Cameroon diaries I.: The dreaded cargo ship trip

This was written on the very same day of the journey, so the storytelling is 100% authentic.

The question was this: How to get from Nigeria to Cameroon?
As the border regions of Cameroon (North west and South west) were highly problematic by the time we went (violence, protests and murders as a part of the separation tendences of the anglophone part-find more on wikipedia, I’m not gonna get deeper in that, sorry), going by road was out of the question. Thus, we had to find a different mean of transport.
We were lucky to meet a guy named Daniel on our way from Port Hartcourt to Calabar. One day we went to watch football and have a beer and he introduced us to Julie, his friend from Cameroon. Julie had a friend, Tabi, who works in the port. Tabi helped us to get a ticket to a cargo boat.
Cargo boat?! Yes, that’s right. So many questions popping up in my head, so I’m asking Tabi.
Is there a toilet? (Already seeing myself puking due to sea sickness), is there a place to sit or lay down? Do they sell food? Water?
The answer is quite satisfying. Yeees, everything is there, toilets, you can buy food, drinks, lay down, there’s a VIP zone as well…
Ok then. Let’s do this.

The boat was supposed to leave on Friday, at 1pm. We arrived to the port already at 11am, in order to get through immigration, baggage check and everything. As a well-prepared whites, we took a pill against motion sickness 1 hour prior to the departure, as stated in the instructions.
The story now goes as follows:
They are still loading the cargo.
Still loading the cargo. We are drowsy from the pills and start falling asleep, sitting on the concrete ground.
Another truck comes, so they are loading a different cargo now. Back to sleep.
Still loading, still dozing off.

We are told that the boat won’t be able to leave today. We are also told that it will leave at 6am the next day. Tabi takes us to a hotel and tells us to pick us up the next day at 5am. We are devastated. We continue sleeping.

Tabi is not picking up my calls. He’s probably sleeping. The receptionist in our hotel is sleeping, too (can’t blame him though).
Tabi finally calls back. He will pick us up at 6, apparently the boat will leave later.
We arrive to the port and we are told that the ship is going to leave between 9-10am.

I’ve been calm until now, cuz I’m already used to this thanks to my previous travels and simply because this is Africa.
However, this information got me a bit agitated. The ship is leaving at 10am?! That means I could have slept like 4 hours more! You don’t mess up with my sleep you bloody unorganized bastards…!
As if I knew that it won’t be so easy as Tabi described it, we asked if we could see the ship from the inside. If I was a bit agitated now, the next minute I was exploding with agitation. The ship was old, dirty, smelly, everything was covered in rust. The interior looked like from a hospital in the 70s in Belarus. There were places to sit only on the floor of the deck, plus a tiny, smelly room inside, fitting some 10 people. Let me remind you that there were around 30 passengers. Nasty looking kitchen. Only 1 toilet. The african one, of course.

I am about to burst, about to cry. 24 f✳︎✳︎✳︎✳︎✳︎✳︎ hours in this?! I don’t even know who to blame. Did this guy, Tabi, know this? Peter starts checking the flights on his phone. The cheapest one is around 500€ from Lagos, which is like a 12 hour drive from here. What now? I am no posh girl requiring 100% comfort all the time, but this is too much even for me. It wouldn’t be, if I knew that this was gonna take some 3-5 hours. But it takes an entire day! Dear God, tell us what to do!

The answer is simple. Stay in. All of a sudden, the boat starts moving. It’s 8am.
I’m crying in silence, hidden behind my sunglasses. Peter is trying to comfort me, but all I see is myself throwing up in the goddamn african toilet craving a place to lay down and dying from hunger afterwards.
After some 30 minutes sitting on the deck, Peter comes to me with a smile on his face saying that he just bribed the captain to have his cabin.
The cabin is fine. There is a bed! A bed!!! I lay down and get a lot more optimistic.

After breakfast (some bread and Milo done by someone who seems to be the cook on this ship), I’m lying on the bed playing Candy crush and I’m feeling ashamed.
Am I really such a fine china to have been so nervous about this? After all the things that’ve already happened to us during our travels?! There is a toilet, there is a kitchen, there is bottled water. What else do I need? How about all the passengers who are sitting on the hard floor on the deck with the sun burning them alive? Silly me. Take a breath and let’s go outside to chat with the fellow passengers and watch the magnificent Mount Cameroon on the horizon.

The adventure of a lifetime continues!

More in the next posts.


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