I first thought about climbing Mount Cameroon in the summer of 2016. I had just gotten off the phone with a tour guide in Tanzania who had answered endless questions about my quest to reach the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. “It will cost you 2,000 USD” he said. And that’s for the mountain alone. Certainly, this was not a trip that I could take without saving up. Then, I remembered a song from primary school listing Africa’s mountains and it hit me…Mount Cameroon! “We are climbing mount Cameroon”, I announced “four thousand and forty meters into the sky.”
I took the next year to map out a plan. I opened it up to the public through my experience design company — TVP Adventures — and in no time, three other brave adventurers had signed up for the trip (Hamza, Toyeke and Banji). “This is great”, I thought, “a tight number for a long climb.” With my trainer’s consistent work-out routines and my research of the mountain, I readied my body and mind for the climb. It was easy finding a guide service to lead us up the mountain. Peter of Eco Tours was forthcoming with information and answered all my questions. We booked our flights to Douala, our hotels in Buea and bought all the items we would need for the climb. When we got to Cameroon, Peter and his co-guide — Daniel picked us up from the airport in Douala and drove us to Buea where the mountain is.
The mountain looked like a part of the skyline in the dark, something that would be the first real clue into how daunting the expedition would be. “We are here”, I reminded the group, “there is no going back now.” It would be three long days of adventure, awe, challenge, bruises, weakness, strength and courage. Three days picking up treasures that I could only have picked on the mountain:
- The most beautiful things are in our own backyard — In over ten years of leading tours up the mountain, Peter had only toured one Nigerian apart from our group. I was baffled. This mountain is right next door to us and people travel from around the world to climb it. Yet, very few Nigerians (I bet some have climbed with other guides) have climbed it. “Germans”, he replies, when I ask him which country’s citizens climb most often. In running TVP Adventures, I have observed interesting travel patterns and preferences but for a mountain so prominent, so close, this came as a shock. Bringing back photos, videos and stories to Nigeria, several people were blown away by the fact that such a rigorous hiking experience with breathtaking views can be achieved so close to home.
2. Africa could be a country — We are all so different and yet inexplicably, the same. Some of the fondest moments during the climb came as we exchanged banter with our porters and sang military songs at rest points. They would tease us with “Naija climbers, ajebo climbers” — ajebo is a term used to refer to soft and delicate people — and we would retaliate with songs about porters marrying porters to give birth to mumus. The crude humour in the songs was something we were all familiar with — the Nigerians from taking part in the compulsory one-year National Youth Service Corps following university and the Cameroonians from their interactions on the street. The camaraderie was crucial to our climb. Our sameness would show at every opportune time; when we all ran towards the fire to warm our feet, when we played Charades, when we bent over to catch a breath, when we collapsed on the ground over dinner sharing stories. It was all the same; our pidgin, our desire to reach the top, our quest for success and our desire to love and be loved.
3. The God of the mountain is the God of the ocean — As a self acclaimed water personality — one who resembles, revers, gravitates towards and is comfortable with water — I did not think another element could share my peak fascination. Living in Colorado for four years taught me so much about mountains and I first learned to hike in the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado. But on Mount Cameroon, I achieved a deeper level of respect for mountains. For three days, we climbed and the summit never seemed to be in sight. Every step of the way, I would look around and marvel at how an entity can be so soft yet brutal, so finite yet endless, so rewarding yet painful and so deadly yet vigorous. The mountain taught me that life is wholesome in the least elaborate of places. Every night, as I collapsed into my sleeping mat, I would think “God is magnificent and the same streak of awesomeness runs through the ocean and the mountain.”
4. Nothing, not even the clouds, is beyond reach — By the end of the first day, we were rubbing shoulders with the clouds. The morning of the second day was especially glorious because the clouds were below us at this point so the Sun would rise uninterrupted. This made for aesthetically stunning photos but more so unbelievable humility. I thought, “it took one step after another and eventually, we have come this far.” Truth be told, my experience climbing Mount Cameroon has become a reference point for my daily goals.
5. I am my own biggest challenge — I was so sure that I would reach the summit. It was the only option since before I set out for Cameroon. As I paced myself and broke through all the physical and mental challenges, I would picture the summit and the anticipation would keep me going. Once I crossed the most brutal stretch nicknamed The Wall— a 5-hour climb with 60-degree inclination — I thought, I surely can do this! But with the Sun coming down and my pace waning, I had to stop. It took me only 10 minutes to receive the advise from my porter, do some mental calculations, and accept the fact that I would not make it to the top. I fought back tears and looked for a corner on the mountain with call signal so I could reach my family (thank you, MTN). They held me up in that moment and made me realise that I had broken my personal limit three times over and it was okay to stop at just under 3000 m. Once accepted this reality, the rest of the day was spent in conversation with some of the other climbers as we awaited Hazma — the one climber in our group who reached the summit.
Today, I have blister marks on both feet to show for this expedition and I carry them with pride, showing them to anyone who asks about my story. In sharing my experiences, I weave in those of the porters — their dreams and goals, those of my co-climbers and those of the people we found along the way. It is most unbelievable that we descended this beast in 6 hours, a portion of which was in the rain. I will climb Mount Kilimanjaro soon, but I am so glad I found Mount Cameroon and found her first.
Follow ‘Funmi’s discoveries, travel stories and guides on Instagram — (@funmioyatogun). You can also book a group tour or a custom travel itinerary with TVP Adventures (@TVPAdventures). ‘Funmi is available for writing or travel expo opportunities.