Cameroon Travels So Far!

I’ve now been in hot and interesting Cameroon for 2 weeks, apparently, and the time has flown by! I started in busy Douala, the country’s economic capital and largest city, located on the Wouri River estuary. It’s busy and noisy with motorbikes whizzing everywhere simultaneously, bumping over the pot-hole rough streets! Walking about blind, is not easy in Douala, or Cameroon itself for that matter. I stayed 3 nights at the Hotel Astoria, a reasonably priced establishment and took a taxi tour of the central area of the city on both of my main two days there. I visited the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, Doual’art, an building that showcases local artists and is located in La Pagode neighbourhood. A nice local lady attempted to describe one of the main exhibitions on displayed. Something to do with the survival of both nature and women, although, I didn’t entirely understand! Next I headed down the coast for 2 nights in touristy Kribi, on the Atlantic coast for some beach time and to visit Lobé Falls (Chutes de Lobé), some 7 km south of town. I stayed in a small apartment run by a nice, friendly local couple and took motorbike taxis everywhere for about 1Euro per journey. I found a nice bar-restaurant at Lara Beach, ate an expensive but tasty fish and went across the beach to hear the waves crashing against the hot sand. The following day a guide took me to Lobé Falls on a motorbike, and I had a very short and expensive ride in a small wooden boat with engine out along the Lobé River to hear the large waterfalls. It comprises of several rivers that come together to plunge over a cascade directly into the Atlantic Ocean below. That rumbling sound was wonderful. Sadly, the experience was way too short. From Kribi, I took a very early bus back to Douala, meeting a nice Cameroonian guy named Steve, who spoke good English and helped me buy a beget filled with boiled eggs – tasty and cheap! 4 bumpy and hot hours later, I arrived back in Douala, where I jumped on yet another moto-taxi and for 3Euros, was dropped at the shared taxi stand for a 2-hour ride to Limbé. This is another touristy beach town on the atlantic Ocean, but in the heart of the southwest Angophone region of Cameroon. It is potentially in the country’s dangerous southwest region, where there is an ongoing violent struggle between Cameroon and Ambazonian separatists who want to gain independence. However, apart from the town having to lock-down on Mondays, it seems peaceful. Limbé has the motto: “A Town of Friendship” and its people are very friendly and speak good English. Unfortunately, my first day in Limbé was a Monday, so I simply relaxed and listened to the wild ocean crash onto the black sandy beach at the delightful Fini Hotel – a 15 min drive out of town. On my second day I went on a city sightseeing tour with a lovely guide named Mia, and his driver. We took the unbelievably bumpy road to Bimbia, a former Central African slave port. Once there and, after a 30 minute wait for the manager to arrive and open the gate, we wandered around the large sight of overgrown grass and rough stoney trails, heading towards the sea, where the former slave port and slave auction area was located. Various metal signs along the downwards sloping trail offer fascinating information on large metal boards, about the slave port, how many slaves were transported to various Caribbean islands and the Americas, and by which European nations. Once at the sight, after clambering down many rough, rock steps, cut into the trail and climbing over many loose stones, I was able to touch some of the few remaining structures that were left in ruins. There were several large and tall stone columns, covered in moss, where slaves were chained, in the sun, to await deportation. More information was given, telling about the various goods that were exchanged between Europeans and African chiefs for slaves. Items such as sugar, guns, gunpower, knives, food, and many other items. Another information board listed the names of various ships from different European nations that waited off-shore to take slaves to the Caribbean and elsewhere. I touched a big door; the ‘Door of No Return’ where slaves were transported in small boats along a tiny river out to the waiting ships. It was a cruel and brutal trade that lasted until the mid 19th century. I highly recommend visiting, but a guide/car is needed as the place is quite isolated. Once back in Limbé, we briefly visited the botanical garden, where a grave sight to former French soldiers is located and also stopped at the wildlife centre to hear chimpanzees fight and scream with one another! The centre also has monkeys and some reptiles. The last stop was at a large volcanic lava flow, some 20 min drive north of Limbé. The larva has solidified into a huge rock formation, some 17 km long and 3 km wide. Climbing up onto it was tough going. We, eventually, reached a small wooden platform where photos were taken, before clambering down and heading back to my hotel. An excellent day’s exploring. On Wednesday, 8 March, with help, I returned, yet again, to Douala by taxi, then took a shared taxi closed to a town called Melong 2. I was dropped at the Bare police checkpoint, from where I took a short motorbike ride to a Franciscan monastery and stayed for a night. This placed had been recommended to me by a fellow traveller, Bart from the Netherlands. The monks were very friendly. Some of them spoke English and made me very welcome. After a short rest and chat with one of the monks, I took another motor taxi to Ekom Waterfall, one of the main tourist sights in that region. A roughly 20 minute ride along a very rocky road brought us to the park. I paid around 6Euros for the entrance and to take photos. Then the motorbike driver, kindly escorted me along a grassy and gravel track and down several long steps to a platform that the waterfall could be viewed from. A good place to see and hear the falls, but I wanted to get closer. I managed to persuade my guide to help me down the steps. There were a hell of a lot, and many were rough and slippery. Some 20 mins later, we reach the bottom, and I heard the waterfall crashing in its full cacophony! A fantastic sound of tumbling water. Eventually, we ascended the hundreds of rock steps, I stopping many times to catch my breath. At the monastery, I joined the monks for evening prayers and took dinner with them. The following morning I join again for morning prayers, spoken in French with hymns sung in Latin before a tasty breakfast was taken. An hour later, I was back on the road, this time on a large hot bus for a 7 hour journey to Yaoundé, Cameroons large and buzzling capital. From there, I began my tour of the north with a local guide named Jude. At present, I am in the northern city of Ngaoundere. Cheers, more updates coming soon. Douala photos now on website and Facebook. Thanks for follow. Tony :).

Sharing a Website for Disabled and Non-Disabled Writers with Interesting Stories.

Some links to a newish media platform and website: primarily for blind-visually impaired and disabled writers with interesting stories. But available to all. It is a paid platfoorm and I’m not sure if it is fully accessible without paying to read it. But another place for travel/other interest disabled/non/disabled writers to present their work, so thought I’d share it. I was interviewed by the author/founder of the website last year. Please share the links and have a look-read. Thanks, have a wonderful day. From sunny Devon, Tony :). Online media platform DateKeepers, run by Itto Outini, an American blind journalist and writer
Here’s the link where you can subscribe:
It is a paid platform where Blind and disabled travel writers and blind-visually impaired writers can post their blogs/stories.It is open to all writers. I hope it is accessible. Cheers, Tony.
Itto Outini Fulbright Alumni Human Rights Activist Founder of Fulbrighters with Disabilities Co-Founder & Independent Journalist at The DateKeepers Phone: USA, +1 (479) 502-3244

An Amazing Adventure!

Had an amazing day in Sao Tome. This morning I went with a local guide, after hiring a car for the day, and a young, shy, local lady to Ilheu das Rolas – a small tropical island just off the southern tip of Sao Tome island.

It took a good 2 hours to drive there, what with winding and twisting roads and the many potholes. Several parts of the roads were rock and gravel tracks, which made for a fun and bumpy ride!

Once at Ponta Baleia (Wales Point), Sao Tome’s southernmost point. We headed to Hotel Yamy to take a small wooden boat with an engine for the 3 km journey to Ilheu das Rolas itself. The fast, bumpy ride took roughly 20 minutes. I was picked up and carried into the small craft, to save me getting my shoes and clothes wet – a very kind gesture!

A return trip by this boat costs 10 Euros for tourists and Sao Tomians, tour guides go free!

Upon being deposited on Ilheu das Rolas, we headed up the steep sandy beach and ascended the steep rocky slope in the only village. I could smell fish being cooked on wood-burning fires – the smell of smoke was strong.

We made our way over rough and loose rocks and stones, continuing uphill, eventually entering the dense forest, where we were all eaten alive by mosquitoes. Our destination: the marker or monument to the Equator, which passes through Ilheu das Rolas. The small rocky and tree-covered island was discovered by Portuguese navigators in the late 15th century. Apparently, there are just over 70 inhabitants on the island. We heard kids running around and birdsong in the trees. With some effort and me constantly banging my feet and tripping, we made it up the steep hill and found the concrete or stone marker to the location of the Equator. A line on the ground marks where the Equator is meant to pass through. Maps on the ground identify the other continents with regards to the Equator. After photo-taking. We continued through the forest on a long walk/hike that consisted of pushing our way through thick forest and stepping over and/or, tripping on rocks, stones, tree branches, small logs and thick grass or bush. Our destination: a small blow hole on one side of the island – not an easy hike in thick forest with hardly a trail to follow whilst continuously being attacked by mosquitoes, a permanent pest of African nations, and some of these ones carry malaria!

After a long and hard walk, we finally emerged from the forest and found ourselves on rocky terrain above the sea. I heard the waves crashing on the rocks, a tremendous, powerful sound! We made our way over the rocks and, finally, clambered down onto a beach to where the blow hole sat in front of us. At first, silence, then, bang, and a big wave, with white water, shot up out of this hole in a rock. The sound and energy created, was amazing. After experiencing the blow hole’s spectacular efforts for several minutes. We began our hard walk back most of the way we’d come. I became tired and stopped frequently as, after re-entering the forest, it became more humid again. Eventually, we made it back to the village, the last part being back down the steep rocky hill we’d ascended at the beginning of our adventure. Once back at the beach, we relaxed and waited for the small boat to return us to Sao Tome. Back on the main island, we jumped in the vehicle for the long, twisty and bumpy drive back to the main city.

Now relaxing. Next stop, Windhoek, Namibia – via a wait of several hours in Luanda international airport, capital of Angola!

One other bit of interesting news, I was granted an e-visa to Gabon today! Unfortunately, it arrived too late and I changed travel plans! I was, originally, meant to arrive into Libreville, Gabon tomorrow evening! :) Such is life on the road. Stay safe, be well, Tony the
Traveller :).

Vids coming soon!

A Day on The Road With Tony

Last Friday, 26th August I think. I awoke at 05:30, pack my small backpack and, with help from the quiet, friendly lady at the Danube Delta Hostel in Sulina, the easternmost point of Romania, I set off on another epic journey! First there was a ten-minute walk along the riverbank to a pontoon, to take the motorised canoe taxi-boat across to the other bank, where the main part of the town lies. This involved climbing up three or four concrete steps, then descending two or three, before stepping down into the motorised canoe whilst avoiding the gap between the riverbank and boat! Not an easy task if blind! Plus, the small craft was moving up and down like a trampoline! I place my cane on one of the wooden plank seats, and, with help from two strong pairs of arms, was helped/pulled into the boat. Once seated, it was merely a 40-second, rapid ride across to the other bank to clamber out again, with more of me wobbling my way out of the canoe and onto the riverbank. This was followed by stepping onto the moving pontoon, then ascending more steps, followed by immediately descending several others, before my companion and I were on the river path and heading to the seven am ferry back to Tulcea, the county town of the Danube River area. Once on board the slow ferry, after purchasing my ticket, I found a seat and relaxed, believing it would be another 4.5 hour to Tulcea. Unfortunately, the ferry arrived almost an hour early into Tulcea than I realised and, what with no announcements and the boats quiet engine, I didn’t realise we’d docked, until I heard the staff cleaning the ferry with a vacuum cleaner! Thus, I probably missed a train from Tulcea to Bucharest, Romania’s capital, where I was headed, with in tension to then take another train to Brasov. A very kind and friendly Romanian from Iasi, a university city in Romania’s northeast, helped me to the train station to enquire about the next departure to Bucharest. Unfortunately, the next train didn’t depart until 15:30, meaning I’d have over four hours to wait. The gentlemen then went and enquired the time of the next bus to Bucharest. One left at 12 pm, but all seats were taken. However, another bus departed at 14:00 and there were seats on that one. So I purchased a ticket and sat in the delightful Tulcea bus station to wait. There were charging points near comfy chairs and fee, high-speed internet, simple to connect and use – I was delighted! When returning from the toilet, a lady; a complete stranger, gave me a paper bag with two donuts inside – I couldn’t believe it. She didn’t say anything, just put it in my hand and walked off! Once the 14:00 bus arrived, a lovely female bus station staff member helped me aboard and I settled down for the 4.5 hour journey to Romania’s busy capital. Upon arrival in Bucharest, I asked one of the bus passengers to help me find a taxi. It was only a 10-minute walk from where the bus dropped me to Gara de Nord train Station, but what with the heat and my heavy pack, plus the chance I’d get lost, I took a taxi, paying slightly too much, as usual in Bucharest! At the train station I tried to find someone to help me locate the ticket office to buy a ticket to Brasov. I knew a train departed for Brasov at 19:42. Once I had my ticket, it was a case of finding the correct platform. This is not usually known in advance and the information is only shown on screens very closed to the departure time. I met a friendly local girl who showed me to a McDonalds near the platforms area. I grabbed some food and attempted to find someone who could tell me what platform I needed. Eventually, I found another friendly local and he walked me all the way to the train and helped me board and to my seat. People in Romania can be so kind and helpful. Settled in my seat, it was a quick, quiet, fast journey to Brasov. I simply asked another passenger when I felt we were approaching Brasov station and felt my braille watch to check the arrival time. Someone helped me off the train, down the vertical metal steps and onto the platform. They then guided me out of the station. I asked to be taken to a taxi, but when I showed the address of my accommodation, they said it was after 10 pm and would cost more. I asked the young lady who’d escorted me out the station if she knew where the number 4 bus stop was, and she kindly helped me find it. At this point, I met two young Romanian girls who’d recently arrived in Brasov. They offered to help find my hostel; Centrum House, in Brasov’s old town. We chatted away and they were extremely friendly and spoke good English. Our conversation continued after we’d alighted from the bus. However, one of the girls suddenly realised we were heading in the wrong direction! Back we went; laughing all the way into the centre of the old town. We finally arrived at the hostel in question, but now there was a problem. It was 23:00 and there was no way to enter the building. I’d reserved this hostel via a friend, who’d made my booking over the phone. I had no information on how to enter the building; a code was needed. There was a mobile number on the door, but when one of the girls phoned it, there was no reply. We all just looked at each other; what to do! Eventually, the manager or owner of the hostel phoned one of the girls back, gave her the code to enter the building and directions to my room, which was a little complicated! We had to ascend three lots of steps onto the first floor, then cross a terrace, enter a code at another door and try locate my room, which required another code! The next challenge was to tell me the WiFi name and password. The girls were so kind and patient, they were simply magnificent. It was nearly midnight by this point, but I’d arrived and got settled. Just another day in the life of Tony Giles, Tony the Traveller! Next stop, the small town of Sfantu Gheorghe (Saint George) in English. Cheers everyone, happy travels. |

Tony travelling in England

Now back in Teignmouth after a two-week trip around parts of fascinating England with my wonderful Tatiana :). We started in gritty Birmingham and stayed in the friendly Saltley Inn, a pub with fun-loving staff and a lively atmosphere. Birmingham has changed significantly since I lived there and now half of the city seems and feels padestrianised, especially when the trams aren’t running, which they weren’t during our visit. The highlight of the Brum trip; visiting Soho House, home of industrial revolutionary, Matthew Boulton who, along side James Watt and William Murdoch, turned Birmingham from a large unimportant town into the centre of industry and business in the mid-late 18th century. A delightful Georgian house in one of Birmingham’s suburbs; well worth a visit if you’re interested in the history of Britain’s industrial heritage. Our guide was fantastic and described the architecture, furniture and the house’s setting in fine details for two blind people. One of the more interesting objects we handled was the replica of a sugar cone that the family used in their food. This replica was a cone-shaped block of stone and was very heavy. It gave a good example how sugar would have looked like when in a typical Georgian kitchen. We also held and felt the implement used for slicing off sugar to use in food/drinks by the houses’ servants. The sugar cutting implement resembled a set of pliers. After 3 days in Birmingham we pressed onto Manchester, Tatiana’s choice, as she’d not visited the city properly before. We stayed in a nice small hotel in the area of Fallow Fields, a little far from the city centre, but on a bus route, which was useful. One afternoon was spent at the Imperial War Museum North. We were able to touch and explore several WWII weapons and vehicles, plus also a piece of burnt metal from the New York Twin Towers, damaged in the 2001 attacks. An unusual object to find in any museum. I found it all fascinating! On our final day in Manchester, we visited Manchester Cathedral, which has a very large Nave. We were given a quick tour of the large church. The third Bishop of Manchester Cathedral, lived in Melbourne, Australia, where he helped build Melbourne’s cathedral. Upon becoming bishop of Manchester, two kangaroos were carved into the large chare where the bishop sits in front of the choir. Tatiana and I were able to touch them; two wooden kangaroos facing each other – a nice touch by the cathedral’s carpenters! The trip continued with 4 nights in Leeds, well, kind of! We actually stayed in a nice but basic ‘bungalow’ almost in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately, not only was there a national rail strike during our time in the Leeds area, but also, the local bus company, Arriva, was also on strike! This meant taking taxis everywhere, an expensive business. The area where we resided was nice, mainly comprised of residential dwellings and lots of over-growing foliage. The only shop I could find was an off-licence, nearly a mile’s walk. I also found one pub; the Brewery Fayer, with friendly staff and a menu containing real English food! We mainly relaxed, but spent one day travelling to Scarborough on the Yorkshire coast, a journey by bus that took over 3 hours! Our reason for going; to visit Scarborough Castle, with its 3,000 years of history. The castle, atop high cliffs, is mainly in ruins, with only the walls and foundations remaining. Built in the 12th century, it was badly damaged during the English Civil War (1642-1651). The Keep is the only main structure to survive. It was windy up on the top, looking over to the North Sea. A friendly gentleman gave us a tour around mostly a thickly grassy area and we had an audio guide that spoke automatically when pointed at various electronic information boards dotted around the main upper area of the castle. A fascinating history into one of England’s most fortified castles, especially in the 12th and 13th centuries. Our final day in Leeds was spent in its delightful and large City Museum, where a lovely lady, Kate gave us a brief tour and overview of the history of Leeds and its surrounding area. We touched several axe-heads found around the area dating from the Bronze age and also some stone artifacts also found in the area, including one stone containing a cross found in someone’s garden. We handled a couple of stones that were over 100,000 years old and several types of rock from various places in Yorkshire. Finally, we got to hear several birdsongs and touched a couple of animals, including the shell of a tortoise someone had donated to the collection. Our final stop on this epic trip was Newcastle up in the northeast of England – an often cold and wet city, with friendly citizens. We stayed in inexpensive student accommodation that turned out to be in quite a good location, what with a nice cafe and a lively pub only a ten-minute walk away and a Tescos on the nearby corner. Although we didn’t really explore Newcastle itself, having visited previously, our time was spent travelling about to other attractions. Our first outing took us to the Head of Steam Railway Museum in Darlington, a town some 30 minutes train journey south of Newcastle. This museum has the original station platform on the Darlington and Stockton Railway where the first passenger train departed from in September 1825. A lovely lady, Sarah, showed us around and told us the history of why the railway began in Darlington. It was largely to do with the nearby coalmines to begin with and later the idea of running passenger trains, mainly because the demand was there, but also to make money. I tried on an engine driver’s cloth hat and Tatiana waved a guard’s flag, used to get a train to start or stop. We touched two old steam locomotives with our canes and was able to run our hands over a waggon and cart carrying late 19th or early 20th century luggage. Old cases made of leather. We also went in the original ticket office where tickets were bought and parcels were stored. A fascinating museum of historical importance. The museum plans to expand for 2025, the bicentenary of the beginning of the passenger railway in Great Britain. The following day we headed to Segedunum Roman fort in Wallsend, a suburb of Newcastle. The area can be reached by local buses of the Metrolink, we took a taxi for £10 to save time. A lovely guy, named Daniel took us around for a fascinating couple of hours as we learnt a little about Roman military life on the Roman frontier in Britain in AD122 onwards. The museum has an observation tower where visitors can look out on the fort ruins and countryside and gain an idea of the forts size and layout. Tatiana and I were able to run our hands over a tactile floor plan of the fort and get an idea of the shapes of the various buildings within Segedunum Fort and its size. The fort was begun alongside the building of Hadrian’s Wall, a defensive wall against tribal people in the land that today is Scotland. I was able to touch a very small portion of Hadrian’s wall outside, just one large stone/brick on the ground, across the road from the museum. I touched real Roman history! The fort itself is just remains with lots of rough stones underfoot. The museum is worth a visit if in Newcastle and interested in Roman-British history, like me! On our final day in the northeast, we visited the Roman fort of Vindolanda, 1 mile (1.6 kilometres) south of Hadrian’s Wall and roughly 2 miles (3 km) from the small town of Barton Mill and the larger town of Hexham, some 12 miles (20 km) distance. On another windy day in northeast England, Tatiana and I were given a fantastic one-to-one guided tour around the ancient and historical Roman site, a live archaeological dig, which has been undertaken since 1975. Vindolanda is under a separate charity and is not own by either English Heritage or the National Trust. The fort was constructed in the second-third century AD to provide further protection and support for the wall and surrounding area. A village grew up around the fort and by the end of the Roman occupation in England, around 400 or so AD, the villagers had moved into the fort and remained a surviving independent settlement for several centuries after. We met one of the archaeologists who gave us a couple of shards of pottery that had just been uncovered for us to touch. Very dirty, but fascinating. The museum is most famous for its find of 2nd century AD wooden tablets containing actual Roman hand writing. These thin pieces of wood with their delicate inscriptions, give archaeologists and historical an written insight of life in a Roman fort in Britain in Roman times and describe everyday life; officers orders to soldiers, demands for water by soldiers on patrol, an invitation to a birthday party by a woman, etc. The tablets are a real treasure trove of historical evidence. Visiting Vindolanda and getting a sense of its size and scale and learning a little about its fascinating history was wonderful for both Tatiana and I, and we couldn’t have had better guides. Mike even went so far as to drop us back at Newcastle station to catch our train south the London and onto Brighton, where we spent our final night together of this fun and educational wander around some of England’s more lively and colourful cities. Til next time, Tony :).