Bafoussam, Cameroon

Photo: Hotel Zingana

Something is missing. Your Cameroon itinerary doesn’t feel whole. Yaoundé (the capital) and Douala (the seaport) are on it, of course. So are the Kribi beaches, the Chutes de la Lobé waterfalls, and the wildlife center for rescued primates in Limbe. With only one exception, the capital, your list keeps you fairly close to the Bight of Bonny, part of the Gulf of Guinea. You’d like to include another region.

The West Region is inland and easily accessible from the other places you have in mind. It lies halfway between the capital and the Nigerian border. Although it’s Cameroon’s smallest region, it’s one of the country’s most developed areas. The agriculture-based economy is booming. The Bamileke people remain strongly attached to their traditional culture. The land is dotted with volcanic mountains, beautiful waterfalls, and crater lakes. While Bafoussam, the main city, is friendly if a bit chaotic.

Rural Bafoussam became important in the mid-20th century due to its position at the crossroads between British Southern Cameroons and French Cameroon. The city sits in the foothills of the cool Bamboutos Mountains. Farmers use their steep slopes to grow crops (coffee, potatoes, tobacco) and graze cattle. They sell their produce in two large markets. Marché A and Marché B are good places for you to start trying local food. Vendors sell poisson braisé (barbecued fish), soya (grilled beef skewers), spaghetti omelets, and warm beignets. Slices of freshly cut coconut and pineapple accompany the hot plates.

In addition to interesting dishes, you’ll also find a unique hotel in the center of Bafoussam. Hotel Zingana’s facade was designed with motifs from Bamileke culture in mind. Brightly colored walls, woven hanging lights, and rattan furniture fill the interior. Its 45 rooms are quite large. They feature bathtubs or big walk-in showers. The hotel has a restaurant and a bar. Cake and hot drinks are served overnight in case you can’t sleep. Your favorite spot will probably be the rooftop terrace, though. From there, you’ll have a bird’s-eye view of the city with the mountains looming in the distance. Your Cameroon plans finally feel complete.

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