I had a very night at Hotel Sahel that evening in Maroua. I was woken around 4am by a very large downpour which continued till around 7am that morning. I had been advised earlier by the transport company (Touristique Express, which I had used from Douala to Maroua) that the vehicle to Kousseri must set out for the journey 5am that morning. My hotel room was nothing near to the bus park. I was ready to leave the hotel at exactly 5am but could not as a result of the downpour.
When it was 6pm and I still could not leave the hotel premises, I went to have a word with the security officer in the hotel. He advised that there was no taxi available for me and that the only option I have is to wave down a local motorbike operator – who are not very likely to be working under the rain.
After another one hour of waiting, I had no other option but to leave the hotel under the rain. Yes, I was soaked, but I was able to get one after about five minutes of walk. At the park, the buses from the two big transport companies Danay Express and Touristique Express had already left as expected since 5am that morning. There were however a few other private drivers who travelled same route. They are usually on the watch-out for passengers who go to the big companies to request for bus. That was how they told me to come join their bus to Kousseri that morning. I paid the 7000 CFA ($12) for the trip (Maroua to Kousseri).
I was one of the first passengers in the bus and while I waited for other the bus driver to get more passengers, I decided to use the opportunity to get breakfast – stewed spaghetti and fried eggs and bread. The bus was almost full when I returned from breakfast. I took some shots at the park and we left the park at around 8am.
Maroua has a wonderful landscape though underdeveloped compared to most places in the south of the country. There were several hills and highlands. A few Savannah shrubs were scattered here and there on these flat and sometimes, hilly landscapes. The driver was in a hurry, an action which other fellow passengers justified, saying we must have to hurry if we must arrive on time that day.
Everything went well initially, but two hours or so into the trip, our vehicle broke down the first time. The driver, who is also a moto mechanic quickly got to work. He was Fulfulde, spoke no French nor English and hence we could not communicate – even though some of the passengers helped me translate a few things I tried to communicate with him. Several attempt to get a selfie with him as I sat in the front seat with him did not work as he did not want me to take a shot of him – though I succeeded at some point.
While waiting for the bus repair to finish, I noticed a young man with a bicycle park in front of a hut close by. I spoke with some of the passengers that I would want to do a bicycle ride. They told me the just to request for it, of which I was given when I requested. It was fun riding a bicycle after almost 10 years.
The problem with the vehicle was resolved shortly after I commenced my bicycle ride. The passengers were very kind to me when they learnt I was a tourist. There were also five Chadian students in the vehicle who were going home for holidays in Chad. I ceased the opportunity to ask them a lot of questions about Chad, their government, cost of living and several other things about their country.
We arrived Magdeme in the Extreme Northern Region of Cameroon sometime around midday. This village shares a common boundary with Nigeria and has been on the news for some years now because of incessant Boko Haram attacks. In as much as I was alarmed by the insecurity of this route, I was prepared to capture any unusual event with my camera that might happen on this route.
I had a mixed feeling of fear should Boko Haram extremists decide to surface that day…and also of the sophistication of the weaponry of the UN patrol team on the route which was massive. I had wanted to capture the UN soldiers on my camera, but recalled how brutal some of them could be. I never wanted to fall victim of soldiers’ brutality in a foreign land if they eventually notice am taking pictures of them.
With these thoughts on my mind, I noticed a young boy of around 12 years of age running and making the same gesture a young lad we had passed earlier was making to us which my fellow passengers interpreted to mean that he wanted some water. In the earlier encounter of this same request that day, when I was told the boy wanted water, I quickly threw the bottle of water I wanted to keep with me for the journey out of the window of the vehicle so he could pick it up – you can’t imagine the joy on the boy’s face when he picked it, at least I looked back to see him.
Unfortunately, I did not have any more bottles of water to throw at this other lad. I was rather filled with emotions, wondering why people should have to beg to drink water. I resolved to make sure I encourage anyone travelling that route to always travel with lots of water. Probably they could share these water with them. In as much as this sharing of water on the road seems good, it will not meet the needs of millions who are in dire need of clean water in these regions but will reduce the risk of drinking unclean water.
Before this incident, I had never taken seriously some publications that talked about government providing portable drinking water for her citizens. I had always dismissed it as a mere attempt by some politicians to loot government treasury but this incident made me see things differently. Providing portable drinking water for our world and its citizens is a cause each and every one of us must do something about. While I was wallowing in these thoughts, the vehicle I was in tried to maneuver a pothole in front of us on that road and it resulted in a shake that reminded me I had some coins in my pocket. The boy could get some water with these you know.
Shortly before this incident, I noticed a Touristique Express that was broken down. This was the same bus I could have travelled on if I had arrived the park earlier. We made a brief stop, the driver of our bus had a word with the driver of the faulty bus before we continued on the journey.
The journey was a very long one, even though it was peaceful. We had another breakdown and this time, we were very much relaxed till everything was fixed. I also used the opportunity to take some beautiful pictures of the villages. We arrived Kousseri that evening and my friends, the university students insisted I stayed with them that evening so we all could cross the border together into Chad the next morning.