I was expecting the weekend to be terrible. All the ingredients of a minor disaster where in there—a 72 hour long double date involving travel, a lake that ‘officially’ killed 1700 people in 1986, crashing a dinner party at the mayors house, a seemingly never ending quest for ‘bush mangos’, and the violent death of one unsuspecting snake. Maybe being in Cameroon for nearly two years has altered my definition of ‘a good time’. Or maybe the Irish have it right, and copious drinking really does make everything better. Whatever the reasons, Wum was great.
Andy and I were lucky enough to be invited on a weekend holiday with my counterpart, the ever-energetic Simon, and his slightly calmer wife Rose, by a man named Denis. He and I have been working on a water project, but didn’t really know each other that well, so it was pretty kind of him to invite us to his house.
Now, I’ve done a fair amount of traveling in this country, but always on a Peace Corps volunteer’s budget—which means public transportation, accommodations ranging from what could politely be called jungle chic to…what you can’t really politely call anything, and whatever food is to be found being grilled on the street. All of which is fine, and usually even fun, once you get beyond the sheer physical pain involved. But this weekend was different from the start. We were to be driven to Wum in a private car that did not appear to be held together by wire and sheer will, put up in some rich man’s temporarily empty mansion house, and fed to within an inch of our lives every 4 hours like clockwork. And if we weren’t eating, we were drinking. All for free. Peace Corps. It really is the toughest job you’ll ever love.
The whole reason we wanted to go to Wum in the first place was to see Lake Nyos. In 1986 there was a fluke natural disaster, where toxic gases were released from underneath the lake that killed pretty much everything living in the valley below. Sort of a macabre place to visit, but your tourism options are limited here. Twenty years later, however, the lake is peaceful and beautiful, and equipped with a handy phone to be used in case of emergencies to warn the nearby populations. Said phone is conveniently located just a short canoe ride away in the middle of the lake.
On the way back we randomly pulled over to the side of the road. Andy and I assumed we were going on a short jaunt to look at viewpoint of another lake. We assumed this because this is what we were told. ‘It’s about 1 km that way’, they said. Alright, fair enough. Looks like rain to me, but then lately it always looks like rain. And a kilometer, that’s nothing! Sometimes my naiveté borders on willful stupidity. So off we set to explore the bush/peoples farms/this stinking hole that turned out to be our actual goal:
We hiked for an hour in the rain, destroying people’s corn crops and stopping repeatedly to wait for our driver Justin to climb just one more tree and pick just a few more mangoes, all to look at this smelly puddle for about 4 minutes. The best part is that the Cameroonians all LOVED IT. Andy and I felt slightly differently. And all of this was before we got lost on the way back to the car.
After the lake we headed back to Wum, ate a huge lunch, saw a rich man’s lovely German-built home, drank his beer, drank more beer at a bar, crashed a dinner party at the mayors house where we drank more beer and ate another huge meal, headed back to Denis’s house, drank wine, ate dinner AGAIN, and finally headed back to the compound we were staying. At this point Andy saw a snake on the ground in front of us. ‘Look’ he said, ‘a snake’. I took this as a pretty normal reaction. ‘Wow’ I said, ‘cool’. Simon said ‘Aieeeie!!’ Then he picked up a rock, threw it at the snake, and shouted ‘I shot that snake! I have proven my manhood!’ Then we all went to bed.
The next morning we all ate more food, went to church, went and looked at a waterfall, ate more food, and then headed back to Fundong. The road on the way back seemed much worse than it did on the way there—most likely because I was sober. This has taught me a valuable lesson, which I will be sure to apply at every available opportunity.
Thus ended our trip to Wum. To think it could have all gone so terribly wrong.
Oh! And Jess and I killed this chicken: