Last Chapter : Ninety Miles of Gravel
I went out the last morning of hunting and, except for a few baboons and some oribi that I never did spot, it was pretty quiet. By this time it was no great surprise to me.
René dug up some more roots and cut off some more bark to be made into manly medicine to keep his three wives back at the village happy. Occasionally he would set a fire in the long grass and if he and the tracker took too long, I would get up when I thought that we had rested long enough, make a few dorky dance moves… They always took the hint and away we would march. We did track one more roan that day, but again the beast was never spotted and eventually we started the long walk back to camp.
When I got back to camp I spotted my buddy Phill, and I swear that poor guy looked like 90 miles of gravel. He was about done. Sadly, around 10.00 a.m. that morning they’d come across the fresh spoor of a herd of buffalo heading into the mountains. With eight hours of daylight remaining, there was a chance to snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. A buffalo bull is never to be despised and is certainly worth all the trouble and expense we had undergone to be there.
My great friend, totally worn out, declined to follow up the tracks and ended the hunt. I think that everyone involved was so disappointed. I sure in the hell was.
That evening we had the men come up one at a time and gave them each a tip and a brand–new panga. Cam Grieg had suggested the amounts for the tips, and mentioned that if more money were given, the guys would buy guns and/or ammunition and shoot game. I should have packed some clothes/watches or something to augment the tips, but I really didn’t have any room in my suitcases. And money is always good.
When we broke camp early the next day, we had to make almost a seven–hour detour to the north to pay for the buffalo at the office that was in charge of such things. It was nice to see some new country along the way, and we were in no great hurry to get to town anyway, as the train left at 6.00 p.m. the following day. One always leaves a lot of extra time to allow for breakdowns in that country. Even the train was not beyond such things.
Daniel set us up in a $33–a–night motel back in Ngoundéré and we both quite liked the place. Phill had been craving a cold beer a few days earlier so when he went to his room to shower and rest for a while I sent the local cook/waitress out for two cold beers for my friend.
Me: Phill, I got the girl who works here to go out and get you a cold beer!
Phill: It had better not be Guinness!
Me: No! No! I saw the two bottles. They’re not Guinness.
Phill: Well, O.K. I’ll have a little. But what I really want is cold milk or iced tea.
That night the lady made us up some tasty but rather tough chicken and chips for supper. The meal for the two of us cost 8,000 Cameroon francs – about $16.00. I was happy with that but did wonder if they whacked the chicken as it was running a marathon race past the restaurant.
I really wanted to contact my wife, Margaret, after the satellite phone fiasco so Daniel and I walked down town about 7.00 p.m. As we left the gated compound we had to walk by about 10 or 12 men yelling at each other in the dark. We were about three feet from them as we walked by. A few big rigs were parked there and obviously the men were not happy about something. I probably should have taken a few flash pictures of the angry guys, but I have yet to descend into total stupidity.
I had no luck getting into the hotmail account, but I did try. We came back with Coke and watermelon and some oranges. All this pleased Ol’ Sir Phull.
The next morning Phill did his very best to get the cook to make him some fried eggs, over easy. He explained verbally, he drew pictures, he had a tracker there that could speak some English and had that guy explain it in French to the lady. And then he followed her into her tiny restaurant, grabbed an egg, pantomimed putting it in a frying pan that was sitting there… paused… pretended that he took the egg out of the pan onto a plate.
Twenty minutes later, my delicious ordered omelette was handed to me. Phill got a couple of eggs fried together, flipped over as an omelette and handed to him. He was not at all happy, as fried eggs are of utmost importance in his universe.
A day later he was wanted to order Coke and bitters from a lady in a bar in the last hotel we stayed at. Wasn’t going to happen, and he quickly realized that when I pointed out the absurdity of the wish.
As a change of pace, we ordered fish and chips for lunch and were given a complete little fish on a plate. I’m happy to say that it was delicious. After that, our ride to the train depot showed up, and we grabbed our gear and drove away. Phill forgot to pay, I didn’t. I left my motel key in the room; Phill handed his to Daniel later that night a few hours into the train ride.
We did the long train ride, and again we had chicken for our evening meal. Hard to know how they kill them as they’re tough old birds. But tasty.
We told Daniel we were willing to pay more money for a hotel room as Phill was craving air–conditioning. As so often happened on this trip Daniel listened carefully, agreed totally, and then took us back to the old hotel where nothing worked including the air–conditioning.
It wasn’t all bad – Phill finally got his fried eggs the next morning. The waiter not only could speak English, but also knew enough not to bring the change back after the meal, so Phill ended up giving the chap about a four–dollar tip.
On the trip downtown I had the pleasure of watching a traffic cop in a traffic circle go nuts! Some dude in a car had offended him and he was shouting at the fellow, and then started kicking the front of his car, then kicked down on his hood denting it. From there he went around to the side of the rapidly depreciating automobile and started kicking in the side! Suddenly, from out of nowhere came the only jeep that I was to see in Cameroon. It was driven by another cop who rammed the car head on!
Later we drove by the poor shell–shocked fellow. He was having a very bad day. I think that he was in the wrong lane, but since most drivers in that city drive like they’re insane, I’m not exactly sure what set off the copper.
After a shopping trip that was mostly a fiasco, we spent the last six hours in Cameroon in Daniel’s house watching music videos. The Cameroon chicks sure like to shake their booty…
Pascal, our driver, did not show up to take us to the airport. Daniel got on the phone and yelled for a while. He then drove us to the main road and waited. Once again he got on his cell phone and did some more yelling.
Eventually, Pascal showed up with his little boy. He got behind the wheel and started shouting at Daniel as he drove. Daniel was now silent. Pascal next phoned some lady and hollered at her.
The airport was about 10 miles away and we had five hours to get there. Pascal tried to do it in five minutes. About eight miles into the trip, and after just missing another head–on collision, I saw Phill putting on his seatbelt. My nerves might have been getting a bit frayed about then as I snarled at him, “Are you nuts? Now you’re putting on your seat belt?”
My big consolation in all this was that if I got killed in a head–on, Pascal was not going to be getting any tip from me! On that I was adamant.
At the airport we got our guns cleared for take–off … a nice lady wanted elephant meat but we had shot no jumbo. Daniel gave the official a bribe when all the paperwork was done.
Later, we went through security and the lady cop hit me for 5,000 francs. She pointed at her breast and said, “Pour moi.” I gave her the nasty bribe and, now that I think about it, being a man (and all men being pigs), if she’d taken off her blouse, I might have given her 10,000 francs and there would have been no hard feelings…
Phill was taken for 3,000 francs. He was sent to the same lady with the person doing the sending saying, “An American. They will take him.” Or some such comment of what was about to happen.
On the long flight to Zurich, Phill finally got his milk that he had wanted for so long.
It was warm.
Richard Powell is an average–looking, middle–aged (if he lives to be in his 120s) redneck from Alberta, Canada. The chap with the silver Fu Manchu moustache writes hunting books of assorted misadventures in Africa, and in North and South America. His tenth book, “Obsession” will be published this year.