The road to Yaoundé —
The day started in the dark a bit before 5am in Limbe, the urgency was impressed on me from everyone I spoke to, but most succinctly by Ivo my driver, “If we don’t pass Douala by six we shall be stuck, so stuck, maybe two, three (wave of the hand) four hours.” That began a seven and a half hour, three police stop, two truck crash, one coca-cola cannaiblization saga that terminated in one of the worst traffic messes in Yaoundé the capitol I have ever seen. But I’m writing about it, so I made it to my interviews (my next posting.)
Three natural moments punctuated the long trip – near the town of Edea, east and west of the town limits, the road is lined by tertiary tropical rainforest hosting old palm oil plantations, most look smallish, and 15+ years and older. As small share holding by the local people they actually allow a bit of native forest to close in on the margins and even mix into the palms. The scene is completely in contrast to the vast sweeping clear cut forests and rows of oil palm that stand like corn in a field. The first natural sight was a trio of black and white hornbills that soared in formation across the road and disappeared into the 30m canopy – my heart sang – something of natural life still survives.
The next two were nature under siege. A small roadside hut selling mostly local palm oil in reused liter water bottles and two bushmeat porcupines hanging from the front of the hut. The the second, the endless migration of logging trucks. Dozens of logging trucks that passed us on the central highway. The Douala to Yaounde highway is the final conduit of death to the vast eastern rainforests that everyone tells me are being laid to waste. My rough estimate is 2-3 logs per truck was generally the avg… Yes, huge rainforest trees one imagines these ancient forests containing. Cameroon has the highest rate of deforestation in Central Africa.
It felt a weird destiny that I was heading to Yaoundé to meet CIFOR’s Senior Scientist on forests — would I hear science or conservation or a story of some in-between world?
2015-2016 Global research and reporting on great apes made possible in part through the generous financial support of the Philadelphia Zoo