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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Memories of a holiday…

It was a long time ago… or so it seemed when I fell in love with the volcanic sandy beaches of Limbe. It has for its fond memories gathered since December 1998 become the perfect holiday getaway for me. I spent the last week of July 2010, idling on its black beaches praying for sunshine, as it became clear with the incessant rainfall that I had picked the wrong month for this holiday.

When I had a few hours of sunshine, I read Thomas Hardy’s The Return of The Native, in between swims, on a private beach in Bobende. A once small village on the outskirts of the oil-producing town. I had first been introduced to the Atlantic on these sands, and since I seem to have nurtured an intimate link with the place.

Twelve years later many more hotels seemed to have blossomed on the waterfront, adding to the beauty of the town where missionaries and colonialists had anchored in the 1800s. I had also spotted two new oil exploration rigs along the coast and heard word of others soon to be erected. However the radio talk shows of Ocean City Radio, a popular urban radio in Limbe, again reminded me that the plight of the people had for the most part remained unchanged. As I tried to film the national petroleum refinery that sat on the horizon, for my video archives, I came across a young man and a young woman who emptied their bowels in the refuge of the rocks along the shore. The young man even relished the moment in the breeze with a cigarette hanging in between his lips as he released his body waste for the waves to pick up.

On another day, I made the trip to Down Beach, Limbe’s reference point for grilled fish avec vue sur la mer. Across the road a good number of shacks lined the road, their weather-beaten roofs only held in place by old car tyres, and stones that left the on-looker wondering if the carabot houses (wooden houses) as they are called here, will not collapse under the weight of the patchwork. At the far end, some dug-out fishing boats returned from a seemingly unfruitful trip out in the high seas. As I relished the bar fish and brochette of shrimps, feeling lucky, I stared emptily into the horizon. The petroleum rig that sat less than a nautical mile away, again reminding me of the resource curse that had befallen most of Africa.

A few mouthfuls later, my thoughts were halted by a floating odour. Not the familiar smell of fish that haunted the place, but a different odour, fresh for the farmer’s nose…yet disturbing for a man dining by the sea. Horseshit. I thought aloud. The big curiosity of Down Beach, this time around had been the horse ride business. A host of teenagers of Fulani descent offered most of the tourists and locals a chance to get on horseback for 500 CFAF (about 1 USD). The scene became very comic as very few persons could even get on the horses, and others tried desperately to give their children the boost to take the challenge. Many just broke down in tears, while the bravest posed for a snapshot on the horses, and the less adventurous just stood next to the horses for their snapshot.

But I really began to get upset as the smell of horseshit wafted by again. The beach itself seemed to have amassed the entire city’s waste probably deposited into the sea by the runoffs. I started looking around for some answers to the questions that came tumbling. Why are those in the horse ride business not picking up the horseshit that now dotted the beach? Why does the beach look like the city’s trash? I could not meet any council worker but I tried to get a few answers. Watch my video below...

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