Wednesday Morning, September 29:
I woke up, and while walking to the classroom, I climbed a big rock to take some pictures on such a beautiful morning. Breakfast at the office was honey on Pee Bread (Yes, that’s the brand name for a wonderful sugared bread in Bamenda.)
This was the last day of the course, and Alfred led devotions. One team’s PC had just arrived, so Frans worked with this team to take the week’s work and move it over to their computer, while fixing several problems and licensing issues. At the same time, I worked with the one team, showing them how to do Back Translations in Adapt It. We took out group photo just after coffee break (water for me, as always). By noon, my course was finished…and I had a few days off. I talked with the Hedingers (a Swiss/Dutch couple) about where to go for lunch, and they invited me over to their place. In the meantime, I snacked on honey-roasted peanuts (10c a bag) and bananas.
I took the time to study the Bamenda map I found in the phonebook, then hopped in the Hedinger-mobile to go to lunch. Lunch consisted of a variety of pastas and chicken, quite good, finished off with some Swiss cookies I was very familiar with. Ahh..little Switzerland, brings back good memories. Back to the office…back to the guest house where I was able to catch up on my Bible reading. I had plans to meet the SIL family at 3, but it started raining at 3, so I waited at home for the storm to subside.
3o mins later, I was trudging with my raincoat and mini-umbrella on my way up to the “Village”, a mission family home that is a little-America. Catherine and Karissa decided it was tea-time, so …tea and poppy-seed bread. My phone wanted to update my French-English dictionary, and that was the first time my connection was good enough to do so. Woot! Next on the docket, horseback riding… a SIL family there have Fulani horses that they use as a ministry and for recreation. The plan was to head up into the hills to the nearest waterfall. Karissa and I prepped the horses as Catherine finished up inside. The saddles were too small for me, so it was decided that I would just use blankets. I thought this was the first time I’ve ridden without someone holding the lead, but Val tells me I did when I rode in Harrisonburg. I rode Prince, Karissa’s horse, and they rode …some horses with caffeinated names (Machiotto and Cappuccino, maybe?). After a little talk about mounting without stirrups (I like the standing uphill technique) I was on. A minute more of instruction on how to use the gas, brake, and steering wheel..and we were off on a mountain path, with the family’s black lab, Jemma, following along. Karissa lead with the fastest horse…and I followed, with Cat behind me. Walking was fine…good exercise for my abs. Trotting, without stirrups, was painful as I came down twice as often as i wanted to. Cantering was AMAZING. At one point, Karissa broke a stirrup, so we continued on until she could drop off the saddle and come back. People kept calling out about how healthy and pretty the dog looked, while he ran off the mutts and German shepherds that chased us. On top of one hill, we came to a rocky point by a school that Prince was reluctant to cross, so I descended to lead him across. After a couple of tries without the aid of a steep hill, I re-mounted as he started moving. We followed the new rocky red cattle road, up through the mountains and past the long-horned herds. More people yelled about the dog. We stopped to take some photos and videos. It was SUCH a beautiful evening. We then passed a stream coming down the mountain, which normally was a road, as we neared our destination waterfall. We watched the largest 60-ft waterfall, from a distance, then headed up. We came to a culvert and dismounted, just above the first of 4 waterfalls. Karissa told me how they had jumped down into that pool and the next, but never with the water this high…incredibly high. Jemma waded into the water a little upstream of us, like all the times he’d been there before. One more step, and he was in deep…and the current took him past us. Karissa reached for him, but with no collar, there was nothing to grab. Without thinking, she was taking off her sweater preparing to jump in, but the hand of God held her back. Jemma slipped over the first fall into the next basin. Once he came up, his fearful eyes watched us as he tried to escape the bowl. He couldn’t clamber on to the next rock, and was swept over the next drop and out of view. At this point, tried to run to the next lookout, but it was all thick brush, so we jumped on the horses and looked for a lookout point…we could find nothing to let us see the next pools. As Karissa watched the big waterfall for a while, I realized I’d dropped my horse’s lead, and Cat (faster than I with a horse) went back for it, with no luck. After a while, and no sign of the dog, we headed back home, somewhat less jubilant than before. The herdsmen kept asking where the dog was…and I told one, “Dog fall down in water”. He laughed, then said it was the curse of Allah and the witch of the waterfall. Someone had found the lead I’d lost, and set it on a pile of stones, and Catherine’s sharp eyes spotted it. One little prayer answered. We continued on home in prayer, we passed a church that was praising the Lord in song, and met an old friend of Karissa’s along the way. Catherine and I put the horses and gear back, while the family had a meeting inside. Jarrod and the others were heading out to search the jungle on the other side, when Chris (the father) arrived. We took off through town, weaving through traffic, then up into the mountains on the wildest 4wd ride I’ve ever been on. This was by far the fastest I’d ever moved in Cameroon. As night started to fall, we arrived on the other side of the waterfall. We stopped for a moment to pray for safety, and with several flashlights that were in my bag, we went looking for a path Jarrod remembered down into one of the pools. Thick jungle, deep mud, and vines were at every turn, with bushwhacking to find the right path. Chris and I came to the end of this section of jungle..too far. Night had fallen and even with a few flashlights, only half of us had lights. Chris was a trooper with no light. The mud went well over my ankles, but my boots, while turning orange, did exactly as they were supposed to. As we backtracked, I managed to find the side-trail and we descended into a wet gully. This gully descended into a ravine, where Jarrod could see the last pool, but looked into the rushing waters and called the dog to no avail. We scrambled back up the ravine, and found the original trail to head back to the SUV, it was too dark and dangerous to search more. Back through the deep mud again. Back in the SUV, we rolled down at significantly less speed than before. Jarrod suggested an alternate route over a ridge, and it turned out to be the stream/road that I’d mentioned earlier, but we were already committed to the downhill slope before we realized this. Chris’s tire slid into a rut, and Jarrod and I got out to work out the situation. After a little spinning and sliding, the left-front tire wanted to follow the rut, and that was a path that led off the road. At his lead, Jarrod and I lugged big rocks into the muddy trench to give traction and build a wall, and we held the SUV upright as he slid out onto the trail. Once back on the trail, we hopped in for the last bit back to the cattle road. We headed back to town, again weaving through traffic (this is normal in Africa) and looked for where the river crossed the road. I pulled up the GPS on my phone and was able to help. We headed down a dead end road to a bridge. No sign of the dog in the still-rushing water, but Chris was talking in pidgin with some of the Cameroonians. Steve, a moto-taxi driver, offered to help us find the bottom of the waterfall in the morning. We headed back to the “village”…already joking about the Gemma’s adventures and impressions. The stars that night were unbelievable. We took off our muddy shoes and whatever we could, and settled in for the evening. I worked with Jarrod in Photoshop on a literacy project he was working on until dinner. Some others started an episode of “The Office”, until the power went out. A discussion of Gemma’s best moments ensued, and Chris told how that was the only dog he’d really liked. Power returned, and they decided it was time for 2 episodes of “Gilmore Girls”…Christmas episodes as it turned out. After curfew…I put on my muddy boots and trudged through a much thinner jungle back to the guest house. Of course the gate was already locked, so I had to jump the fence. I spent an hour getting most of the mud off my shoes, but they were still red. I could already feel the soreness from the horse. I called mom to share the story, and went to bed around midnight.
Day 2, Thursday.
I woke up at 5:30, and stayed in bed till what felt like the afternoon, but when the phone rang to go searching, it was only 7am. I was at the house by 7:30 and we left at 8. We went back down near the bridge and found Steve. He lived in the neighborhood there, and said he knew the way to the waterfall. The first part of the trail was well-worn. (I suppose it has to be when foot-traffic is the only traffic.) The water was way down from before, but still quite fast. Wanting to stay close to the water, we crossed a log-bridge, and were about to ford the river when Chris suggested going back to the trail. I had my boots, some supplies in my backpack, and a camera and phone in a dry-bag, so I didn’t particularly want to go swimming anyway. The trail headed up, and we followed for a while, before descending back into the valley. With all the thorns, I was glad to have my boots except when doing river crossings. I would’ve been much faster if I’d brought my happy-feet…but 2 people broke their water-shoes…so tradeoffs. The trail headed for the ridge, so we left the trail for some true bushwhacking. We clambered over trees and through vines, getting scrapes and tears along the way. Eventually, we reached the base of the waterfall, a beautiful sight in the mist. Though we had hoped for a pool at the bottom, it fell on a large rock that Gemma couldn’t have survived collision with. No sign of the body, but we didn’t really expect it anymore. We headed back, this time meeting a guy with a machete. We stopped several time for snacks…once when we found “bush peppers”. They looked like red peppers, but you tear open the skin and eat the meat and seeds…quite good and strangely refreshing, but the taste was short-lived. We made faster progress, but eventually taking the higher and drier path when we could. We also picked some guavas from the tree, which were significantly less appealing than the peppers. We climbed a big rock before arriving at the SUV, and dropped off our new friend Steve at the taxi-stand. Broken shoes for some, ripped shirts, a torn raincoat hood, and scratches all over…but what an unexpected adventure. We stopped at a bakery for snacks, and joked about showing up all muddy to coffee break. I’m not sure why we didn’t. We went back up to the village for lunch, and I went home for a few hours. My day could’ve been done there and it would be well-full. Pa, (the family’s househelp) cleaned our shoes…(starting with the photo above) I have no idea how he did such a good job, they were spotless.
Jemma had had a good day, obeying Karissa’s commands at the house, chasing off menacing dogs, and running like crazy…was quite the way to go. Still no sign last I heard…but they do have a new German shepherd.