THE FOREST VOICES TOUR
diary

March 20th 2014

Dancing, Playing and Stabbing

Late last night on arriving in Abong Mbang we were all hungry so went to the junction where the buses stop and little food stalls crowd onto the road. It was a while since I'd been there as since the Chinese had completed the tarmac road to Bertoua most of the buses now sail past Abong Mbang.

After eating we couldn't resist the lure of the music from the nightclub. A group of us walked to town and found it again very empty. A lone young lady was showing off some very interesting dance moves. I couldn't help thinking that if English girls learned to dance like that how different life would be.

The Baka soon took over the dance floor and after an hour or so we left for bed.

We returned to Bertoua the next morning and settled into the spralling Auberge in the middle of the Muslim quarter of town. I had discovered a little cafe opposite that not only did a really good lunch for 500cfa (about $1), but also had a thermos of ginger coffee. I was taken with how well coffee and ginger went together.

That evening we went to Palace Lumiere where the house band were playing. The band leader had said that Baka Gbiné could do a spot. The house band were really good, but when Baka Gbiné took over the stage, although it was obvious that they weren't as smooth and controlled in their playing, the energy levels shot up.

After the concert we headed back to the hotel. Again there was a desire to find where "the craic" was and followed the sound of music to someone selling food in the market with a big sound system blasting Bikutsi into the night. We sensed that the people around weren't as friendly as normal and headed back to the hotel, noticing that we were being followed.

On arriving at the gates of the hotel a couple of the Baka shouted at the people following as we entered. Mbeh, the last to enter cried out. We saw that his T shirt had a hole in it. When we lifted it up we saw blood and he collapsed lifeless. At first we feared the worst as he was completely still and someone said "he's gone into a coma", but we saw signs of breathing. I put my hand over the wound to control the blood and the hotel people called a taxi (a young lad on a motorbike). I went with him to the hospital holding him up between myself and the rider.

After the 15 minute ride to the hospital the first thing I saw was a trolley with a body wrapped in a sheet. We entered the emergency room and the bored nurse put some gloves on and, rather brutally, put her finger in the stab wound so see how bad it was. She wrote a list on a piece of paper and told me to go to the pharmacy. Around the corner was a little window where I woke up someone and handed over the list. It was necessary to buy all the things needed - gloves, dressings, thread, needles, drugs etc - before anything would be done. I took all this to the nurse who then (again quite brutally) started to stitch Mbeh up.

After paying registration fees and various other charges (I had just enough money with me luckily) we left on the motorbike back to the Auberge. It was now 5am and I happily went to bed. I got a few hours sleep before having to get to a meeting with the head of the local TV company to arrange a spot for Baka Gbiné, the end of yet another eventful day.

I'll remember next time, when told that its not safe in the market area of Bertoua after midnight I'll believe it.

Martin


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