Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Notorious Overland Routes: Nigeria to Cameroon

As overlanders, we generally love the challenge of tough routes.
BigSky Adventures
We love finding alternative ways around political conflict zones and sometimes even those unnerving border crossings.  As overland travelers, we will always find a way.  Sometimes though, there is only one way...

Welcome to the notorious Ekang, Nigeria to Mamfe, Cameroon road...

A few quotes to set the scene:
18 hours after crossing the border in Cameroon we eventually reached the town of Kumba - David Priddis
Reports from other overland travelers said that it was bad, very bad - Tale of Two Travelers
Too describe it as a road is misleading. It is a track hacked through the jungle by locals and others desperate to pass - Adventurous Spirits

The Route:

There are a few options to to cross the border from Nigeria into Cameroon.  During the mid 2000's, Calabar, Nigeria, was a key destination for the hard-to-get Cameroon visa.  The only viable option from Calabar was to head North to Epang and cross the border heading to Mamfe.

View Larger Map

The condition of the road varies considerable depending on the season... Atlapedia describes the seasons as follows:
The equatorial south has two wet seasons and two dry seasons with one wet season between March and June and the great wet season between August and November while one dry season is between June and August and the great dry season is between November to March.

The Wet Season

Radio Baobab (Frederik & Josephine), referenced below, were a few weeks into the rainy season.  They recorded their fuel consumption during the 80km drive...
Average consumption Ekok / Mamfe: 62.5 litres/100km

Tale of Two Travelers describe the situation:

The two officials processing our passports started to chuckle and then one turned and said “You will not make it in your 4x4.” I replied, “I know that the road is bad. We have friends that have driven this road recently in similar trucks and they made it. It will just take a lot of work.” The officials started to chuckle again and the other one said, “Your 4x4 won’t make it. I remember your friends. They were here over a month ago driving a dark blue 4x4 (James and Lee) like yours. And before that, there was another couple (Fred and Josephine) driving a white Land Cruiser, a little different than yours. The road was different then.
Tale of Two Travelers
When your friends were here, there were big Land Rovers running. They had generators and pumps. They would drive into the deep holes and drain out the water. Now the Land Rovers are gone. The water is too deep for them to operate. They’ve gone to Bafoussam. Nobody has been down this road in a month.” Not exactly the feedback we wanted to hear.
Jim & Cheri added the following video:

The Dry Season 

Slightly better, this road just needs a sprinkle of rain to turn it into a slimy mud bath...

In May 2005, I crossed the Nigerian border heading to Mamfe... it was the dry season but the road conditions provided a challenge for the Defender 110 and the Range Rover.
My 2005 blog reads:
First day in Cameroon... rained all morning and got stuck in the afternoon.
BigSky Adventures

BigSky Adventures

Adventurous Spirits describe the 60km drive:
It took us 6 hours to drive the 60km and there was a real sense of relief when we reached the village of Mamfe. Our day consisted of serious technical 4X4 driving, as well as having to use the high lift jack, our sand ladders and our spade to dig ourselves out from particular bad spots. Eventually we made it through the jungle, tired, sweaty, dirty and full of black fly bites.

A video clip from Day 1 in Cameroon...

Current Update:

January 2013: Recent reports from various overlanders are reporting that sections of the road are being improved:

The “road” (earth track) between the Nigerian boundary and the town Bamenda, in which we’re staying tonight, is in a catastrophic condition. Chinese corporations are already building a tarmac road through this jungle of western Cameroon.
Indlovu reports:
It was beautiful, the rich red earth of the dirt track contrasted against the deep green of the impenetrable jungle. Trees of all sorts reached 40, 50, 60 plus meters high.
Further down, we joined newly compressed tar and our speed increased, the jungle blurred away on either side of us. We stopped in Mamfe for the night and continued driving along the recently completed tar road.

The next time you glance at the map and hear rumours of notorious roads, just pause and plan ahead. Be bold and be sure to take that road...
Have you driven this road?  What was your experience like?

Additional Reading:
Part 2 - Northern Kenya

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