Cameroon Trip 2006
Getting there – February 4-7
High winds were being predicted for the Seattle area, but this did not materialize when I took off early Saturday morning. The first leg of my trip was to Dallas/Ft. Worth, and then on a night flight to Zurich, Switzerland. Sunday morning the first light of the sun fell on the Alps during our approach to Zurich. When we dove under the clouds to make our landing I could see snow on the ground, but not completely covering it.
I stayed two days in Zurich. The Swiss have a very good train system and I made use of it during my stay. A twenty-minute ride from the airport to downtown Zurich got me to my hotel. After checking in I went out and walked around. All the stories are closed on Sunday. Only restaurants are open. Still, there were quite a few people out walking, some with their dogs and I even saw one person walking their cat.
The next day I took the train to Bern and visited the Natural History Museum
to see their collection of dog skulls. Dr. Nussbaumer met me and took down to their collection. I took pictures of a Basenji skull and Dr. Nussbaumer photocopied “Die Afrika Hundes” written by Max Siber and published in 1899. This is one of the earliest books that focused exclusively on the dogs of Africa. Max Siber had traveled in Africa. The museum has 2038 dog skulls from 174 breed and 187 complete skeletons from 83 breeds. The collection got its start from Theophil Studer’s (1845-1922) research on the dog. He is considered the founder of cynology (study of the dog). He was interested on the origin of the domestic dog and its evolution. He was professor of zoology and anatomy at the University of Bern and director of the Natural History Museum.
On Tuesday I flew out of Zurich. The Alps were visible but it got cloudy over the Mediterranean. We continued over the Sahara; which was obscured by dust kicked by the harmahattan winds. Towards evening we passed near Mt. Cameroon. Only the top was visible through the clouds and mist. The flight was not direct to Cameroon. We landed in the city of Malabo on Bioko Island off the coast of Cameroon. This island is part of Equatorial Guinea. When we landed, just after sunset, most of the American and Europeans on board got off. There is an offshore oil industry and a constant rotation from Europe, Russia and America of workers. The island were inhabited by the Bantu people during the middle of the first millennium C.E.. They crossed over from the mainland to the island. These people are called the Bubi. Bioko island was discovered by the Portuguese navigator Fernando Po in 1472 was originally named Formosa Flora until it was renamed after the original discoverer. Dogs were brought over by the Bubis. Antonia Amymemi wrote a description, “The pure Bubi dog never barks, but howls as a wolf. It is of a despicable appearance, thin, poorly fed and not much of a hunter.” Statistics given in a recent report by the Bioko Biodiversity Protection Project show that dogs were not used in monkey hunting, they predominately catch the Giant-pouched rat. After approximately forty minutes on the ground we took off for a short hop to Douala.
Before arriving I was thinking of what types of dogs I would see. I knew there would be a variety of dogs. In Epstein’s book on domestic animals of Africa he described several types that occur in Cameroon; “In southern Cameroun dog flesh is the food of the warriors. The Bakosi of Cameroun breed two distinct pariah types: a slender dog for the hunt and a coarser one for meat. The former stands about 35-40cm at the shoulder. The head is broad and of moderate length, the spoon-shaped ears are carried laterally, and head is broad and of moderate length, and the tail, approximately 35cm long, is either curled or straight. The hair is short and smooth; yellow, brown, black or dark grey in colour, nearly variegated, with white. The coarser type, bred for meat, is in the majority, and the males are commonly castrated to facilitate fattening. Owing to the slenderness of conformation and the great length of leg of early castrated dogs, these may be mistaken for greyhounds. In addition to these two types, a few dogs of small size are encountered among the Bakosi; these are distinguished by a long coat, bushy tail and pendulous ears; their colour is usually grey or greyish brown.”
Douala – February 7-8
Getting off the plane the humidity and heat just took the life out me. We passed through a checkpoint. All they did was scrutinize our passports and stamp them with our date of entry. In the baggage claim area I was approached several times by men who wanted to carry my bags when they arrived. I had to keep telling them I was being met. There was a delay because the truck that carried the bags from the plane to the claim area had broken down. So they had to use carts and push them from the plane to the claims area. George showed up with his sister to help me with my bags and drive me to the hotel. He was the driver for Camtours, a local tour company we had hired to take us around in Cameroon. On the way to the hotel I saw my first dog of Cameroon along the highway. The next morning I had breakfast and shortly after I had finished George arrived to take me to Yaounde to join up with Brenda Jones-Greenberg. We left the hotel and went to the police station to have copies of my passport stamped. This was so I would not have to show my actual passport at checkpoints or if demanded by police. Finally left the Douala after getting my papers stamped. The city gave way to forest broken by small farms. I observed quite a few wrecked cars and trucks abandoned along the road to Yaounde.
Yaounde – February 8-9
We arrived in Yaounde just before the afternoon. Brenda was staying at the Jean XXIII of Mvoylo Center run by the Catholic Church. About fifteen minutes after our arrival we saw Brenda. She told me that she had already picked up four puppies. Except for one, all had come from the south just above the border with Equatorial Guinea and Gabon. The first she had acquired for 12 CFA and pack of cigarettes was a red and white and we would later name her Nsana. The next acquisition was a black and white male who was over three months old. A young boy who took him hunting had owned him. He was given the name Evindi. The third dog added was a Mahogany Tri. His original name was Lion, which we changed to Mahogany. He was acquired near the Gabon border as a birth present and brought to Ambam where Brenda bought him. He was also over three months old. The last one she acquired before I arrived was a red and white and she was purchased near Ebogo along the road that goes between Yaounde and Ebolowa. We gave her the name Afala.
We went to the center office to pay for my room and get the key. We had dinner in the Convent dining room. The next morning after breakfast George showed up to take us out for a day trip. Brenda wanted to go south to see if we could get the two sisters of Afala. We traveled on the road to Ebolowa. A man and his wife would try to catch them for us. The mother and her puppies were semi-wild. They lived around the compound but were wary of humans. The mother took her pups out into the forest to hunt during the day. The couple had not been able to capture the puppies by the time we arrived. We asked some children to help us. The puppies ran from us and did not allow us close. We were unable to capture any of the puppies. Brenda decided against getting the puppies. We went back to Yaounde and had lunch at the Hyatt. Went back to the Catholic center and picked up two of the oldest puppies, Evindi and Mahogany. We took them to a local vet to give them their rabies shot.
Abong Mbang – February 10
George, Brenda and I left Yaounde in the morning and traveled east to Abong Mbang. Near Ayos we turned off the main road and went on a parallel dirt road. Heavy trucks use the main road and they created huge potholes. The dogs we saw were varied. Some had erect ears while others were floppy. Most had irish spotting. Some had their tails docked. It was apparent that they lived on the edge, a few showed ribs. This was especially true for the bitches that were nursing. We also would hear from people throughout the trip that there had been a litter, but all the puppies had died. We arrived in the mid-afternoon and looked for a place to stay. After rejecting several hotels, we found out that a catholic parish called the Paroisse Saint Michel had rooms available. After negotiating room rates and unpacking we decided to go into town to get a beer and electric fans. We had just sat down in the bar when a man came up and started speaking to George. George became upset and a heated discussion followed. Apparently, the man claimed he was a police commissioner. He was in plain cloth and had showed no identification. He wanted us to go to the provincial office with him. The real reason he wanted us to come was not anything we had done, but to get money out of us. So we went to the provincial office and had a conference with his boss. Then he took us to his office to look at our passports and documents. This went on for about an hour. Brenda got impatient with the situation and started saying she was not feeling well and her sugar level were low. When it became apparent to him that we were not going to offer any money, and Brenda putting on a show of not feeling well, he finally let us go. What a farce! We went back to the bar, had our beer, and then bought some fans to cool our rooms.
Day trip south to Mindourou - February 11
Saturday morning we had breakfast in the parish-dining hall and then we went on a short trip south. Along the way saw Baka pygmies and the only brindle dog of the trip. We had trouble-finding people who might have puppies because they were in the forest. It was just before the rainy season and it was the time to clear and plant and the dogs they owned were also with them. The dogs we did see had either floppy ears or erect ears. Coats also varied from long with fringed tails or very short. Colors ran from red and white to tan and black. Had lunch in Mindourou, rice and antelope. George had a duiker. Returned back to Abong Mbang in the late afternoon. On the way back saw an open faced tri colored dog coming out of the forest. The dog kept looking back and finally some hunters appeared. Hunting is prevalent in southern Cameroon and along the roads we traveled we would see bushmeat hanging on a pole. Except for pet monkeys and birds, this would be the only wildlife we would see. The wildlife was hiding or scarce along the roads.
Abong Mbang to Sangmelima– February 12
Sunday morning we had a simple breakfast of bread and honey. George was late in arriving because he had trouble with the vehicle. The mission brothers were getting ready for mass and parishioners were arriving as we were preparing to leave. We drove the same route back to Yaounde. On the way back we saw both floppy and erect eared dogs. Noticed several Evergreen trees growing in a yard. Most likely brought in by Europeans.
In Yaounde we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. Had antelope meat on rice. On the way out of the city noticed two yellow dogs with Basenji like heads. Saw a Basenji like dog rolling around on the grass in front of its house. Arrived in Sangmelima in the evening and checked in at the Trinite hotel.
Day trip south of Sangmelima - February 13
After breakfast we headed south on a day trip. At Medjounou got a puppy for 5000 CFA. She was one of three puppies. We would name her Ebop, the name of a village nearby. At Mbilemvom got male puppy for 3000 CFA and we named him Fom. Saw the only other Mahogany tri other than the two we got. During this time of year people were gone most of the day clearing and burning to get ready to plant their crops. The dogs would also go with them. So some villages had few people or dogs about. Most of the dogs had erect ears. A few dogs had their tails docked. The predominant color we saw was red and white. We went just south of Mang before deciding to turn back. We returned back to the hotel mid-afternoon and had an early dinner of Chicken and fried plantains.
Sangmelima to Ebolowa – February 14
We left after breakfast for Ebolowa. Traveled west on a dirt road. There were fewer villages along the way, so we did not see as many dogs. Saw some with docked tails. Colors were red and white, or black with a lot of white. The dirt road ended at a paved road, we turned south. In Ebolowa we found a Catholic mission to stay in called Centre Catechetique d’Abang. George left at 4PM to pick a dog for us down south near Ambam along the border with Equatorial Guinea.
Ebolowa – February 15
George did not return until next day in the afternoon. He brought back a Mahogany tri female that we would name Chaka. A local dog showed up in the evening to raid the garbage pit near the kitchen. During the night a lightning and thunderstorm came through with heavy rain.
Ebolowa to Buea – February 16
We left Ebolowa at 8:30AM in the morning and traveled to Yaounde, stopping at George’s house. George’s wife came out with their baby. Drove on to Douala and crossed the Wari River Bridge. This is the only crossing point in the city and it was under repair. Passed through west side of the city and entered the countryside. After a while we started climbing up and passed rubber plantations. Arrived in Buea in the late afternoon. We called Manu Occansey to let her know we had arrived. She told us how to get to the house she was renting. After visiting with her we left most of the dogs at her house and took the two smallest puppies with us to the Capital Hotel. Dinner was spaghetti with wine.
Buea and Limbe– February 17
After we had breakfast at the Capital Hotel we went to Manu’s house. But we had a little trouble remembering where Manu’s house. We finally figured out what direction and road we had used to get there. Her house was only two very long blocks away from the hotel. We had to carry the two puppies with us. The dogs were already out in the compound. After letting them play we fed them and put them back into their kennels. George drove us down the mountain to the coastal town of Limbe. We parked and had fish and plantains for lunch at restaurant on the beach. Later in the evening before dinner at the hotel we went up to feed and play with the dogs. We were able to find some dog food but later on we had difficulty with supply and resorted to feeding them cooked eggs and rice we bought at the markets at Bongo Corner. For the rest of our stay in Buea we would feed the dogs and let them play in the morning and evening.
Buea – February 18 – March 15
Manu’s office was short distance from the hotel. She was kind enough to give us access to a computer to send emails and use their phone to call the Swiss Air office in Douala. Before George left us he drove us out to the tea plantations just outside of Buea. We also made arrangement with George to come back and transport the dogs and us to the Douala Airport when we left.
We had two consecutive evenings with lightning and thunder on Mt. Cameroon. The dog's crates were facing the mountain, so they had two nights of noise and light to keep them awake. We had to put a tarp up on the gate to keep the big dogs from climbing out the top. We also had to put rocks at the bottom to keep the small dogs from crawling out the bottom. Manu had let the dogs out of their crates in the morning and a few had decided to explore outside the compound. We came up to feed them and found a few outside that we had to corral and put back in the compound.
We needed to have Chaka, Afala, and Nsana given a rabies shot before the flight home. A government vet office was within walking distance and we went there and made arrangements for rabies shot. Fom was having some kind of skin problem and we took him to be looked at. The vet washed him and gave him a pill. Only later would we learn that the pill she gave him was for worms. Fom was not yet old enough to be given a full dose for deworming and it killed him.
After losing Fom, we decided to find another puppy. A local guide named Amadou, who takes tourist up Mt. Cameroon, offered his services on finding available puppies. He told us that there were villages near Buea where they still took dogs up the mountain to hunt. He also offered to guide me up the mountain for a hike. The next day I went with him and hiked up into the rainforest. It was mostly secondary growth and people had fields in the lower part of the forest. Heard lots of birds in the forest but only saw them rarely. Two days later we went with Amadou to Bokowango, a village south of Buea, and looked at puppies of a tri-colored bitch. We decided later not to take any of the puppies because they would still be too young when we left. Amadou took us around the town to see more dogs. We passed a man giving first aid to his dog with a wound on its ear.
Later in the evening we went north of Buea to see dogs. We saw a hunting dog with a dark coat and cut tail. Apparently the reason the tail was cut shorter was the owner did not like long tails! We looked at some other dogs but decided against taking them. We went back and stopped at Buea Town, a commercial and residential area in the northwest corner of Buea, and looked at another dog available for sale. The owner’s son and daughter brought him out on a very heavy chain. They kept him in the kitchen and he was covered with soot. Brenda decided to buy him. We had to go down to the market to negotiate a price with the mother. She ran a clothing store. We were able to agree on a price and Buea, a name we decided on our return to the hotel, was added to the menagerie coming home with us. We rode a share taxi back down and I was dropped off early at Manu’s house so the dogs could be let out of their kennels and fed while Brenda and Amadou went back to the hotel. Buea apparently did not like the ride and threw up and pooped in the taxi. Brenda had to pay the taxi driver extra for the mess.
The next day we went out again up near Buea Town to look at more dogs. We looked at the puppies of tri-colored bitch, but we decided the puppies were still too young for us to take. It was only nine days before we would leave.
Three days before we were to leave Buea started having bloody diarrhea and throw up water. We made arrangements for Manu’s vet to come to the hotel and see Buea. She thought he might have hookworm after seeing him and gave him shots, glucose and vitamins. The next day she visited again and Buea seemed to be better. We were relieved since we would have a problem transporting him out of the country if he was ill.
Buea to Douala - March 16
George was unable to pick us because he had a reoccurrence of malaria. Marc, the owner of Camtours, picked us up instead to drive the dogs and us to the airport in Douala. We hired a car to take me because we could not fit all the dog crates in without putting the back seat down. At the airport we went to the cargo area. Most of the dogs would have to fly as cargo on our flight. For the next four hours Brenda negotiated price and filled out forms to get the dogs out of the country. We then had to rush over to the terminal to pay our departure tax and Swiss Air for the dogs flying in baggage. The plane took off at 10PM.
Zurich – March 17 - 20
After an eight-hour flight we landed 6:30AM in Zurich. After getting our luggage and the dogs that flew baggage we had to rush over to the Cargo area. It was here we ran into a problem. We were told the dogs in cargo had to be inspected by a vet and forms needed to be filled for them to pass through Swiss customs. This delayed our departure and we missed our connecting flight. We put all our dogs into a kennel in the cargo area. American Airlines rescheduled our flight for Tuesday, four days later, and made room for our dogs to be taken in baggage. We stayed at the airport in day rooms. The cargo people were very helpful and allowed us to see our dogs for 15 minutes on a daily basis. On the weekend we went to Zurich by train and visited museums.
Zurich to home - March 21
We left Zurich and flew to Dallas/Ft. Worth airport, and then flew on to our separate homes. Brenda took with her Evindi, Afala, Chaka, and Buea while I took Ebop, Mahogany and Nsana.
We would like to thank Emmanuelle (Manu) Occansey for allowing us to keep our dogs at her house while we stayed in Buea.