Africa: Cameroon by Bicycle
Cameroon by Bicycle
By Jon Brandt
There are few things in life that you’re able to retain and continually practice from the time of a child to old age. Typically, this can be an action which you do thousands of times without even thinking about it, though the more you practice, the better you will get.
Think about that first time you rode a bike, how great it felt to be on your own and moving yourself, faster and faster with every pedal. Whether your dad was giving you a push or your best friend was egging you on, once you rode that bike to perfection, there was no looking back.
Now imagine a trip where you can use that experience and skill to your mental and physical limit. Imagine cycling with a group of people just like you, yet invariably different and unique in their own way. Imagine working your way across hills and mountains in Africa, stopping to mingle and experience the local tribes’ societies, eventually ending at the beach two weeks later.
Experiencing the Program
For David Mozer, designer of The Bicycle Africa program, this is more than just a vacation — it’s a learning and life experience for the ten people who sign up. In November, 2007, Mozer is planning a two-week bicycle tour through western Cameroon, an area rich in culture and diversity.
This is the first time in more than a decade that the International Bicycle Fund is sponsoring the tour, and it’s sure to be a success. Mozer, an African studies specialist and pioneer of bicycle touring in Africa, has been biking through Africa since 1975.
Modern day Cameroon, founded in 1961, is slightly larger than California
Though it is a tour through harsh climates, the tour is described as moderate with occasional challenging sections. On average, the group will cover less than 40 miles a day, but if you’re an experienced bicyclist looking for more, there are side trips offered on top of the daily journey.
People of all ages have been coming to the continent with Bicycle Africa since 1983, ranging in age from 9 to 70, so don’t worry about being the oldest person to try this or about bringing your teen.
What to Expect
The tour begins in Cameroon on November 4 with a price of $1490. This price includes accommodations, meals, excursions and a tour guide. Airfare is not included. In addition, a portion of the price is U.S. tax-deductible, as this is a non-profit organization.
The accommodations will vary from city hotels to home stays in the rustic and rural areas. For those who love to get away from the ordinary, or are just looking for a change of pace and something new, this could be the trip of a lifetime.
Mozer believes that this trip is best suited for those who are open to other cultures and realists who appreciate diversity in the world. Each day of the journey brings something new, as the various people in Cameroon are unique in their own way.
Along the trip, cyclists will encounter members of different tribes, including the Douala, Bankon, Mbo, Bakaka, Bassa, and Bamunka, just to name a few. Each cyclist will have a chance to meet with different people and experience the culture, economy, and society firsthand.
The itinerary is as diverse as the people of the country. Starting out, cyclists will wind through hills of western Bamileke highlands to the historic town of Foumban. As the trip progresses, participants pass the base of 14,000 foot Mt. Cameroon, which offers many scenic vistas, and a chance for great photography.
By the end of the two weeks, the tour will rap up at the beach. Along the way, there will be visits to tea and coffee estates, traditional farms, and traditional courts.
A Lasting Impression
Every trip is different, says Mozer, and it all depends on what happens and who you meet along the way.
“It is who we meet walking along the road, or working in a field, or selling in a market, or standing in a school yard. It is being there to get an understanding of the interrelationship of environment, culture, world policy and serendipitous people-to-people encounters,” says Mozer.
It’s evident that his love of the experience continues to propel him forward on the journey. The discussions always include domestic and global issues, and range in topics from education and health to development and women.
The group is provided with two meals a day, and this is typically where the best part of the day comes in. Just by talking with some locals for an hour, you can understand a country better than if you were touring for weeks in resort areas. This cultural exchange is the heart and soul of the trip, it’s what makes it all worth it, and it’s what keeps people like Mozer involved every year.
During November, you’re going to get fair temperatures, with average highs around 80 degrees and lows around 60 degrees. This is almost as good as it’s going to get for cycling conditions considering how close to the equator Cameroon is.
A mountain bike is preferred on these trips because only 60% of the trek is on pavement and the other 40% is on dirt and gravel roads. There are also some challenging hills where a mountain bike would be better. This ride is more about taking in the sights and people, and not just speeding to the end.
Cameroon is a great place to visit if you’ve never been to Africa for many reasons. First, there are moare than 100 ethnic groups, so you get to see a tremendous variety in the culture that you don’t get in every country.
Secondly, the topography of Cameroon is as diverse as the entire continent on a whole. Cameroon contains tropical coastline forests, cool volcanic plateaus, and arid grasslands. If you don’t get a chance to see all of Africa, at least you get an idea of what other parts are like.
Jon Brandt majors in Journalism at the University of Mass in Amherst and is interning this semester for GoNOMAD. Read his blog, Travel Reader.
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