Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mangoes and Monkeys

Sunrise in the pouring rain.


And thunder.

Right, so it's rainy season in Cameroon.

That's not all bad, of course. I'd circumvented the tricky muddy roads over the mountains by taking the ferry from Nigeria, and I didn't have anything to do today. So I slept in until 8:30, ate a piggy breakfast, and did my laundry in the hotel sink.

And listened to Lady Gaga. Did they only have one CD in the lounge? No, wait...two. Serge Gainsbourg and Lady Gaga on a loop. Not at the same time.

Eventually, the rain stopped. And in time, it occurred to me that I really should leave the hotel at some point, at least to find out how I should get to Yaounde in the morning.

I went in front of the hotel and hailed a shared taxi into town, where other passengers and the driver carefully deposited me into another shared taxi, with instructions to go to Mile 4.

"Mile 4?" I asked them. "Isn't this a metric country?"

The driver laughed. The passengers shrugged. They were too used to it to have given the locations being measured in miles much thought.

At Mile 4, the taxi driver pointed me to some shacks behind a muddy parking area. The touts approached me.

"Where to?"

"I want to go to Yaounde tomorrow."

They pointed behind the shacks, to an open area full of more shacks.

I stepped around the mud puddles, found a shack with an attendant, and sorted out that the bus leaves at 8:30, takes three hours, and costs 4,000 CFA. And no, I didn't need to buy in advance.

"Just show up."

I caught the shared taxi back to town (to "Half-Mile," of course). This time, the driver left me with a motorcycle taxi, and instructed him to take me to the zoo.

The zoo isn't really a zoo. It's a gorilla and monkey reserve featuring rescued primates, the Limbe Wildlife Centre. I'd arrived late—only an hour to closing time.

But what I soon discovered is that by arriving late, I'd arrived at dinner time.

Workers pitched fruit into the enclosures, and the monkeys all went bananas. There were drill monkeys, chimps, mandrills, and even a few grand old mountain gorillas. I stared at the silverback. After all the trouble I'd gone to in Uganda in 2001 to see his relatives, how dare he laze about here so casually and cheaply? But what a prize. I felt like I'd just been let in on a secret. Secret mountain gorillas, just hanging out in Limbe. This one had been found half-dead in the back of a bush taxi. What kind of person steals a mountain gorilla from the wild? Not a nice one.

The monkeys eating mango were starting to get to me. I wanted a mango too. And they hung from trees all around the reserve.

Fortunately, when I reached the end of the path, there was a little cafe. Fresh mango juice! One of my favorite things.

Mmmmm. I like Limbe.

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