5 days of strong emotions in the capital have gone by, between infamous bureaucracies, diabolic exorcisms, bicycle mechanics, body healing, aesthetic transformations and little rest. I keep going with a great deal of effort, with infected legs and half of my skull numb without apparent wishes to wake up in the near future. How did I get to this point? I do not know, but I can not deny that my mood is exceptional and I suppose it is a sign that the more frequent nutrition in better quality is starting to make a difference. I am happy and full of enthusiasm when I say goodbye to Ernestine and her neighbours from the quartier (slum) to get back on the road.
The change, only a few days after leaving Yaoundé is radical. As I cycle up the mountains to the northwest, the environment is transformed once again. These are changes that I have experienced many times as I travel across the stretches that take me from one climatic and geographical region to another. And yet, they never stop giving me that beautiful tingling caused by being at the end of one stage and the beginning of a new one. Although I must admit that, to this usually sweet mixture of flavours, now a very strong spice is added. I'm on my way to Nigeria, the country with the worst reputation in Africa and currently among the ones getting the worst publicity in the world. I lie if I say that, despite my enthusiasm, there is no underlying anxiety and worry that takes away my sleep every day and I am not easily intimidated.
The temperature and humidity drop drastically and I have been so long in the tropics that I have become very sensitive to the cold. The rains continue every day as in recent weeks, but now, above 1600 meters above sea level, I shiver in the cold as I cycle completely soaked. The landscape passes from the lush tropical vegetation to the dry mountain forest. It's like entering another country. In the same way, this English-speaking part of Cameroon is totally different from the francophone one. For some reason, people are much more friendly and educated. Until Yaoundé, my experiences had been divided 50-50 between brute people who confronted me with the urge to provoke me, and adorable and good-hearted people like in almost all of Africa. Here the scales tips again towards the latter, so I receive this change with open arms.
Meanwhile, cities and towns, are still aesthetically ugly, but they are full of life and colours that vibrate when the sun shines on the dresses of women, the dozens of exotic fruits overflowing the tables, the red earth and the greenery of the forest. However, it is not only the colours and the bustle that bring life but also the music and the beer, which is the main fluid that runs through the veins of the people of Cameroon, in this country where it is cheaper than water. Women and men drink day and night in the dozens of bars and canteens in the villages and, curiously, unlike in many other countries, nobody seems to be really drunk here.
Despite the intense cold of the mornings and the mild temperatures of the day, it is beautiful to feel the dry skin again knowing that the torrid tropical heat is finally staying behind me. This more benevolent climate compensates for the hardness of returning to the long hours of cycling uphill. I go slowly and without haste, going up and down, until reaching a maximum altitude of 2000 meters high, which feels quite rare in this part of Africa. However, I stay in the saddle as much as I can because during these days I also realise that walking is becoming increasingly painful. By the time I get to Bamenda, after 7 days of pedalling between 8 and 9 hours a day, I can barely stand on my feet from the pain.
This city enjoys a magnificent microclimate and there I decide to rest for two splendid days, together with the girls of the German NGO Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World) who invite me to stay at their house and provide me with high-quality German disinfectants and sterilised material. This helps to contain the infectious process, but I already have 7 open wounds with pus, sometimes worms, and deeply painful, that never heal. My ankles are so inflamed around them that they have lost their shape. Standing and walking is a challenge. I can only do it when the pain is such that I stop feeling altogether.
As if I didn't have enough, my nervousness increase knowing that I am only two days away from the Nigerian border. I do not know if the real reason to stay in Bamenda is to let the wounds heal or to want to delay as much as I can, reaching the crucial moment of beginning to ride across Nigeria. What I do know is that sooner or later I have to face it, that's why, despite the infections, I decided not to stay longer and start the ride. I spend my last night in Cameroon in the church of Mamfé, the last town in the country, in the good company of the affectionate Father Patrick.
The morning before leaving for Ekok, when my anxiety is reflected in the length of my nails, the bishop comes to the church for a visit. I am not a Christian, I do not believe in any god, nor am I superstitious, but I value the blessings of those whose beliefs lead them to give unconditional love and compassion to others. The bishop gives me a rosary and a crucifix that I fix to the handlebar. When I'm already on the bicycle, he blesses them and blesses me so that everything goes well in Nigeria for me. I accept his good wishes from the heart and I say goodbye to everyone. Now, just like that, I'm ready to go.
I'm leaving Cameroon with mixed feelings. It has not been an easy country to ride across. On the one hand, I came in here very happy, after months of strong emotions, living at the extreme crossing the jungle, but on the other, as expected, my body started to take its toll after so much abuse to it. On top of the already harsh remote roads of the southeast of the country, some of the Cameroonians living in that region were not the most pleasant. All these experiences were compensated by easier roads and mostly friendly people towards the centre and northwest of the country. At the same time, eating better and more often, began to take effect during my days in the country.
It is difficult for me to be objective in my final conclusion about Cameroon because many situations that I went through were probably tinged with an opaque colour by my own exhaustion. I am totally convinced that one's own state of mind contributes deeply to the way we relate to experiences, the world and others. However, within the same context of fatigue, there have clearly been differences between good and not so good moments with people, therefore, objective reality always lies somewhere in the middle. Bearing this in mind, Cameroon has not been the easiest country in Africa, but even so, it is a country from which I leave with very good memories and to which I would have no problem returning.