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Funeral Celebrations

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We find a great spot to camp amount the gum trees, and are soon visited by some friendly locals wondering why we are there. One man in particular – Francis – is extremely friendly and really wants to show us around.
After some thought he decides we had better ask the chief of the area for permission to camp on this land, and so I walk with him down to the Chief’s compound.

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Carvings around the door of the chief’s house

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Close up on more carvings

It is customary to bring a gift, and a small bottle of whiskey is perfect I am told. The compound is beautiful, with wood carvings surrounding every door. The Chief himself is a friendly older man with  a huge smile showing many missing teeth. He sits in a large room with an open fire, and receives guests all day long. After sitting quietly for five minutes he invites me up to take a cup (actually the hollowed-out horn of a cow) which he fills with palm wine. I am told to drink it immediately before he fills it again, and then again.

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The mud houses here are really cool

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Stuff at the chief’s house

He is extremely happy to have us here and finishes the informal meeting by inviting us to tomorrow’s huge funeral celebration nearby. The people here get together once a year to celebrate all of the people that have passed away during the year – they believe it’s a time to be happy, not sad, and so it’s a huge party.

When I arrive around lunchtime the next day I am immediately given a huge plate of delicious beans and rice and a huge cup of palm wine, which is being poured out of the same eight gallon drums commonly used for fuel. I can see a lot of them stacked around, and judging by the merriment I assume many are empty already.

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The crowd at the funeral celebration

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Guys lazing about in the afternoon

Soon I am invited in to see the chief – though this time it is a much bigger chief, and the room is packed with all the other chiefs and senior people from the whole region. They are all seated according to rank, and a few strict policies must be followed – I take off my hat and flip-flops and am told to only accept palm wine with my right hand. Again I must drink the whole thing when it is filled by the chief, and again it is filled multiple times in quick succession.

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Ladies Singing and dancing

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Ladies dancing again

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Kids are always having fun

Outside women and children are dancing and singing with extremely high energy and happiness, and the highlight of the day comes when the spirits pay a visit. I could not quite understand if these guys represent good things or bad things, though everyone is scared of them and always runs aways when one approaches. While taking photos the spirits demand an offering, to which I throw down a couple of pouches of whiskey – apparently a great offering.

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Everyone wanted to get out the way of the spirits

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Another spirit being scary

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One of the spirits dancing

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This guy pretended to throw the spear, but never did

The sun beats down, and the dust in the air is thick, though not a single person seems to mind. Everyone is smiling, chatting and laughing happily, enjoying every second of this huge festival.

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Motorbikes are a source of pride

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I love this plate on a motorbike

I feel lucky to have been a part!

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Camping with the

-Dan

6 Responses

  1. Hill says:

    Awesome!

  2. Tammy says:

    WOW!!!

    What an amazing experience!

  3. Mario says:

    Hi Dan – We’ve been following for some time – enjoying every adventure and anxiously awaiting each day’s post! Love your Wrangler & where it’s taken you – maybe mine will grow up to be like your’s one day!! What did the palm wine taste like? and was it potent?!!

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hey Mario,

      Thanks for the kind words, great to have you aboard!
      When the palm wine is not fresh it’s sour and not great.
      When it’s fresh it’s delicious – kind of something like a cider.
      And yes, it’s very, very strong, guys here in Cameroon can drink me under the table in the first hour!

      -Dan

  4. Kern C says:

    Dan,
    How much whiskey are you carrying? Hope you don’t run out.

    At some point, I’d like to hear how you keep the interior of the Jeep clean with all of the mud and orange dust. It seems like it would get stuck in everything. Maybe you just learn to live with it.

    Also, when it is hot at night, what do you do to fall asleep. Any tricks?
    Where I live it is hot and very humid during the Summer. One trick we use for camping is to carry talcum powder. It soaks up the humidity on your skin enough to let you fall asleep.

    Maybe you could do a “tricks of the road” post one day… just a thought.

    Safe travels!

    • Dan Grec says:

      Hi Kern,
      Haha, I have very little whiskey with me, it’s for sale in every little store in every little town.
      It comes in little plastic pouches.

      The Jeep is mostly dust proof, so the interior doesn’t get too bad. The drivers side floor mat gets muddy and what-not, so I just wash and bash it out every week or so. In the back I have the black carpet in the middle of my isle where I walk, and again, I just bash it out every week or so, and give the tub around the rear tailgate a wipe with a damp rag.
      My clothes are slowly falling apart, so I currently have a lot of rags for use cleaning stuff!

      To fall asleep I bought a $20 little 12v fan – this one (http://amzn.to/2uOZqdy) – it charges from USB and has a built in battery, and can run straight off the USB connection. So I leave it plugged in all night (to my second battery) and even on the slowest setting it makes a huge difference to allow me to fall asleep.
      I also have a shower bag, and some nights I have a really quick mini shower just before bed – basically just rinse off my arms and legs with a tiny amount of water which makes sleeping much easier!

      As for “tricks of the road” I am right now working on a book about Overlanding West Africa that is going to contain a lot of info, tips and tricks I have learned and picked up from others!

      -Dan

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