Buea, Cameroon

Photo: IYA Buea

Success! You conquered Mount Cameroon. The highest point in West Africa is an active volcano. Its 13,255 feet rise through dry savannas, tropical rainforests, and, ultimately, a snowcapped peak. During your more than 12-hour hike, you passed hidden caves, powerful waterfalls, and rare birds. Two of them, the Francolin and the Cameroon speirops, are only found on these slopes. So it was an awesome, exhausting, and inspiring day.

You could easily return to your hotel, fall into bed, and sleep soundly all night. There’s a lot of adrenaline pumping through your body, though. The Mount Cameroon hike usually takes two days. But you pushed yourself. You left well before sunrise, stopped only a few times, and made it to the summit just before the day’s cutoff time. It was cold and windy at the top. Clouds blocked the view of Buea and the Gulf of Guinea. So you didn’t linger. After a quick photo and a big gulp of water, you turned around. Now, back at the bottom, you’re ready to celebrate.

After a quick shower, you head into Buea. The capital of the Southwest Region is built into the hillside of Mount Cameroon. In the early-20th century, the city was the capital of German Cameroon. A handful of colonial buildings, including the grand Governor’s house, still stand in the center of what has become a university town.

In Bongo Square, you find IYA Buea. The award-winning restaurant showcases regional artists and musicians. Locally made baskets and hats hang on the walls. The chef, an African who trained at Michelin-starred restaurants in Germany, takes standard Cameroonian dishes and reimagines them with modern twists. The results are bright, bold, and beautiful.

You start with a Vie L’Afrique. The lemony notes in the sweet vermouth cocktail match the hiker’s high you’re still feeling. For food, you start with tapioca empanadas and an elegant Mbouda avocado salad with fresh chilis. A cassoulet full of white beans and grilled jumbo prawns follow. Then you even order a slice of coconut pie. Though the dishes look like they belong in fancy kitchens all over the world, the flavors constantly remind you that you’re in Cameroon. Victories abound in Buea.

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