Wednesday 30 April 2008

28th April 08

Date: 25, 26, 27th and 28th April 08
Location: Yaounde, Cameroon
Weather: Grey oppressive thundery skies, humid, 36°c
Status: All feeling very tired and sore after the climb!

25th April – left the delights of the Azi Motel early in the morning to drive south to Limbe and finally the coast again. Pulled into the city after a few hour drive and wow what a place, stunningly beautiful scenery! Black volcanic sand leading into the clear ocean with little palm studded islands dotted on the horizon…oh and the large volcanic island of Equatorial Guinea in the distance too!

Visited the cash machines to fill up the wallets and went to the tourist office to find out about the climb of Mount Cameroon, the third and next challenge on my list of things to do. We’d be able to do it in 2 days as hoped as time is really starting to push on and we hope to be in the capital Yaounde by Monday as the applications for our next 3 visas will take at least 4 days so we can get them and head to the coast for some well needed R&R!

Once we’d got the details we headed to the Miramar Hotel just down the coast and used their pool and facilities to refresh after the drive. Bre and I grabbed the snorkels and we headed down to the beach and for nearly an hour pottered around the shoreline and rock pools trying to see anything, but to no avail!

Headed up to Buea, the town on the southern slopes of the mountain, to book the next couple of days activities and then found a little guest house where we could park up the vehicles and camp for the night. Really good little place and they even offered us free beds for the night to save us getting out our tents again!

26th April – up bright and early to start the climb. Somehow over the last week I’ve managed to persuade everybody to join me for the climb to the summit (its described as an easy trek!) and they all turned up at the office on time with far too much stuff, but as porters were included in the price it didn’t matter!.

So all 12 of us, plus 12 porters, plus 2 guides got taxis to the base and started the climb up the slopes of this amazing active volcano. The first part took us up through the rainforest and of course it was tipping it down just to remind us quite why this is the 3rd wettest place on the planet, and after a couple of hours walk it was clear that there were 2 different classes of walker…..the more experienced boot shodden ones, and the flip flop and lightweight shoe brigade, it should have been clear now who exactly would make it to the top!

Once we’d cleared the tree line at 2000m the terrain became trickier and the slope more intense and the group was split with one guide taking charge of each. The surface was noticeably easier to walk on than Mount Toubkal as its formed from igneous rock created during the last eruption back in 2000, rather than sedimentary rock which breaks away easily and makes walking more difficult.

We hit the first rest hut at around 1pm and then onto the most difficult part of the climb a 45° scramble which lasted for half an hour and tested even the best climbers, once we’d waited nearly an hour for the rest of the group to turn up we cleared the next ridge to find the overnight hut waiting for us. Exhausted we all grabbed a bite to eat before hitting the sack at around 8pm….we’ll there’s not much to do in the dark up a mountain, and we had to get up for 3.30am to start the final day!

27th April – awoke on time and donned the gear from yesterday before stuffing down a couple of MOD ration packs for body fuel and with head torches blazing we headed off into the morning darkness. We got almost 10 minutes into the trek and the first complaint arrived…..we can’t keep up, I’m too tired, I can’t see anything, and so very quickly 5 of the group decided they weren’t up for the challenge and headed back to the comfort, and disappointment filled delights of their sleeping bags…shame!

The weather had cleared beautifully and we could all see the towns and cities flickering below, the wind was up though and cut through our clothing as we walked the ridges which would take us to the summit, and after another hours walk we found ourselves at the 3rd and final rest hut at 3200m.

As we left the hut the sun was just starting to show its face on the horizon and with it came the cloud, huge white whispy pillow of moisture which wrapped themselves around the slopes, there one minute and gone the next. The air was thinning noticeably now and the huffing and puffing was really starting with less distance walked every time and more time to recover between attempts. Bre and I led from the front and were stuck to the guide from the start, she’s a damn fit girl to be able to do it and even equipped with just thin soled basketball boots marched along happily.

Once we’d got to within 200m of the summit the strain was really starting to show on some faces but eventually everyone made it to the top, in the windy, cold and damp conditions. Its hard to believe that only a day earlier we were basking in 36°c heat and now were shivering at zero degrees albeit at 4090m above sea level. The clouds were kind enough to clear for a few minutes whilst we were up there and we could see the coastline below and again Equatorial Guinea off in the distance, the other volcanic mountain in the area. I made a quick sat phone call to home just to let them know that Challenge Number 3 was completed and we quickly made the descent to the overnight hut again to tell all of the others of the experience.

A slow descent to keep the group together eventually became too much for me and when one of the porters suggested racing him to the bottom I jumped at the chance to get some good training in. OK he did have a 15kg backpack on and I was only carrying 5kg, but I did give him a good run for his money, we managed to clear the downhill section of the mountain and pretty much flat out running all the way, in a little over 2hrs but it killed me and my legs felt shattered. All good training for the Comrades which happens in just over and month and a half, yikes!

Once the rest had caught up we said our thank you’s and drove back to the coast at Limbe and straight to the Hotel Miramar again to use the delights of their pool to recover. I even treated myself to a double room, so Bre joined me and we sat up watching crappy movies and TV to recover.

28th April – woke early feeling stiff from the weekends exploits, and then had to get straight out to the Colonel as the F/O/S brake had been locking on. Found the problem and we were on the road by 9am on the way to Yaounde, Cameroon’s capital and our home for the next few days to organise visas for the next few countries. The supposed 4hr drive, took nearly 7 and although the quality of the roads was excellent, the numerous roadblocks, roadworks and traffic jams meant the entire day was stop start and when we finally got to the Presbyterian mission on the outskirts of the city we were all tired again. Quick bit of food for all and off to bed.

Up early in the morning to get to the Congo Embassy for 8am to start the application process….

End of day location: Yaounde, Cameroon
Distance covered: 328kms

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