Site Visit 3 – Association for the Protection of Women and Children’s Rights on 6/21 (Limbe, Cameroon)
Pt. 4/4: Trek to the Plantain Plantations
George told us about APWCR’s plantain plantation—they planned to grow plantain and to sell them in order to help APWCR become self-sustainable. However, the plantation was very difficult to reach and they needed a vehicle to help them transport the harvests there and back. The 4×4 would also help them reach the human rights violation cases they receive that for now are too far. I glanced at the schedule for the day that they had handed to us.
9:15-10:45am – Trekking from Bonjo to APWCR’s GlobalGiving plantain farm.
Gulp. A trek? I’m not scared of hikes, but I was not mentally or physically prepared for one that day. I was wearing one of my Jungle Professional Chic™ outfits, featuring business casual but adventure ready clothing (which means somewhat cute and made of dry-fit material). Sure, I wasn’t wearing pant suits and stilettos, but I was wearing Tevas (very stylish with their pink accents) and my pants stopped right below my knees. Not terrible, but not ideal either. “I want you to know exactly how badly we need a car for our plantation!”, exclaimed George.
Okay, whatever, I can do this. We set out for our trek. We were told the trek would consist of 4 km of paved road, then 3 km of “bush”, and 3 km back out of the bush. Oh. That’s a little far. Totally doable though! The first 4 km were a breeze, as we chatted while walking down the side of a beautifully smooth highway. I asked what was in the canvas bag that Damian, one of the volunteers, was carrying. “My bush clothes. For when we go in the bush! You did not bring shoes? Not even socks?” Umm… no?
Then we got to the edge of what appeared to be cornfields. We waited as the men put on their bush clothes. George put a plastic bag on his head, over which he put a hat. “What do you need that for?”, I so naively asked. “For the mosquitoes of course!”, he replied. Oh… great. I could feel my face blanch. I sprayed myself with bug repellent in anticipation of the dark clouds of blood suckers I was about to be attacked by.
The cornfields turned into lush forest with streams interrupting the path ever so often. “Now, this is the bush!”, I thought, marveling at the full glory of the nature that surrounded me, and breathing in the fresh and invigorating green air. Damian walked past me, still holding his canvas bag. “Why haven’t you changed yet?”, I asked him. “We are not in the bush yet!”, he said. … Oh.
Essential bush gear, as modeled by George and Richard (see photo below)
– a light yet effective plastic bag to be worn on the head, covered by a fashionably faded baseball cap.
– jeans that show off your figure but not excessively so, if you can bear them in the heat
– a machete
– a fabulous, flamboyant umbrella (a very easy and avant-garde way of wearing it hands free is to hook the handle to the back of your shirt collar, which is both George and Richard’s umbrella-wearing style of choice)
– don’t forget to not smile for pictures, because in Africa one does not smile for pictures. Ever. And if you do, you will be the only idiot to have any teeth showing in a large group shot, as Meg and I have been many times.
At one point in our walk, we happened upon what appeared to be giant pod shells of some kind. They were huge. The peas would have been the size of my hands. That’s when I knew we had entered Jurassic park. (Note Damian’s Obama shirt. Also, Damian has an identical twin named Cosmos who was also with us, so I may have used Cosmos or Damian’s names interchangeably.)
We got to this gorgeous clearing where bamboo grew in clumps, forming giant tunnels of bamboo. I half-expected to have to run into the bamboo and count to ten while a smoke monster chased me. (That was a LOST reference, duh).
We got to a completely isolated beach. Apparently this the only way how the plantation is reachable. The sand is black as it is volcanic rock.
We had to get there by scrambling over big, slippery and sometimes sharp rocks on the edge of the ocean. After this shot, I had to put my SLR away because it was getting too dangerous.
We finally made it to the plantation, which really was a bunch of plantain trees that were growing on a near-vertical dirt cliff. Which we of course proceeded to climb.
Behind us was a great expanse of ocean and in front of us was a jungly cliff. The view was breathtaking, enhanced by or in spite of the fact that I was clinging on for dear life, my feet continuously slipping on the loose dirt.
Meg and I both got to harvest our own plantain bunch with a machete, which we then had for lunch back at George’s home. It was delicious. Organic, fresh as can be, and for a good cause.
As you can tell, APWCR desperately needs your help to make these plantains more accessible. What Meg and I found exhilarating and very tough is what their volunteers do on an almost daily basis in order to harvest the plantains and to work on the land.
How you can help: Donate to his project, called “Grow plantains & support human rights in Cameroon!“