If you’ve been hiking for some time now and you’ve always wanted to reward yourself with a paradisal trek that is challenging yet achievable, how does an invitation to take in the imposing view from the summit of Mount Cameroon sound? This is one of Global Bush’s most popular activities and it is easy to see why; most of us are so fully immersed in city life that we ignore our need to connect with Nature, to rise to new challenges and above all, to feel like we can pursue goals that lie outside the material/professional. The sensation of making it to the ‘top’ of something so ancient, vast and profound is unbeatable; it is a reminder that there is very little that is ‘natural’ about ignoring the importance of Mother Earth to our physical and mental well-being.
Why Mount Cameroon? The Legend, The Challenge
Mount Cameroon is also called Mount Fako, but its most inspiring name is surely ‘The Chariot of the Gods’. In reality it is one of Africa’s largest volcanoes, rising to a vertiginous 4,095 metres above the west Cameroon coast. The volcano is steeped in tradition and mythology: it is believed that a God, Efasa-Moto, prevents the volcano from erupting, with occasional exceptions (for instance, in 1992, he chose to let the lava flow in order to unite him with his wife, Liengu la Mwanja, a sea mermaid). Efasa Moto plays an important role in modern-day legend as well; for instance, it is said that he refuses to let the same athlete win the famous Mount Cameroon Race of Hope if the athlete boasts about his victory or claims to have conquered the mountain. One runner who won the race three times was Reverend Walter Stifter, a humble man who was famed for handing his prize over to the first-runner-up. If you’ve never heard of this race before, you may be surprised to learn that it is revered by runners all over the world; some 2,000 participants sign up every year, in an effort to be the champion worthy of Efasa-Moto’s approval. One of the race’s most famous runners is Sarah Etanga. Known as the ‘Queen of the Mountain’, she is a mother of nine children who decided to give the race a go and ended up winning an amazing nine times!
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough
So what is Mount Cameroon actually like to climb? The day after you arrive from Europe or the US to Douala, the adventure will being early, with a journey to Buea and to Upper Farms (1,010m), where you will begin your hike. For around three to four hours, your body, mind and spirit will be embraced by a verdant rainforest, peppered with lush trees and leafy cocyam plants, mystified by romantic tufts of fog. After a three- to four-hour hike, you will arrive at the first of many Huts (Hut 1 is located at 1,800m), where you will tuck into a hearty lunch and drink fresh water from a bustling stream. Next up comes a rather steep five to six-hour walk through the Savannah to the second Hut (2,750m), where you will camp for the night. The following day, the trek to Hut 3 will take between 4 and 5 hours and after a little rest, you will make it to the summit, whose majesty you can enjoy for a few minutes, as you snap photos of the unbeatable views and capture your great achievement on camera. Next up comes the descent, comprising a pleasant six-hour walk to Mann’s Spring. On your way there, you will visit one of the most amazing treasures the mountain has to offer: craters, both old and new, a reminder of Efasa-Moto’s sometimes fickle temperament. After cooling down in the crystalline waters of Mann’s Spring, it’s back to the Savannah, where you will marvel at old lava flows and the welcoming rainforest.
Expect the Unexpected
Mount Cameroon is a classic expedition for trekkers, but there are many things you will find along the way that you may not have read in the guide books or travel blogs. Some of the most marvelous treasures hidden in the mountain include medicinal plants (ginseng is said to be found here); gnarled, twisted trees seemingly taken from a Tim Burton film, a patent indication of the power of the sun and winds; bright, joyful flowers that bob up from beneath the grey yet surprisingly fertile lava fields; contrasting colours provided by the blackness of the lava, set against joyful yellow grasslands.
Mount Cameroon is a wealth of surprises, perhaps not the least because it has been known to occasionally snow here in the colder months, so much so that it is said that for a short time following the snowfall, the summit area offers some inviting winter sport activities such as skiing. Like intensive summer sports, checking that your equipment is well-suited to your adventure is essential, as well as verifying the weather conditions and other factors that could potentially present a challenge. Knowing your route, the nearest emergency outposts, and any prevalent problems with the terrain as well as being respectful of wildlife and their natural habitat is a vital recommendation. Particularly in winter, when conditions are easily changeable, make sure to check out the snow forecast before you head there; even if you don’t get to glide down the powdery snow, surprise weather conditions can make the ascent to the top even more of a challenge. In this case experienced guides are recommended unless you are an expert at climbing – however, you don’t need to be an expert to reach the summit as long as you are prepared!
What Else Can I Do in Cameroon?
Global Bush has an array of activities that will enrich your stay in Cameroon even further; tune in to your wild side at an adrenalin-filled safari, discover unique bird species whose dazzling colours and melodic chirping will appeal to the artist in you; and of course, don’t forget to stimulate your mind, learning all about the rich history of Cameroon at the Sultan’s Palace or private Royal Museum!