Kribi, Cameroon, Dec 30, 2007 - Jan 1, 2008

Trip Start Sep 19, 2007
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Trip End Jan 05, 2008


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Flag of Cameroon  ,
Thursday, January 3, 2008

Kribi is a small beachside town south of Douala, one with a busy central market and numerous small scale resorts scattered along the waterfront road north and south of town.
Kribi is in the part of Cameroon that was a former French colony, so its advantages over the former English colonies we spent so much time in include good baguettes, pain au chocolat, croissants and the other delights of the French patisserie. 
Kribi is now also an oil port as it was chosen as the terminus of the new oil pipeline from Chad over larger Limbe, a rather controversial decision that was said to be characteristic of the government's favoritism towards Cameroon's Francophone regions.  The port's main impact on the resort, though, appears to be the presence of waiting oil tankers and oil production platforms visible in the Atlantic from all the beaches. 
We had a few more days over the New Year's weekend with little to do but laze on the beach, still beautiful despite the oil industry's constant presence, generally rather unobtrusive during the day but brightly lit at night.  Being a major holiday, the overpriced rooms at Hotel Tara Plage, our rather basic resort, were all booked, so there was no choice but to camp on its grounds.  Tara Plage's rather fancy restaurant had an extensive menu but only fish dishes and shrimp were available on our first night there, a situation that led the seafood-hating majority in the group to all pile into taxis into town (where it turned out the restaurants also had extensive menus but only seafood available). 
As a seafood lover, however, I remained at Tara Plage and sucked down Castel beers for the two hours or so that it took my order of Barracuda a La Normande to arrive.  But worth the wait it was!  This thick cut of succulent white fish smothered with small shrimp and a cognac cream sauce was probably the best meal I ate in all of Africa.  
I must have been a sad sight sitting there drinking beers and eating fish dinner all alone because a friendly local lady joined me as I was eating.  Her name was Linda, and she was a prostitute.  Linda was buxom, voluptuous, and big-bootied in the fashion of most West African prostitutes (the skinny waiflike street walkers you see in America and Europe would never pass in these parts).  Linda and I chatted for a while as I ate, and she asked me lots of questions.  I was quite entertained by the experience but began to feel guilty about wasting Linda's time when she could be pursuing opportunities elsewhere that might actually lead to a lucrative night.  I tried to explain to her that she was, shall we say, "barking up the wrong tree."
"No, I do not believe it.  I have met men like that before, and you do not look like that," she said.
"Ah, but it is true!"
"Let me come to your tent and I will change you."
"Many women have tried, but none have succeeded."
"But it is different.  I am an African woman.  I have special charms."
I figured I should pay my bill and head off to my tent (alone) as Linda started to get touchy feely.  
One of the big attractions we were promised in Kribi was the Pygmies, and Dave even suggested there might be an option to stay over night with them.  Wow, New Year's Eve with the Little People!  The overnight stay idea didn't pan out, but the following day (New Years Eve) about eight of us went off with a guide to see the Pygmies.  After a long walk along the beach and road and a ride on a pirogue on a jungle river with another guide, we disembarked on a densely forested bank and were all given grass skirts to put over our shorts and handed whiplike figamajigs made of long palm leaves that seemed to represent spears.  From there we walked a short distance to a small clearing with a few twig and palm huts and about 20 lethargic looking Pygmies lying around, a few holding real spears. 
These pygmies, though, weren't as short as I had hoped for, and most of the adult ones were actually taller than Richard, a reality which led him to demand his money back and planted the idea in his head that he could open a Pygmy reservation when he got back to Australia and charge people to come look at him.
The Pygmies demanded some booze and cigarettes but settled for some CFAs when it was clear we didn't have any other cadeaux for them.  We sat around for a while with them while Wesley asked them lots of questions through the interpreter/guide.   "So, wehre do you get the money to buy things like the tee shirts and cigarettes you have?" we enquired.  The answer that came back through the guide was "from tourists who come to look at us."
 "Hey, this is really boring.  Weren't you people supposed to do a little Pygmy dance for us, take us hunting in the forest with little bows and arrows or (better yet) blow guns, or at least show us how you gather edible roots and bugs and grubs in the forest?"  I did a little wandering myself and about 200 yards away found another village of wooden plank houses where these tourist pygmies actually lived, not unlike the dwellings most rural Cameroonians live in.  Some of the others were annoyed at the tourist trap nature of about the experience, but I got a good laugh out of the enterprising pygmies who've learned how to get the better of the tourists by giving them what they wanted to see.  Overall, though, between the beach walk to Lobe Falls, the jungle cruise on the Lobe River above the falls, and the Pygmies' and our mutual exploitation of each other, it was a good outing, but I'm glad we didn't spend the night at the Pygmy village.
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