Monday, March 12, 2012

Rain Like No Other

Although it is still technically the dry season, the rains have started.  Our first night in Mamfe the thunder and lightning was incredible.
I went outside to experience the rain, it was like something from a film, incredibly atmospheric!
The night was totally pitch black with no moon or stars and I couldn’t see a foot in front of me because there was a power cut so no electric lights anywhere for miles. You could feel the rain though, it was absolutely torrential and in minutes i was soaked- I've never experienced rain like it. The downpour only lasted about half an hour and drizzled on for about the same again, but the noise on the tin roofs of our hotel and the surrounding buildings was deafening, no one could sleep.  There was no light, even in our hotel, but we sat together in the dark of the hotel listening to the rain and watching great forks of lighting cut access the black sky. Outside the hotel the ground rushed with water so that it sounded like great rivers were flowing right past our door!

On waking in the morning however the sun was shining and all evidence of the rain was gone, it couldn’t have been more of a contrast from the night before.  Only the dirt tracks showed any sign of the previous day, walking on them the red mud stuck to our feet and some vehicles that had been moving around early had picked it up and spread it thinly across the tarmac when they joined the made roads.

We had lunch on our balcony overlooking the beautiful Cross River.  It really is so beguiling but the view, while serene, is a fascinating hub of activity on this particular day.  We were overlooking large flat barge boats with teams of boys who swim down to dredge up the gravel brought down by the floods that is now lying on the river bed.  Their work is back breaking.  They dive down with a large flat metal pan, and bring it up heaped with sand before offload it into the barge and disappearing back into the depths for more.  Once the whole barge is filled it is taken to the edge and emptied by other boys who shovel as if their life depends on it, creating a heap on the river bank. Several groups of boys work like this before a small lorry comes down and moves between groups collecting the sand.  when it draws close to each group, the boys start shovelling as fast as they can into the lorry above them filling it, and once it has made the round of all the groups and is filled it snakes up the steep climb of the river cliff, to the road.

The boys getting the gravel never stop and as soon as their load is on the lorry the other boys also return to work.  They must be paid by the load, but speculating, the conditions look terrible and the work very hard, and no doubt the pay is very poor.  Quite unlike anything we are used to. We saw the gravel later when we made a last run to the internet cafe in the builder's yard, where it was piled high.

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