, but the extra seventy two miles would leave us short.   Being Sunday, of course everything was closed but with the help of the Frenchman, Dad managed to locate an Italian gentleman who had some 40 gallon drums of fuel and he allowed us to buy enough to get us to the next 'town'.    Bongor, on the border of French Cameroon and French Equatorial Africa, was the most primitive place that we had seen to date; luckily for us, the border post did not close down on Sundays!
Driving on, we saw many of the local residents, the men all dressed as we had seen them earlier, with "loincloths" being just a skin at the back.   The women wore nothing, but they had large discs in both the top and bottom lip.   We were told that the French had provided schools and hospitals in the effort to help them. They were quite lovely buildings, but the locals at that stage had refused to go near either.
We had asked if it was safe to swim in the rivers and the answer had been yes.    This was a huge benefit to us all, as the evening 'bath' was now laid on in most places.   We just had to pick the right camp spot.   When we left Bongor we drove along the side of the Logone River. After a short distance, David, Dad and I went for a swim while Mum kept watch over the Land Rover and all our belongings.   It was parked on a steep incline and was almost out of sight of the river, too far to leave it in safety without one of us around.  
Dad, myself and David just coming in from a swim.
 We then carried on along our new route which took us through Ham, a typical African village, and then on to Lai.   There was much wooded countryside around Lai, but there were also several cotton plantations that we presumed were being farmed by the French.  We were still following the River Logone and at 14h30, we decided that perhaps we should stop and have a swim as it was so hot.  It also meant that Mum could do some much needed washing of clothes at the same time.    The water was wonderful and very refreshing. It was a very reluctant family who finally went back to the vehicle to continue on our way along dusty roads.
Mum catching up with the washing again.

We travelled through some cotton plantations and  having passed the small village of Doba, we turned left, leaving the river behind us.   We passed several more villages before pulling up for the night at a piece of ground that had been burnt out.    We felt that this was a safe place to stop as there was quite thick bush everywhere else around us.   On stopping, there was not a soul in sight, but within minutes, we suddenly had many spectators!   Where they had all appeared from we will never know.  We were watched intently for the remainder of the evening as we cooked dinner and prepared for bed; it was a very strange feeling but we did not feel threatened in any way, it was purely curiosity.

To be continued :-) 


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  1. What an adventure in primitive Africa. I admire your Mum's spirit and strength to deal with this trip as well as the rest of you. The old photos are gems.

  2. diane b I wish there were more photos, but of course cameras in those days were a little different to what they are now, and the cost of films and printing was quite another story. It is an adventure I would love to repeat, but with all the troubles in many of the countries it would not be a good idea :( Stay well Diane

  3. Fascinating! The big vehicles on the ferry are so cool.

  4. I love your Mum's smile, very contagious. Such travels you guys made!


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