"Life is not about the destination, it’s about the journey."


The Ring Road: Kumbo, Ndzenshwai, Wvem and Oku in Short:

People: Man at the car park in Bambili, Edwin, Alison, Gilbert, Mary, Divine, Roland, Hassan and Bonafice.

Places/Things: crammed car ride, travelers inn, coffee shop, waterfall outside Shisong, 2 waterfalls and 2 caves in Wvem, soccer game, Oku palace, ‘museum’, lake and waterfall, hassan’s lovely houses on the Oku Mountain side, torrential downpour, Kati Kati, Anten, Nollywood films.


Bambili was a village where we would take a car to Kumbo, but as I earlier mention, we needed to wait for our car to fill up. We paid our seats, and waited. Because one can never tell how long it will take for the car to fill, you can't go far from the area. Therefore, we …. can you guess? … sat at a bar and waited for the car to fill.

Side note: During the trip thus far, I was actually speaking more Pidgin English than English when conversing with others. Honestly 90% of conversations with others were in full Pidgin. People were really impressed and it made me feel good! I am moving towards fluency!! I am still working on the conditional tense and there are a lot of vocab I don’t know as well as metaphors.

There were some funny guys at the bar drinking palm wine out of horns (sign of status) and a very kind man who just chatted with us while we waited. He also helped ‘shoo away’ those who wanted to bother/harass us. Before we knew it, the car had filled and the funny man who works at the car park who had also confessed his love to me and asked me to marry him had come to inform us ‘moto don flop’ meaning, the car is full. And yes, he was correct. Full was an understatement.

This was the front seat. I am positioned squished next the the window and the guy in the plaid.

Then there is the driver furthest in the picture with another man sandwiched in his seat.

 Picture this: a 2 door car, 4 people in the back (including 2 mamis that are pretty heavy), me and some guy carrying a TV on his lap, or should I say our laps in the front seat and then one man squished to the right of the driver in his seat. Yup, the car was definitely full.

Twas a beautiful drive...


Anytime the car/bus/van stops alone the road, you can bet that within 2.3 seconds the car will be swarmed by young street hawkers trying to sell you things. They will yell out the product and the price until someone calls for it. Here you can see mango and miando (pounded cassava tied in banana leaves and boil)

We passed villages like Babungo, babessi, Jakiri and then finally reached Kumbo or should I say Kimbo…or wait maybe Banso? Why so many names you ask…

This main village has three common names:  Kimbo (the native and original name); Kumbo (the name the whiteman gave when he butchered the original name); and Banso (name in the local dialect called lamsong).

We found a good hostel for called Travelers Inn right downtown and opposite the first ‘coffe shop’ we had come across. One night was 5,500fcfa. We ended up staying in Kumbo for 3 days (longer than planned) and we went to the coffee shop 7 times – you do the math.. the coffee was real, cheap and rich. What more could you ask for? There was even Mocha where he brewed fresh coffee and pure cocoa! Simply amazing. I might have to make another trip to Kumbo just for the coffee house!

Amazing mocha coffee!! Simple things make my day.

 Our first visit to the coffee house proved quite rewarding as we met a Peace Corps volunteer named Alison. She told us about an NGO called Green Care which guides people on hikes (to local waterfalls and/or longer hikes around the whole area through several villages). She had been in Cameroon a few months short of a year and her main focus was creating a museum in Kumbo – how fascinating!!  After visiting the Mount Febe Museum in Yaoundé and buying their book, I have a new love of museums and learning about each an ever artifacts purpuse and representation. I think a project like that would be great to work on… it would also bring out my love for anthropology.

Proceeding breakfast we hopped on the back of a moto bike and headed to Shisong – it is sometimes considered a neighborhood inside of Kumbo but sometimes its also known as its own separate village outside of the city. Here we wandered for just a few seconds before finding a small signpost reading “Green Care”. We passed some men outside the office sipping on what I thought was palm wine but turned out to be honey wine. We entered cautiously unsure of what to even say. “Hello. We were directed to come here for a tour to the waterfalls. I don’t really know if we are in the right place” Gilbert, the founder and director of the NGO assured us we were in the right spot. Another young woman was there, Mary, who is working for the NGO as well. Their office was made up of two small rooms: the first containing several desks and a MASSIVE book collection with a wide variety of topics such as: women empowerment, environment, bee keeping, rural development, micro finance, climate change and more. I could have actually stayed reading those books for the entire day and left happy.

Gilbert in the office. Notice the honey wine to the right : it's the NGO's main source of funding

and explains why all the men outside were drinking.

Wobbly little foot bridge

We casually strolled through a few villages, or maybe neighborhoods, because reaching Ndzenshwai where the waterfall was located. We started hiking into the bush. Fortunately, it wasn’t full on rainy season so we were able to walk comfortably and cross small man made bridges with no problem. Unfortunately, it was full on rainy season so the waterfall ironically was lacking water. Nevertheless it was still a beautiful hike. We passed farms, streams and even palm wine taps! It was my first time to see the way they actually tapped the tree for the wine, not all that different than tapping a Maple tree for syrup!

Palm Wine anyone??

Palm wine house

I swear there was water you just cant really see it in the picture... It wasnt quite wet season

so there isnt a heavy flow of water.

A "secret society" house :: in other words, a place where notable men gather to drink palm wine.

Cutest little farm and family compound ever!

 Before returning to the city center, we dedided to stop and see the Fon's Palace. We arrived in the court yard and didnt really see any signs about 'tourist' or 'tours' so we just strolled slowly observing the outside and taking photos of interesting looking things.

For Queens only!!

Area were the Fon will address his people for announcements.

We kind of figured just wondering around wasnt the best idea, but we didnt know what else to do. Soon we saw an angry looking man charging towards us in his 'public works' shirt. I knew there was about to be trouble. To lighten the mood I smiled and greeted him like nothing, "Good afternoon, sir!" This only distracted him for a second, "What is the problem here?" he replied. I really wanted to say "YOU" but instead I acted dumb "Oh nothing, we are just looking at the palace, its beautiful!" Then he continues to tell us how we can just do that, we need to pay money (its always about money) blah blah. So we just left and went on our way...

Statue of the current Fon.

Palace Bar. Motto The Fon is Always Right.

He is 'Infailable'

I dont actually know that infailable is a word, but I guess it is now :)

By the time we reached back to the city center, it wasn’t that late in the afternoon so we asked around about some ‘caves’ we had heard about. Again, the coffee house came to our rescue – Ediwn called a friend who called a friend who live sin Wvem village and takes people hiking to the two caves and waterfalls in the area.

This place, Wvem village, was quite far and out of the way. We were directed to go to Tobin, which is a neighborhood in Kumbo to find the drivers that knew the roads to Wvem. Not just anyone can drive on those roads so we had to be picky on who we went with, for safety. The man who would guide us around was already in the village and he said he would wait for us there. The bike driver and our guide knew each other so we were on our way passing through villages like Kai, Faku and Fakui.

Bike guys at Tobin

Back of the bike we took!


Soon we arrived at the Rural Transformation Center which was run by our guide, Boniface Litika since 1992. This place was amazing. Not only was the view stunning but the work they were doing was also great. He showed us around the whole premises including the classrooms in which they had lectures on medicinal plants and medicine as well as workshops training local farmers to make their own all natural fertilizer. Throughout the past he has had a lot of international support mostly from Canada. He showed us his chicken coup, his goats grazing and the guest rooms where people can stay while volunteering or participating in the workshops.

View from the Rural Transformation Center

We took a short bike ride and parked the bikes. From there we hiked and hiked and hiked. The first cave/waterfall combo was called eterie (I could be spelling that wrong… there was no sign post). 

Here is a trap for rodents! When they enter through the sides under the wood, the triggers the sticks to fall/move which triggers the rock to fall on the wood which crushes the rodents! How creative!!

View from inside the caves.

The second was called Kidzemen waterfalls. Both falls were quite small and lacking water due to the season but they were still worth the trip! We had to watch out for army ants and midgies (similar to mosquitoes but harder to see) which were biting Megan left and right.

Caves are behind it and hard to see.

By the time we reached Kumbo it was getting to be dark out so we had our dinner of puff puff and beans for 200fcfa and went back to the hotel for a bit of rest. There was a big football (aka soccer for the Americans) match that night: Manchester United vs Bayer. There were huge crowds outside of every single bar in Kumbo that had a TV. Bayer won.

"For me to live is Christ"

Just a random store in Kumbo. People are what most people in the US

would consider to be 'very very religious' here.

The next day we woke up early, had our coffee and breakfast at the coffee house and headed straight away to Oku. Again, we had to go to Tobin to find a proper bike rider which was 2,000fcfa. Gilbert from Green Care had given us the number of a local guide in Oku named David. Along the way we called David and arranged to meet him at the Fon’s Palace. We passed villages like Yungkui, Tadu and Elak on our way. He was late, as expected here, and then proceeded to tell us that any tourist that comes to Oku needs to pay 5,000fcfa. This fee includes visiting all of the ‘tourist’ sights around the area (palace, mountain, lake, waterfall, museum, etc). We really didn’t have any other choice but to pay… but boy was that a disappointment!! He showed is literally ONE thing that related to the Fon and his palace which was a chair he sat on to address the community. Then, he took us to a museum that wasn’t actually a museum, it was just a workshop where wood carvers made and kept their crafts. He arranged a bike rider to take us up the mountain a little ways and then down to visit the lake and lastly the waterfall.

The single one thing we saw in the palace.... total rip off of money!

Check out the right green plate reading "Fon of Oku"

Just another day... carrying firewood to the house.

Outside the 'museum'

The next three photos are of the juju's in the Museum:


The bike riders name was Roland and he was really sweet. First we went up more than half way to the summit of Mount Oku. You could really feel the fresh, cool, crisp air from that high. The view was stunning. We ran into Hassan, a Fulani herder who lived in the area with his 2 wives and father. They each had their own house on the hill. Truly a breathtaking sight.

This is Hassan on his land!

After, we went to view the lake. There was a nice path down to the shores so we hiked down for a better view. David told us that there would be forest guards who would demand our documents proving we had paid. There was no forest guard. Anywhere. It was a total rip off of money and I am still pretty bitter about it. In the future – Just ask the bike riders to take you to visit the lake and waterfall. We paid in all for the driver 5,000fcfa for 2 people. 

Lake Oku

There wasnt really an opportunity to get much closer. But it looks like a great swimming place in the dry/hot season!

We noticed clouds quickly approaching so we tried to hurry up and get to the waterfall. Raindrops were falling as we approached the waterfall. We took some photos quickly and headed back onto the bike to go back to Oku town. Then… it hit. Torrential downpour. There was really nothing we could. As the rain stung our faces and bare arms on the back of the bike, all we could do was laugh. I felt bad for the driver – I couldn’t even have my face up in the rain let alone drive. It got so bad we pulled over and tried to see if it would pass. We thought it had, got back on the bike, and then it hit again. We were already soaking wet and nearly to the town so we just told the bike driver to “Keep going!! Hurry!” Finally we made it back to town. We waited out the rain for about 20min and then started walking towards the town center to look for a restaurant that served Kati Kati which is njamanjama (a green leafy vegitable similar to spinach) with chicken that is prepared in a special way and fufu corn.

We stumble across a nice little place that had recently opened. The woman who owned it, Prudence, was so kind and sweet. She could see we were very wet and cold so she prepared us ‘fever grass’ tea, njo’oh meaning ‘for free’. Her Kati Kati was amazing!! I could have ate two plates! And the tea, wow it really hit the spot; we were rather chilly so it was very comforting. As we were chatting about life, travels and our work in Cameroon, upon realizing we lived and worked in Buea, Prudence ask us to pass a message to her long lost childhood friend who lived there. She explained that her friend owned a restaurant called “Obama Restaurant” which is a big restaurant in Bonduma (a neighborhood in Buea) right off the main road. I have passed it a countless amount of times but have never actually eaten there. I was really happy to be able to deliver Prudence’s phone number to her friends; life is short and the world is a small place.

We rushed to finish eating because we wanted to take a car to Foumban that night. Once we reached Tobin (we took a car not a moto bike back to Kumbo) Megan headed down to the bus park and I headed to the hotel to fetch our bags. Megan called shortly after I got out things together… There were no more cars going to Fumbon that evening, it was already 5:30pm and the last car had went some hours before. So I guess all we could do was pass another night in Kumbo!!

We were advised by several locals to go to “Anten” which is a place in Kumbo verrrrry high up above most of the city. They said it was the best view of Kumbo, you could see the whole town, which was surprisingly big. As we reached the top, the view wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, but I’m sure on a really warm and sunny day it’s a great place to have a cold drink and just relax. It was already drizzling so we hopped back on our bike and headed back down to town. We called it an early night since we had to be up and to the bus park by 6:30am.

Side Note: For the three nights in Kumbo, the hotel we were staying in had a television. Usually I am not the biggest fan of TV, hell I haven’t even owned one for the last 5 years. But, these three nights were an exception. There was a channel called “Nollywood” which is the name given to the film industry in Nigeria. Nollywood produces hundreds of films a year and is the 2nd largest film industry in the world (behind Bollywood and in front of Hollywood). At first when I moved here, I laughed at the films, their plots and even the actors/actresses…but now, I found myself addicted. I couldn’t sleep without finishing the movie I had started.



I decided to describe The Ring Road (aka The Grasslands) like this:

"Endless rolling checkered hills with crops of all kinds amongst cliffs dotted with herds of grazing animals."

I know, kinda cheesy but its so true. The entire trip I kept waiting for the captivating beauty of the region to stop…it never did.


 To Be Continued...