Sunday, December 11, 2005

Lovin' Lonely Limbé

Dear all,

Limbé was such a gorgeous and innocent town, it reminds me of a young beauty who does not yet know the power of her looks. With the empty black-sand beaches and palm trees of an exclusive resort, backed by steaming rainforest, cloud-shrouded mountains, and the dark stoney statues left by lava flows - this place might appear a hot tourist attraction. But the beaches are empty not because of exclusivity, and the rainforests and mountains are not so stunning because they are protected by strong activist groups and environmental agencies; on the contrary, Limbé is so special because few people yet know that it is special. The tourism industry is so weak that there are only a handful of good, clean hotels in town, and taxis still carry tourists, along with locals, in twice the numbers acceptable by insurance standards. ...On the taxi ride back from the beach, where we sat 4 in the back and 4 in the front (the driver actuallly squished someone between himself and the window!), i heard a voice behind and realized that we were carrying a 9th passenger in the open trunk. !!! With that, it became clear how little Limbé's functioning has been impacted or shaped by tourists - for three months ago, still very new to Cameroon, that taxi ride would have scared the shit out of me...and I would not have wanted to come back for the same experience. Now - for better or for worse - I just laughed in shock and disbelief, and explained to the taximan that "No, fitting 9 people into a car is not the way to impress a white woman into marrying you. Sorry mate."

Anyway, we made the most of this pristine, virtually undiscovered beach paradise. The primate zoo was amazing and thrilling, with tempermental monkeys that throw rocks and jerk off at their female viewers (I received the rock, while Alla recieved the masturbating mandrill - I don't know which is worse!), and slippery bridges that would only be allowed in Cameroon. The animals were kept in secure cages, but there were sometimes no ropes keeping people from getting close - so a monkey with reach could have easily grabbed me at any time, I was standing so close. (I even snuck some leaves and a banana right into the hand of one monkey - but it was scary to be so close to a hungry thing like that, and I left the rest of the job to the trained workers!!! I also didn't want to have rocks thrown at me by the zoo employees, in addition to the inhabitants.) The beach was awesome, and the only problem I had was in trying to preserve my braided hair while splashing into as many ocean waves as possible...but I have decided that if this weave could survive the bus rides to and from Bertoua, and climb up the mountain, how could a little saltwater possibly hurt it now? I definitely was not made for high-maintenance hairstyles.

On the way back, we passed a solidified lava flow right near the road, famous for its location: only about 5 meters from the roadside, this imposing black wall stands at least 15 m high. As this stream of lava rumbled down the mountain 10 years ago, locals dreaded the day when it would cross the road - requiring serious reconstruction efforts to reopen the passageway. But, by the good graces of physics and/or the mountain gods, it stopped and hardened, unexpectedly, just before taking a giant mouthful of asphalt. Could this be proof that the mountain wants more visitors??? Of course, I forgot to ask the gods this pressing question when I was up there this past weekend...but next time I will tie a reminder string around my finger, trudge up to the summit on an empty day with no other tourists in sight, and ask the question. Or maybe, I will forget again. I would not mind if the mountain stays empty and mysterious, as it is, at least for a while longer...for as good as the money and attention might promise to be for the surrounding communities, I don't think that it will trickle down until Cameroon gets a better system of government and wealth/resource distribution. So until then - let's say that lava is just lava, okay?




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