Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Road to Kribi

You never really know how much stress you are feeling until you find a place to be quiet and relax. This was my experience in going to Kribi.

Kribi is a beach resort town in the South Region of Cameroon - attracting people from Douala and Yaounde with the easy drive and quiet pace. The population is estimated at 60,000 (based on 2007 figures). One of the first things I noticed on arriving in town is that there were large rubber trash receptacles place every few hundred feet along the road. Because of this the town has relatively little (almost no) street side litter. The entire time were were in Kribi I also never smelled the burning of anything except the sweet savor of food cooking.

The next thing I really noticed was the the beaches are almost completely trash free as well. This is no small feat. Kribi has a port of sorts, but I'm pretty sure its survival depends on tourism. Kribi is essentially at the road's end. It is known for its "white" sand beaches and Lobé Falls. Lobé Falls is one of several waterfalls around the world that fall directly into the ocean. They are not spectacular in the sense of height and grandeur. They are spectacular simply for what they are.

The daily stress one is under pales in comparison to (or perhaps is magnified by) the bump and grind through Bonaberi, and worse yet, the road just beyond the Douala Airport. From Buea to Kribi is about 150 miles and it takes about 3.5 hrs to drive. I look forward to the Douala Bypass. I don't think it is planned or anything. I think I will come back to Cameroon just to drive it though.

Just after the town of Edea you turn right on to the N7 (from the N3). Street signs are essentially non-existant (we did see some in Yaounde). Often you will see a sign that shows roads with town names. But to Kribi, we saw nothing. I turned right at what seemed right place. Just down the road a piece was a large sign (in French) saying something about Kribi. I also noticed a little stone Km marker a bit further along noting 95 Km to Kribi. Whew. The correct road.

The beauty of the N7 is that it only has traffic bound for Kribi. This, being the off season meant traffic was light. The road is in good repair and truck traffic was minimal. So I was able to hit speeds of 73 mph. I was passed only by a couple of cars!! About 3/4 of the way to Kribi, you cross a river and into the South Region.

As this was all new to us we went slowly through town trying to follow the directions of the 2004 guidebook. Funny thing about guidebooks: they are not able to tell you about current road conditions or construction. We finally found the detour around the work blocking our way. And by noon had reached Hotel Ilomba. We were told they were full up so we went back to the next hotel. The Hotel Residence des Fluers saved us 25,000 cfa per night. The accommodations where nice and clean. The mattress felt new and the pillows very nice. The only thing that seemed less than "normal" was that there was no toilet seat. While unusual for us, this is indeed quite normal here.

We went to Lobé falls after checking in, walked out on the rocks and snapped some photos. This began the "de-stressing" process. We lunched at Ilomba. Beyond telling us "don't panic" the guidebook says this restaurant is "good". "Good" is an understatement. I ordered Fillet au Paris or something like that. The waiter returned and asked "How would you like that cooked?" I couldn't believe my ears!! "Medium well" was my reply knowing I would be happy with whatever returned. And what came to the table was a nice lean steak that was ever so lightly pink. It was "melt in your mouth delicious!"

Dinner was at our hotel. While the accommodations were respectable, the restaurant is not. Where lunch was easily the best meal I had eaten in Cameroon, dinner was the worst. The service was average at best and the bill incorrect. We left there and walked back to Ilomba for dessert of ice cream (a couple of scoops of mint and a couple of coconut with a dollop of whipped cream) and a chocolate mousse. Without hesitation we went back to Ilomba for breakfast. I had the 6000 cfa breakfast buffet - easily the best tasting and most filling meal I have had in the country. We did stop on the way out of town at a place for lunch and had a very tasty meal too.

When one willingly stops being the "hamster on the wheel" the awareness of the stress comes flooding to the top. Life in Africa, and Cameroon in particular, is at once a slower yet incredibly intense pace. Everything seems to take much more effort to accomplish so much less. The noise of the everyday can often drown out the still small voice calling us to be wise, loving, humble, and peacemakers. The noise of the everyday can often blind us to unique solutions, and actually diminish relationships. There is nothing magical about Kribi - just opportunity. Resting on the beach after a wonderful meal I began to think about these things. I have no answers. There are things you know and yet sometimes forget in the experience. I love Trixy and I choose her daily. Yet here I was finally relaxing disconnected from our "everyday". Walking hand in hand on the beach or along a dirt track, laughing and actually enjoying one another, without all the added, daily stress and strain. We certainly didn't become "stress free" but it was dialed back. It was just what the doctor ordered.