We're all going on a, Christmas holiday
on Heather Saunders (Nigeria), 17/Jan/2011 17:12, 34 days ago
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Happy New Year! And happy harmattan, currently inKadunait's averaging a chilly 21 degrees in the shade, and my colleagues are wearing ski jackets, hats and gloves to fight off the“cold”. Although a hardy Brit, even I can’t cope with the cold and have found myself wishing I had some socks and shoes instead of only one pair of sandals!I arrived back inKadunalast weekend, after an incredible Christmas and New Year travelling in southernNigeriaandCameroon. I traveled with eight volunteers over the three weeks, five of usset off fromAbujaon our way to Lafia, adventure number one, get five people in a VW golf, without paying too high an oyibo/pre Christmas price, and without mishap. Done. Three hours later we arrived in Lafia, and were treated to an incredible Indian meal by Teddy and Shreela, and Richard III even gave up his bed to me and Lucy, what a gent!The next day the serious adventures began, as we headed to Makurdi, and from there got a bush taxi to Obudu town, from where our host, Abebe, had arranged a car to take us to our destination, Obudu Cattle Ranch.Ready for the journey to Obudu.Abebe's lodge is the poor man's cattle ranch accommodation, for an affordable 5,500 naira (£26) per night, we could stay right next to the cattle ranch proper, where rooms are a staggering 20,000 naira per night! Abebe's Lodge, for those who are interested can be called on 08036242192. Here our food was 300 naira a plate, instead of 3,000, and even the very questionable bush meat we wereserved came in a decent egusi stew. The only downside was the our hot water on the first night, which had to be heated on a wood fire, took about 3 hours to arrive.Obudu cattle ranch is famous acrossNigeriaas a place of outstanding natural beauty, it’s high up on a plateau, which makes the temperature cool and refreshing. So refreshing that for the first time inNigeria, I was cold!The hut I stayed in at Afi. Whilst at Obudu, we visited the first of two canopy walkways, took a demanding trek down to a waterfall, and to a mountain view point, from where we could see Cameroon, it looked just like Nigeria! The cable car, fyi, is closed on Tuesdays for maintenance, although of course no one mentioned this to us on Monday. But on our departure we were able to take a trip down in the cable car to the water park, slides included, before we set off to Afi.Our next stop was Afi drill monkey sanctuary, deep in the rainforest inCrossRiverstate, which has the largest population of captive drill monkeys in the world. All rescued from the bush meat trade, which is an incredibly lucrative business in Nigeria and West Africa, chimp meat was described to us as‘sweet’ by people we met in Cameroon. The accommodation at Afi is huts in the forest, surrounding by mosquito netting. The sounds of the jungle lull you to sleep, and screaming chimps and drills wake you up bright and early. The phone eating toilet at Afi.The toilet facilities are reminiscent ofGlastonbury, long drop toilets without the barrier to stop your own wee coming back at you, leading to much contortion on the part of ladies without a she wee. Just like the loos at glasto, these toilets eat mobile phones. Beth’s phone was a victim on our first day, and each morning the alarm went off at 7am, despite being immersed in 10 feet of poo! Secret santa/sinterklaas.At Afi we were treated to another, much more impressive canopy walkway, high up in the trees, followed by another waterfall (have you spotted the pattern yet?).Christmas day was spent in thevillageofAkpap Okoyong, also inCrossRiverstate, home of the famous missionary Mary Slessor, and VSO Sarah! Secret santa got me a wonderful necklace and earrings, and in honour of Sarah, the Dutch vso, everyone had written each other a poem in the Dutch sinterklaas tradition. Later we had a delightful dinner of fish and chips around 11pm, after not really realizing that the fish weren’t gutted, and in true Nigerian style, running out of water mid preparation. I just peeled spuds, so couldn’t claim any credit at all.Calabar carnival was mildly entertaining, not quite as efficiently organized as Notting Hill, with the police’s preferred method of crowd control being whips and sticks, there were some pretty good costumes though! Calabar carnival.We crossed over toCameroonby ferry, told to arrive at 4am at the port, and turned up at 5, only to wait until 9 for the ferry to leave. Standard practice. We were interviewed by‘Femi’ the friendly local Nigerian secret service agent, who wanted to know where we worked, names of our employers, and what we were doing in Nigeria, and then wangled us an upgrade to 1stclass!Mt Cameroon, obligatory summit victory photo.Our first stop in Limbe was delicious grilled fish and plantain on the sea front, followed by the trip to Buea, at the base ofMountCameroon.Exhausted walking through a volcaniccrater late on day 2, yes, that's me, the old man. With the stick.The trek up and downMountCameroon, West Africa's highest mountain, at 4,095 metres, took three days. We trekked for six hours the first day, eleven the next, and seven on the last day. It's an active volcano, which last erupted in 2000, and we walked through craters, and across lava flows, with the smell of sulphur in the air. The view was worth the walk, although it was exhausting, we were lucky none of us suffered from altitude sickness. George, our guide had claimed he didn’t think Emily would make It up the mountain, being so ‘heavy’, she proved him very wrong! Thereafter any sentence beginning ‘George said… ‘ was discounted. It turned out to be me who suffered the most on the way down, and I blame it all on this terrible blister. Sympathy please, not expressions of disgust. We got back down to Limbe in time for New Years Eve, and stayed in the definitely disheveled Atlantic Beach Hotel, with an incredible view from our balcony. In true vso style we fitted four in a room and made the most of the pool to clean off the volcanic ash frommountCameroon, and flooded the bathroom. They loved us. New Years eve in Limbe consisted of amazing pizza at Emilia’s pizza place - not the real name, and beer at the street side bar,Las Vegas, where new years eve was announced on true African time, about five minutes late!After two days on the volcanic ash beaches at Limbe, Emily and Karen went back to Nigeria, whilst Rich III and I headed down south to Kribi, home of white sand beaches and one of few waterfalls in the world which flows directly into the sea, and lots more fish and beer. Cameroonians drink more beer per head than any other African country.