Thursday, February 16, 2012


Transportation in Cameroon is definitely different than anything I have experienced. Also more dangerous. As of now, after being country for only 9 months, I have been in a total of 4 accidents. Nothing completely serious, but that just illustrates the dangers of travelling in this country.
For short trips, most people can just grab a motorcycle. In Bertoua, the regional capital, most trips cost 100 CFA a person (about 20 cents). These moto drivers can take you about anywhere you wish. There are almost always moto drivers. Unfortunately of course when you really want one, they are never there and they hassle you when you don’t need one.
In Bertoua and most other big towns there are also yellow taxi cars. They are small 4 door cars, smaller than a Camry, and their carrying capacity is 6 people plus the driver. In Yaoundé, there are only taxis, moto taxis are prohibited. In order to grab a taxi you stand on the side of road and wait for a taxi to drive by, you then yell where you want to go, how much you are going to pay, and how many places you need. If they accept all of the above they will honk their horn and then you get in. If they don’t like it then they will just drive off. Sometimes it can take 1 taxi or 20 taxis to finally get where you want to go. On the other hand you can just “depot” or taxi or pay for all the seats and then you can go directly to your destination without having to get other passengers if your taxi isn’t full. It is definitely an interesting system, but I doubt it will ever pick up in America. On the Brightside it makes the taxi rides relatively cheap about 200 – 300 CFA (10-15 cents) depending on how far you want to go.
For longer trips, most people take agency bus. There are many different agencies all going to the same place. When a taxi drops you off, often the porters will rip your bags from you and take you to their agency, so they are ensured that you go with them. There is no big difference between any of the agencies, but people have their preferences. I personally like to take Melo Agence for my trips to and from Bertoua. The 5 hour trip costs 4000 CFA (or 8 dollars) one way.
You make think that since it is an agency and not a bush taxi, there would be a time table. Unfortunately, not so. Basically the buses leave whenever they are full to maximize profits, which mean you can wait hours for the bus to leave. I like Melo because they normally only leave 60 – 90 minutes late. I once waited 5 hours for a bus that never came even though every hour I was told that the bus was only 20 minutes away, it just goes to show you how time is all relative. Another way the agencies maximize profits is that they pick up passengers on the side of the road. So people are in the basically standing up in the aisles or sitting in the stairways. The length of the trip can depend entirely on how many stops the bus driver makes to pick up more passengers, the gendarme stops, and of course the infamous breakdowns (So far I’ve had 2 breakdowns = ) )
There are many different types of agency buses too. Ranging from a typical van you would see in America, that will magically fit 20 people, to prison bus, named so for the grate between the driver and the passengers, to a coaster which fits 35 people, and then a coach bus like those in America, except it is 3 seats, an aisle, and 2 seats (they magically fit an extra seat in each row).
Even more fun on this bus rides are the people who hop on and sell things. Often talking for the whole entire bus rides hawking their wares, anything from toothbrushes to magical lotions and potions that will cure you of anything. What I find most amazing about this is that people are willing to buy this junk.
Although transportation in Cameroon can be difficult, it also has its benefits. Such as after an accident on the way to Yaoundé our bus was broken, I was able to get on another bus with relatively little problems. It was funny that a bus from the same agency hit my bus. Even more ironic was that our bus was slowing down because there was another accident. On the side of the road with my friends Rachel and Sam, I tried flagging down every car and bus trying to get us on a bus to Yaoundé. One taxi wanted 30.000 CFA (60 dollars) to take us, even though the taxi looked like it was in worse shape than our bus. I refused on principle to pay that much because it should have only cost 2.000 CFA. Luckily another bus came by and I haggled with the driver to only pay 1500 CFA a person because we wouldn’t even have seats. Unfortunately someone on the bus did not like that only white people came on the bus and started complaining. Well I wasn’t in the mood for her attitude so I told her that the others did not want to stand and if she was unhappy that no Cameroonians came on the bus, she could give up her seat for one of them. Apparently she wasn’t too upset because she didn’t give up her seat.