Sunday, December 17, 2006

Bamenda and Ndawara Tea Plantation Trip

Over Thanksgiving break, some friends and I took a trip to Bamenda in the Northwest province. We left Yaoundé on Thursday for an eight hour drive to the Ndawara Tea Estates. The tea plantation had tea as far as the eye could see!!! There were hills and hills of tea. If we would walk to the top of one hill, we would look out and see more hills of tea. It was one of the most beautiful views.

When we first arrived, we took a quick walk around the tea plantation. The sun was close to setting and we spotted people heading home from a hard day of work. Once we arrived at the our ranch house, I went out to the open field to play soccer with some of the children. They must have thought I was a funny sight to see because they all laughed when I went out there and ran amongst them. But, after a while, I got the hang of it and had a great time with them. I met a special friend named Adamou. He was a cute little boy who lived with his family on one of the mountains. We had small conversations with one another. He spoke a little of English and I spoke a bit of French. But, I think we enjoyed walking around with one another.

Our first evening there, we celebrated Thanksgiving dinner with a nice meal of beef, rice, and potatoes. We slept in a simple ranch house that included five rooms, a shared living room, a dining room, and a kitchen.

The next day, we received a tour of the entire tea plantation. First, we started out at the tea factory, which they are currently building. At this point, the tea that is picked at the plantation is sent down to the southwest for manual production. However, once the factory is built, they will produce tea at the plantation itself. Second, we went to an empty water tank, which I think will eventually hold water from the nearby crater lake. Afterwards, we went to see the crater lake and the tea nursery.

My favorite part of the trip was our horse tour to the plantation’s waterfalls. We rode the horses past wonderful plants including orchids and palm trees. And, we saw wild horses, and amazing views of the plantation. When we arrived at the waterfall, we had to tie up our horses and walk across an small iron bridge. Once we arrived at the other side, we were all amazed at the breathtaking waterfalls. Everyone in the group took out their cameras and began snapping photos. The guides told us that it is possible to go to the base of the waterfall, but we would have had to trek around to the other side of the mountain. When returning, our horses went wild because they knew they were heading home. They picked up the pace to a fast trot and we were home in no time.

The following day we spent the night in Bamenda town. We went to the town market to make some purchases. My big purchase for the trip was a nice wooden stool that I will take back with me to the states.

On the way back we stopped at the crated lake called Mount Mbapet. In the photos, we have the chateau (castle) where the owner of the tea plantation lives. Right across from the chateau is the mosque. The citizens of the Ndawara tea plantations are mostly Muslim.

Enjoy the photos!! Cameroon is beautiful.

Rest stop

We took a bathroom break at Mackenene where we paid 500 francs (or was it 100 francs) to use the bathroom. 500 francs is about one US dollar. I gotta say, the bathroom was better than some others that I've been to. (Darrell--remember the ones in the north?). We also stopped to see the Chutes de la Metche (which I've posted pictures of before from my last trip to Bamenda). This time, we were lucky enough to catch a rainbow. The views in Bamenda are absolutely goregeous. The mountains and greenery are spectacular (I'm running out of good adjectives).


Beauty!! Gorgeous waterfalls. Nothing more to say! The pictures I took do not come close to showing you the real beauty of these views. But, I do hope you enjoy. Next time I go to Ndawara, I hope to go down to the bottom of the last waterfall. I'm sure the view from there is even better.

Horse Trip

The owner of the tea plantation started out raising and selling cattle. Now, that venture is second to the tea business. The plantation itself had tons of cattle, wild horses (not the ones we rode, but actual horses that ran freely on the plantation), and ostriches. We took a marvelous horse ride to see the waterfalls.

I also took a photo with my friend Adamou. He was such a cute boy. We enjoyed walking with one another although we didn't have much conversation due to language problems. At the end of the trip, I gave him a notebook and some colored pencils to draw with.

Ndawara Tea Plantation

Tea as far as the eye can see!! The tea plantation was amazing. We took a bus tour to the different parts of the plantation. Once we climbed one mountain, we looked out and saw more mountains of tea. Currently, they pluck the tea and have the leaves shipped to the soutwest province, but, as you can see from the photo the owner is building a tea factory (the first in Cameroon) so that all of the tea is processed on site. Some of the tea leaves themselves came from Kenya and South Africa and are plucked by hand. They water the tea plants with the water from a nearby crater lake.

Ndawara tour

Here, we have a photo of the ranch house where we slept. It had a total of five rooms, a kitchen, a dining room, and a common area. The accomodations were simple and clean. We also had all of our meals preparedfor us. We took a tour of the hospital, which was in poor condition compared to any U.S. hospital. However, I have been to a few Cameroonian hospitals, and this one was one of the better ones I have been. It was strange because as we took a tour we visited some of the rooms where there were actual patients. In one room, a lady was soon to give birth and in another room, a woman and her one day old baby were resting. The hospital was small and it serves thousands of people who live in the area.

We also took a tour of the school. The students had a small break. They all rushed over to us to have their photo taken. The little boy in the front is my friend, Adamou. All the school children in Cameroon wear uniforms.

Trip to the Village: Nkwen

We spent a wonderful afternoon in Mbello's (my friend's driver) village, Nkwen. When we first arrived we drank some mimbo, also called palm wine. In the picture, you will see Mbello's father demonstrating how they get palm wine by using a bucket to catch the liquid that drips from the rafia palm tree. The palm wine is best when collected in the morning or evening. When it is fresh, it has a very sweet taste. However, if it is left to ferment, then the alcoholic taste is more noticeable-"Then it's a man's drink!"

His family prepared a wonderful meal typical of the northwest province that included njamajama and corn fufu and achu with yellow soup (ok, I know I butchered the spelling of these foods). These foods are eaten with the thumb and the first two fingers.

After eating, we took a walk through their enormous garden. I learned how to pick out various trees and plants including the cassava tree, coco yams, and mango trees. In the picture, we have Mbello's sister uprooting a coco yam, which is one of the staple foods of Cameroon and is used in many dishes. Also,the white object is the cassava root also used to make many foods.

Crater Lake

At the end of the trip we took a detour to Foumbot, where we hiked up 300+ stairs to view the crater lake. After huffing and puffing up the stairs, we finally came across a magnificent view of blue waters and high cliffs dotted with palm trees. The drivers told us that they believed the waters were cursed because if you try to throw a rock in the water, you will never see it touch. They say it disappears because of witch craft. We did throw many rocks into the lake and never saw one touch.

A few boys and girls from the local village ran up the stairs as our escorts. They probably accompany all the people who want to take a trip up to the lake. Or, maybe they just needed an exscuse to take in the lovely view.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Picnic in a Traditional Village-Hikoa Malep

The father of one of my students (Ngonkliba) graciously invited the entire ASOY community to his village, Hikoa-Malep. Unfortunately, only a dozen or so people went. For those who went, it was a day to remember. Our trip started out with a two-hour drive southwest to Esseka. After reaching Esseka, it took another hour to drive through the rainforest to the village. The 27 kilometer trip (1.2 miles) was fairly bumpy as we traveled on dirt roads that had been flooded due to the previous day’s rains. We traveled deep into the forest as we splashed into huge puddles of muddy water. On the way there, we drove through impressive palm tree plantations. The government owns these plantations and mostly uses the palm oil for exportation. Many Cameroonians use palm oil to cook their food. The people of Hikoa-Malep and the surrounding area are part of the Bassa tribe, one of the couple hundreds of tribes in Cameroon .

After a long journey, we finally arrived at Hikoa-Malep. The chief (the father of my student) and his family warmly greeted us upon our arrival. Throughout the entire visit, we were made to feel like close friends. Their homes were simple, made from wood and cement. During the first part of the day, we took a long hike through the rainforest. Our guides (my student and his uncle) pointed out various trees, rivers, and lakes. They gave us a wonderful tour of their village and educated us on the surrounding area. We drank from coconuts, ate guava, and toured the nearby train station.

After the tour of the village, we sat down for an amazing dinner, which featured many traditional foods. I enjoyed the fish soup!! After our meal, we strolled to one of their sacred areas where they demonstrated a traditional ceremony used to rid bad luck from those who participate.

The day was rewarding and provided a great opportunity for me to get out and learn about life in the village.

We went to one of the sacred grounds where the chief demonstrated one of the traditional rituals. They filled a bowl with water and leaves from trees on the sacred grounds. With the leaves, they washed the arms and legs of the people. This ritual is used to rid bad luck from the people who take part in the ceremony.

A great feast!! After returning from our trip through the village, we had a wonderful meal at the home of the chief. Before eating, we used water from a bucket and soap to wash our hands. The table included typical foods from Cameroon. In the shot of my plate, I ate fried sweet potatoes, fried plantains, a peanut paste (can't remember the name, but didn't care for it to much), fish soup, a beef dish, and another dish (the name I can't remember either) which was palm oil mixed with cassava. I have grown to enjoy a lot of Cameroonian foods such as ndole, achu, and njamajama (spelling). It was a great experience for Mr. Nguimbous to invite us to his village to learn about his village.

Here are various pictures of our day including our relaxing drink at the local store, the chief feeding his goat a piece of bread, my student, Ngonkliba, and some of our group members enjoying their day.