15 May 2016

“I can't carry the tickets Mr. Chris, but I can carry you!”

News arrived that Cameroon's Indomitable Lions would be playing their first competitive match at the new Chinese-built stadium in Limbe, so we decided to go check it out. The match was an African Cup of Nations qualifier against South Africa in the end of March.

The pidgin English says it all.

We made our way to Limbe the day before to buy tickets. By that time the cheap seats were full, so we picked up a pair of 10,000 CFA tickets from the Ministry of Sports and Youth Development (after it turned out the vendor at the City Hall was not in yet).

View of Mt. Cameroon from Down Beach, Limbe.

We then passed the ensuing time walking around Limbe, visiting the Botanical Gardens, and eating grilled fish at Down Beach enjoying views of Mt. Cameroon (which is frequently obscured by clouds).

"Temporally out of use:" the swing and jungle gym have seen better days.

The Botanical Gardens were enjoyably tranquil, if a bit dilapidated. They featured an "amenity" for children, a cemetery for World War II combatants, an amphitheatre, and many impressive trees. The toilets were quite nice too.

Amphitheatre at Limbe Botanical Gardens.

In a change of pace from our usual beach-based Limbe stays, we stayed at Park Hotel Miramare, which had a pool as its shoreline was rather rocky.

The most popular feature of the pool was the sole inner tube.

The main event arrived and we began to look into transport to the stadium. We rode a moto whose driver alternated between blaring his horn and blowing a trumpet for the entire 15-20 minute drive as he weaved through traffic and smacked the trunks/boots of cars that got to close to us. (By this time, many fans had abandoned their cars at the side of the road.) We only collided with one vehicle, but soon reached an impassable area and were forced to walk.

Approaching Limbe stadium.

While the stadium is mostly complete the access road, though graded, was not yet paved. We had anyway alighted by some of the slag heaps where materials had been stored and constructions vehicles parked. With the stadium set above us, the trek reminded me of the walk to Mordor as various spectators scampered up the hill.

The final clamber!

Upon arrival we crossed a river of plastic bottles, crashed a line (these were pleasantly orderly) then made our way through security and into the stadium. We had packed water and snacks, although this was unnecessary. There were of course no stadium-organized concessions, but their place was enthusiastically taken up by vendors hawking drinks, Congo meat, yogurt, meat brochettes, etc.

The stadium was in quite good condition, had ample bathrooms, and a good sound system (powered by generator since the lights were out). There were nice views to the north and south of the stadium, and a good-sized scoreboard (which used Microsoft Windows).

There were some difficulties when it was time to switch between the scoreboard and player lineups.

The match ended in a 2-2 draw (with one sensational or deplorable goal, depending on your rooting interests). The Cameroonian fans were a bit dissatisfied with the result, although the Indomitable Lions remain on course to qualify for the Cup of Nations.

Confirmation that the stadium was Chinese-built.

Gabon is hosting the tournament in January 2017, so hopefully we'll be able to make the short flight for a game or two. Cameroon, in turn, is hosting the women's edition this October/November so we have a lot of international football in our future.

View of Ambas Bay from the stadium.

05 May 2016

Douala sights

When my family came to Cameroon in March, we made an enjoyable visit to the (link may begin playing French narration) Musee Maritime / Maritime Museum in Douala. The cost was very low, guides spoke English as well as French, and there was an interactive amusement ride to boot.

Musee Maritime in Bonanjo, Douala.

Although photos weren't permitted indoors, we got to see pictures of Cameroon's history with water (including artifacts belonging to the Sawa people who live on the coast) as well as naval artifacts, a replica of a ship's bridge, information on Cameroon's ports (including the new one in Kribi), and a couple of guys hanging out watching a Premier League match. While Peter (“Office Head – Guidage” his business card proclaims) was not in the Navy nor did he work in shipping, he was an amiable fellow and was able to explain much of what we saw.

A view of the port from the Musee Maritime, with timber ready to be shipped overseas.

The Musee Maritime suffered fire damage a year or so ago, and was recently reopened with some new features, including a large theatre which is available for rent and may be superior to the Institut Francais's cinema/performance hall. (My favorite feature of the latter is the large speakers that are suspended from the ceiling by chains wrapped around metal bars.)

The Douala port through the porthole.

The piece de resistance of this visit, however, was the Case des Tempetes. This features a 3D short film about a man who became an outcast who was sold into slavery. Unfortunately, the video does not dwell on any historical details of the slave trade and its effects, and instead the mechanical pirogues we were in began moving up and down to simulate the sea near Bimbia, and a hose occasionally sprayed water at us.

It was an incongruously entertaining ride, and the museum staff refused our offer to return the 3D glasses – the only other 3D theatre I know of in Cameroon is one in Ebolowa, capital of South Region, whose opening I read about in a Google News Alert.

Brochure for the Case des Tempetes video/ride.

Of course no visit to Douala, be you a PCV posted elsewhere in Cameroon or a family member, is complete without a visit to Marina 2000, the bar/restaurant/amusement park on the riverbank in Youpwe!

The salvaging of parts of the Arctic Voyager, moored in Youpwe, proceeds apace.

My dad and aunt also made a trip to the train station to purchase tickets for their trip to Yaounde. The Douala airport was closed for three weeks in March for repairs, which meant all outbound flights left Yaounde instead. 

The exterior of Gare Bessengue, and its clock tower.

As I've mentioned, Douala's train station is quite attractive although I didn't take any pictures. But my aunt asked around and heard no objections to photographing the station's exterior and interior so here are a couple of shots of the very pleasant Gare Bessengue (named after the neighbourhood where it's located).

The roof inside the Douala train station.