Thursday, June 24, 2010

Road to Kumba

As our friend Carl was wrapping up his two week visit with us we wanted to do something different than the usual weekend activities. We had planned to go to Kribi, a resort beach town in the South Region. But for a number of reasons we decided it would be better to stay a bit closer to home and make a single day trip to Kumba.

From our place in Buea you head down to Mile 17 (about 3 miles down the hill). Mile 17 is a round-a-bout and one of the fastest growing areas in Buea. To go to Kumba you exit left. From there you pass Muea (also a rapidly growing community and home to one of the oldest markets in the greater Buea area).

From Muea you travel about 50 miles to Kumba. As the road leaves Muea, there are few towns and villages (Bolifamba, Ekona and Muyuka are the other major communities on the road to Kumba). The scenery is spectacular coming away from Buea. There is one place where the road drops at an 8 to 10% rate and you can see rolling hills for many miles. The ups and downs and twists and turns of this year old upgraded road are interrupted with periodic speed bumps and three or four police/military check points.

From a round-a-bout in Kumba, it is about 2 miles to the turn off to Lake Barambi Kotto - a crater lake. The last bit of this road - after the government offices - is a relatively graded dirt road. The little road to the lake is more of a "track". It was once paved or at least in parts. From the turn off, the last track is just about a half mile. That last half mile took us 10 minutes and 15 seconds to drive.

I am now very happy we purchased a four-wheel drive (4WD). I had not tested the 4WD system until this point. Putting the Terrano into 4H we started down the track, through a very soft and muddy 15 feet and up the other side.

Dropping down a gentle grade we were faced with a very steep uphill grade with some pretty good (bad) ruts. I put it into 4-low and picked my path. No tire slippage at all as the torque of the engine pretty much pulled us up the hill. From that point I just left it in 4-low to the lake's edge as the road was very muddy and rough.

The lake area is lush. It sits at an elevation of about 980 feet. We were blessed with a mostly sunny day. Of course that meant more heat than we are used to in Buea (elev 2400'). Where the road meets the lake you can hire a boat to take you across the lake to a village. We opted out of the boat rental and decided to just walk about. We walked for a while on a jungle path along the lake. When the growth got real thick and tall we turned around and headed back.

On the drive back along the track we gave a lift to two village ladies headed to the Kumba market. Their plantains had been taken out by moto and they were walking the track. We dropped them at track's end so they could be sure to arrange for the plantains to make the rest of the trip to market.

In Kumba we decided to check out the market as well. It is fairly large with well defined dirt walkways. Fortunately the dirt was more dry than wet and mud was minimal. Lunch was at Kanton Hotel/Cafe. The World Cup was on the television. There were four of us and we had intended to face each other around our table, but instead they brought another table up so that all of us could watch the game. Did I mention the World Cup is BIG here? Sadly, however, the Cameroon National team has been eliminated.

The drive back was uneventful: no hassles at checkpoints being most noteworthy.