Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Menchum Falls: Where is the tourist industry?

Cameroon is the African Continent in miniature. Almost everything that Africa has can be found in this country. Look around and you see it’s a country rich on natural resources and has a huge potential for tourism: impressive beautiful and adventurous. But what is missing is a good tourist industry.

Roughly ten years ago a Dutch Airliner, Martin Air, saw the potential and started a regular inter-continental flight connection to Cameroon. The minister of tourism demanded $100,- per tourist for his own pocket. Martin Air took it’s business to another country where it was welcomed instead of blackmailed. As sources in the Netherlands confirm. That gives an insight why the industry is lacking on a national level. But what about it on the regional and local level?

Cameroon is shaky

The Menchum Falls are described as very impressive and dramatic. With a stiff warning in The Bradt Travel Guide Cameroon: ‘Beware of the so-called safety rails. People have fallen to their deaths here’. The falls are around 20km south of Wum and 3okm north of Bafut. Staying with family, at Bafut, we all loaded up in a 4wheel drive Toyota Hi-Ace mini-bus and started driving. Looking on the map, it could not have been that long a ride, making it a good trip for an afternoon picnic. That is, we did not take in account the bad condition of the Ring Road. My seven year old son said it illustrative: “Cameroon is shaky!” Meaning riding around you get hustled and tussled around in the car because of all the potholes. That is bad for the tourism although two of the five kids kind of liked it. The other three had to trow up of car sickness. But it’s even really worse for the population who depend on this road for as their main connection with the rest of the country.

What is missing

Before arriving at the Menchum Falls there are already a couple of locations excellent for a break, to give your back a rest and to absorb the sights. Like the new bridge, where the cars used to pass the river Menchum through the water. And at the other rapids in the river. Even to branch to Mbi Crater reserve between Bafut and Befang. It’s easy to miss the Menchum Falls if you do not know where to find them. No signs at all pointing out that you are finally there. At the spot a neglected view stand is welcoming you. And are the Menchum Fall really impressive. You can feel the power of mother nature. A great place to spent some time and just relax. You can feel it’s touristic potential, local and internationally. What is missing? Everywhere, even in the middle of nowhere in Cameroon, you’ll find an Off-License. But here were we could sit for hours and just watch but nothing to eat or to drink. Want to take a look around but everything is overgrown with bush. Trying to get through the bush, we just saw in time that the next step was 30 meter down. Better take that stiff warning serious.

Join hands

The Menchum Falls are impressive to see. But the long rough ride and unwelcoming conditions of the site makes it not worth it all the trouble. The government should be held responsible for the bad conditions of the Ring Road as they have the means and the power to easily develop it. They promised to do so in 1980. Recently the government made a start, better late then never. Hopefully the new prime minister Philemon Yang will speed up the paste. As the leading opposition, Social Democratic Front’s Secretary General Dr. Elizabeth Tamajong called upon him in an interview with The Star (Vol. 2 No. 054 monday july 13, 2009). As quoted from The Star: “She called on him to start by constructing the ring road that was launched by his predecessor. In this way she said the people would have him a heart.” But the local community should take more care of the sites, too. Go cut all that bush - mind your step - clear it out, and more people will stop over and spent their money on their local business. What are the excuses not to do so? What holds us back to join hands for the common good?

The Vanguard, national newspaper
Special report: Auke VanderHoek

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