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Reaching the shimmering sea

2006-07-05 15:03
DAYS 29 to 31: 23 to 25 June

SENGAL: Dakar - Kaolack - Tambacounda - Kidira MALI: Diboli - Kayes - Diema - Didiena - Kati - Bamako - Bamako - Segoué - San - Djenne - Mopti - Douentza - Timbuktu - Sévaré - Mopti - Dogon Country: Bandiagara - Sanga - Bankass BURKINA FASO: Ouagadougou - Kantchari NIGER: Niamey - Birni Nkonni NIGERIA: Kano - Bauchi - Yankari Game Reserve, Wikki Warm Springs - Maiduguri - Banki CAMEROON: Limani - Mora - Maroua - Garoua - Ngaoundere - Tibati - Banyo - Foumban - Bafoussam - Bamenda - Ring Road: Bafut - Wum - Bamenda - Limbe - Douala - Yaoundé.

We arrived in Limbe late on Day 29, just glimpsing Mount Cameroon (West Africa's highest peak) and the little islets dotting Ambas Bay before night fell, which was when the lights of Malabo, the small island belonging to Equatorial Guinea (and its commercial capital) just became visible across the water.

After a drought of desert and phenomenal heat on this trip, this morning we had a fantastic swim in the sea, watching the sun rise behind Mount Cameroon.

The beach is beautiful - fringed with palm trees and with peculiar dark chocolate brown sand, courtesy of being at the base of a volcano. Mount Cameroon last erupted in 1999, leaving a lava flow that completely blocked the road.

We climbed up the flow this morning - it's a 30 metre-high jumbled mass of black rubble, with bright green ferns just beginning to grow throw it.

After a tour of Limbe town's sights - a beautifully luscious botanical garden, one of the few primate conservation centres in the world and a look at the beachfront, with fishermen in pirogues bringing in their catch, we got back on the road to Douala, Cameroon's second city, where MTN Cameroon had laid on a treat: lunch, cold beer and big screen TVs so we could watch the friendly match between South Africa and France in Newlands.

It seems the South African staff at MTN has heard about our trip, and they're wanting to catch up with some fellow South Africans.

It was a great afternoon, our first real time out since the day at Wikki Warm Springs in Nigeria, and it was great to see some South African faces.

We're now travelling what's been described as one of the world's most dangerous roads - between Douala and Cameroon's capital, Yaoundé. It's an excellent road, all good tar, but the danger lies with the huge number of trucks carrying immense loads of felled trees, some well over two metres in diameter.

It's a sad sight, and passing them has clearly caused some tragic accidents. All over Cameroon we've passed official signs indicating danger zones - a black cut-out figure (almost like a gingerbread man), followed by a second sign saying 'ICI 10 MORT', or '10 died here'.

But on this stretch we're seeing '32 died here'. So although the Toyota Fortuners and Cruisers would love to have flexed their mechanical muscle, we're keeping our speeds down.

There's nothing like absence to make you feel patriotic. We met up with Rina Pretorius, counsellor for the South African High Commission, outside the Hilton Hotel in Yaoundé.

And we couldn't miss her - she was waving a huge South African flag, a very happy sight. She has been incredibly helpful to us - liaising with the Cameroon Ministry of Tourism to ease our passage through the country, and helping with plenty of planning and logistics.

She's also arranged for us all to stay with her and some of her friends, so tonight we'll sleep in comfort - a very welcome relief from dodgy campsites and rundown hotels!

Adelle Horler and Geoff Dalglish

Visit the Toyota Timbuktu Table Mountain Web Log for updates and photos at http://blogspace.mweb.co.za

With thanks to our sponsors Toyota South Africa, Megaworld, African Outback Products, Pertec, Garmin, MWEB @ Home - iPass, African Stuff, Toshiba and DataShuttle. Thanks also to CFAO Toyota dealerships in Senegal, Mali and Ouagadougou for their enthusiastic assistance.

* Catch the television series on this expedition on SABC TV3 on Sundays, starting on September 3 at 5:30 pm.


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