A tough, long but memorable trip to Yaounde

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In company with eight other Nigerian journalists, I left Uyo on the afternoon of Saturday, September 2, for Yaounde, the Cameroonian capital.

Our mission, to witness history as the Super Eagles go to play the Indomitable Lions (I think we should change that name to Dominated) on their way to picking a ticket to the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

After the victory of Uyo where the Eagles won 4-0, there is obvious optimism that Yaounde could be the place where we cement our ticket for Russia.

So we left the Akwa Ibom capital in a Toyota Sienna as we headed to Odukpani Junction. We could not find a direct vehicle between Uyo and Ikom, the border town located in Cross River State.

When we arrived in Odukpani, we boarded another vehicle for Ikom and travelled about three hours until we arrived the border town.

We were advised to spend the night in Ikom but we felt it was better to cross into Cameroon that evening.

Unfortunately, we became stuck at the border as we weren’t allowed into Ekok, the Cameroon side of the border due to a curfew placed on the English speaking regions of the country.

It meant we had to spend the night on chairs and tables. We made the best of it by playing music and watching movies on laptop computers as we bantered with some Cameroonians who were also caught out by the closed border.

One Cameroonian who became our friend during the trip wondered how we could beat a neighbour by four goals. “Are we not brothers and sisters? No, it’s not fair,” he said.

The Nigeria Football Supporters Club arrived around 4a.m and we had a chat with the president general, Rafiu Ladipo.

By 5a.m, we were eventually able to enter into the Cameroon side of the border and we proceeded to change our Naira into CFA Francs before taking a car to Bamenda, capital city of one of two English-speaking regions of the country.

Our plan was to get in early to board the bus going to Yaounde but by the time we arrived past 10a.m, the morning buses were all full and on their way.

The next option was to travel by a mini bus to Baffousam where it would be possible to find Yaounde vehicles.

All this left us frustrated, one could not believe that travelling inside Cameroon could still be so streamlined that small time entrepreneurs with private vehicles are not making use of the opportunities to transport more people.

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So we made another three hours trip to Baffousam and found a big bus to Yaounde. The trip to Yaounde from Baffousam lasted more than six hours but we eventually arrived in the capital city.

Yaounde, much like the rest of the country, is still very much an old-looking city. Taxis are rickety but charge a lot once they know you’re foreign. Police routinely stop vehicles to check passengers’ identification documents. The staple snack here is baguette and poulet, bread and chicken. We haven’t found a Nigerian restaurant.

It was a long trip that left us tired but one hopes that the Super Eagles make up for it with a resounding victory against the once Indomitable Lions at the Stade Omnisports Ahmadu Ahidjo later today.

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