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This morning, I embarked on a journey from Douala to Garoua, the capital of Northern Cameroon. The reason for my travels? An important seminar that I could not miss. As luck would have it, my trip coincided with the end of Ramadan – an excellent opportunity to immerse myself in local traditions and celebrate alongside the predominantly Muslim population.
Eager to explore my surroundings, I spent my first day visiting the Kola Gorges – a breathtakingly narrow canyon with mineral cliffs that towered up to an impressive 22 meters. It was a truly engaging experience, and I couldn’t wait to see what other wonders the region had in store for me and share this first experience with you!
Few words about Northern Cameroon
Northern Cameroon is a captivating region brimming with history, culture, and natural splendor. This area boasts a plethora of ethnic groups, each with their own distinct customs and traditions. Garoua, the region’s capital city, is renowned for its lively markets, delectable cuisine, and hospitable locals. As of 2022, Garoua is the third largest city in Cameroon, with a population of 361,000.
Additionally, Garoua serves as a gateway to some of Cameroon’s most breathtaking national parks, including Benoue National Park and Bouba Ndjida National Park. If you’re seeking an authentic African experience, Northern Cameroon is a must-see destination, offering a blend of vibrant culture and awe-inspiring landscapes such as the Kola Gorges.
Despite the beauty of the region, there is a concerning issue that needs attention. Due to attacks from the terrorist group Boko Haram, many of the remote and stunning places have become unsafe for several years.
Although the terrorist group is less active in the region than in the far-north area, they still pose a threat. Unfortunately, this situation has affected tourism in the region, and most companies employing expatriates prohibit them from going there.
It’s a common sight to come across vehicles from organizations like Doctors Without Borders, providing assistance and support to the affected areas. These vehicles always have a sticker indicating that they are unarmed to prevent being targeted.
Accessing the Kola Gorges
To arrive at the Gorges, embark on a journey of approximately 100 kilometers towards the North East from Garoua.
The first 80 kilometers of the voyage takes place on a well-asphalted main road, which connects Garoua to Maroua, the esteemed capital city of the far-north region.
As the journey progresses, after 80km, take the smaller and less maintained road to Guider, which is located on the left at the crossroad between Maroua and Guider roads.
Finally, the last 5 kilometers of the expedition are on a sandy track, which leads to the parking spot. It is worthy to note that small cars can comfortably navigate the track, hence there is no need for a big SUV or an AWD car.
When reaching the location, one may not immediately discern the existence of the slender, towering canyon that stands 22 meters high. This is due to the fact that the river having excavated the surrounding earth to ground level.
It is crucial to bear in mind that the canyon is solely observable during the dry season (October to April), as it becomes inundated with water at other times.
I strongly recommend you to take closed shoes as the stones you will walk on are pretty hot and very sharp.
A journey inside the mineral world of Kola
As you make your way down a modest concrete staircase and enter the gorges, a breathtaking sight unfolds before you. The scenery transforms into a mineral wonderland where no vegetation flourishes, only sand and dark stones. The rocks have been smoothed by the river’s flow, yet occasionally, they can be as razor-sharp as a blade due to a more vigorous mechanical erosion.
As you embark upon your journey, the path you must take is none other than the canyon itself. This majestic canyon spans an impressive length of approximately 4 kilometers, while its narrow width only spans a few meters.
As you immerse yourself in its wonder, the stones that form this natural wonder will captivate you with their intriguing shapes. The Virgin Mary, Africa, Heart, and Seat are among the most famous and recognizable figures that you will encounter during your walk.
The sheer beauty of this canyon is a sight to behold and an experience you will cherish for a lifetime.
If you plan on exploring the canyon, it would be advantageous to enlist the expertise of the local youth as your guide.
Not only can they provide you with fascinating anecdotes about the area, but they can also identify the notable rock formations mentioned earlier.
Moreover, they possess a keen eye for capturing exceptional photos and videos of you during your excursion immortalising forever the moment.
You can support the local community by buying a decorated stone painted by the locals. This is a charming and unique way to keep a physical memento of this enchanting place.
On the way back
I had the pleasure of spending less than two hours at the site in Kola Gorges, and on my return journey, I took some time to appreciate the breathtaking Sahelian landscape. The unique houses and vibrant colors of traditional clothing worn by the locals were a sight to behold.
The return trip was much faster than the journey to the site, and by the time I arrived in Garoua, the sun was setting, casting a beautifully soft and warm light over the entire city and its red sandy streets. It was a truly fantastic view and feeling that made for a perfect end to my first day in Northern Cameroon and for my Muslim Friends a good end of Ramadan period.
EID MUBARAK TO MY DEAR MUSLIM FRIENDS!