I made it to see my 24th birthday, all in one piece!
For a few moments (okay, let’s be real…hours…) I wasn’t totally sure if that would happen because we were adventuring on Mount Cameroon, the tallest mountain (~4,000 meters) in Central/West Africa. To say the least, it was intense and grueling, but I’m glad we did it.
After some issues with communication with our admin here, Kate (another PCV) and I thought that we wouldn’t be able to go join three other PCVs (Kalika, Steph, and Sarah) to do the 5-day hike up Mt. Cameroon. But at the very last minute, we got the okay to go. So we quickly packed up our hiking gear and hopped on a very very hot and sweaty bus to head to Buea (BOY-uh), where we would meet up with the others.
Most people do the 3-day hike – summit on Day 2 and get all the way back to the base on Day 3. We decided to go with the 5-day hike, which few people do, because we had the best chances of seeing elephants. I thought that because we were breaking it up into 5 days, the trip would be significantly easier, as we slowly wound our way down the mountain.
I’m notorious for over-packing, and this was no different. One hour into the trip, a porter had to take some weight off my shoulders (literally) by carrying a few items for me. It rained on us during the first day for the tail end of our hike, and it left us really cold and totally soaked to the bone. However, we were met with delicious food and some German volunteers who entertained us with renditions of “Hit Me Baby, One More Time” on the guitar as the rain went through the night.
The next day, we summited after slowly shuffling our way through the altitude, cold, and exhaustion. But damn did it feel good to reach the top!! And on our way back down, we got to slide down lava flows that have turned into rocks/gravel/sand, which was AMAZING. It did cost me my comfy William and Mary sweatpants (ie I had a HUGE hole that would have exposed my entire butt, had it not been for my leggings underneath), which gave everyone a good laugh. By evening though, it took us a long time to make the descent back into the forested areas, and I was feeling pretty delirious, dizzy, and exhausted. But there’s nothing that a delicious dinner can’t fix.
The next day, we tried to see some elephants, but only found elephant poop instead. Then we started our “real” hike (not that it was any less tiring before) and started ascending ANOTHER mountain and then descended then ascended and descended, etc. To say the least it was super tiring.
And on 3rd day, we ran into some of the “park rangers” who chatted with our guide and porters who then suddenly got a bit on edge. Nobody really seemed to be able to tell us what was going on until the evening, after we had tucked away yet another delicious dinner, and we were told that we were having a water shortage.
What?! On top of a mountain, a two day hike away from civilization?!
Our guide finally explained to us the situation – we were supposed to reach a spring on the 4th day to refill our water, but the rangers had informed them earlier that day that those springs were dry. Awesome. Two days left and a handful of bottles of water left for 8 Cameroonians and the 5 of us.
The next morning, we were feeling pretty uneasy about the next 2 days ahead of, but we had a beautiful and mostly flat landscape to hike on. When we reached our camp site, sure enough, there was no water. So we decided to turn our 5-day hike into a 4-day hike by completing the last leg into the evening.
To say that we were tired was an understatement. We were tired, sweaty, dirty, sore, achy, and a bit cranky because our guide had been telling us, “almost there” for hours.
But the important thing is that we made it to the bottom, and we were still alive and intact. And on top of that, we had made it to the top of Mount Cameroon, which turned out to be MUCH tougher than I had anticipated.
The food was delicious, the scenery was beautiful, and the company was great. Though I don’t think I ever want to do that again, I’m glad I did it and ended out my 23rd/started my 24th birthday with the hike.
And here I am, back in Yaounde, waiting until Monday when I have a meeting. Then finally, I’ll get to go back to Bazou.
For the time being though, I think I’ll just enjoy not walking through thorns, into big red fire ants, having enough water to drink, and being clean.
Peace and love,
Wes, Pumba, and Timon