5 Jan 2007
Ten Days In Batibo Sub Division
Take off by ‘Okada’
I hired a motorbike commonly called ‘Okada’ on the 20th of December to visit Mbengok and Anong. We left from Guka in the morning and traveled through Bengang. The road from Bengang to Mbengok is usually motorable during the dry season-thanks to the relentless community effort put in by the people of Bengang, Mbengok and Numben. There are two steep hills, one immediately after Bengang and the other just before you approach the bridge over river Momo at Mbengok. During the rainy season, these hills become very slippery rendering the road impassable by car.
Welcome To Mbengok
See images of Mbengok at this link
?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
The first landmark that tells you that you have arrived Mbengok is the River Momo.
The volume of water in the river that has been declining in recent years due to deforestation was even more depleted at the time of my visit as a result of the dry season. Many rocks that were usually submerged were now exposed and the roar of the river was reduced. We crossed the main bridge and a smaller one and turned right at the junction that has two roads (one leading to Numben). We rode past a Presbyterian church and a single block health unit before approaching the Mangna stream that flows in the thick jungle. We penetrated the jungle to feel nature at its most innocent form. A walk along the stream was a wonderful experience. We had to fight our way through meandering plants and other trees to get as far upstream as we could. The stream was seen flowing between tree roots, over rocks and below fallen timber and gently but noisily making its way down hill to join river Momo, some 500 metres away. The sparkling water of the mangna stream reminded me of the childhood years when flowing water was colourless, ordourless and tasteless. Children growing up these days are used to seeing coloured rivers and streams. Human activity, especially deforestation has exposed the soil to the forces of continuous erosion thereby rendering almost all streams and rivers dirty.
We came out of the forest and moved farther ahead to the little settlement of Ifit where we socialized with some youths and shared some cups of ‘fitchuk’.
Journey To Mbengok Palace
We returned past the mangna stream and branched off towards the palace of Mbengok. Our bike could only go for a short distance before we packed it to make the rest of the journey on foot. The trekking to Mbengok palace is a difficult exercise for any first time visitor. We took roughly one hour to climb up to the palace. On the way, we passed many streams, a community water project and saw a variety of trees as we moved on the neatly kept path that meanders through the equatorial rain forest.
We were lucky to meet the ‘Fon’ of Mbengok at the time we arrived the palace. He brought some ‘fitchuk’ for us to sip and cool down from the exhaustive climb.
Fon Apong David Ateh Speaks
After introducing myself I asked the ‘Fon’ some few questions. “My ancestors originated from Kokum” (a quarter in Batibo). Two brothers migrated from Kokum (Njweh and Tepi) and crossed the River Momo. Tepi ended at Akon and Njweh moved to settle here. He carved boundaries at Bamben and Ngonjen in Widikum.” “ The lineage of the Mbengog throne was as follows; (1)Njweh, (2)Apong I, (3) Abei, (4)Sabum. Sabum died while the son was still very young and Mbanyen ascended the throne provisionally. When Mbanyen died Sabum’s child (Abei Apong) took over. I then took over from my dad Abei Apong. My names are Apong David Ateh (Fon Apong II). I ascended the throne on June 14th 1961 at the age of eleven. I was carried on the back from Bali after I finished standard six (primary school). The villagers were afraid that if I was allowed to continue my education, I may never come to take the throne”. Fon David Apong II went ahead to disclose that; “Stages of life were too hard” “The difficulties I encountered as a young ruler were too many” “My father did not leave much for me”. “I was forced to marry early”. “I got married at the age of twelve” The Fon said laughing. “To be frank, I can not tell you a lie”. “As a traditional ruler, I could not stay alone” “I was given two wives by the villagers”. “The wives were older than me”. What has been the most difficult crisis that you have encountered during your 45 years reign? “The most difficult problem was that which I had with one of my quarter heads that wanted to rebel against me but that problem has been resolved after numerous visits to the administration.” “There are over six hundred inhabitants in Mbengok”. “I have about 16 children and three surviving wives out of six”. His advice to youths; “Get married to only one wife, protect yourself from HIV and ensure that all your children go to school”. The Fon said that he has drastically curtailed death-related expenses in his Fondom.
Antiquity At The Palace
After conversing for a while, the Fon showed us around the palace. The most striking thing was the stool used by his forefathers during open sessions in the palace court. It consists of an erect slab of rock planted into the soil with another stone placed at its base. The ‘Fon’ sat on the stone at the base with his back leaning on the erect slab. He explained that the erect slab was to protect the ‘Fon’ from a spear, arrow or bullet fired by an enemy coming from behind. Anyone coming from the front can be seen and measures taken. (See ancient stool and the 'Fon' at this link)
It took us a shorter time (33 minutes) to trek from the palace to where we packed our bike because we were descending.
Mbengok To Anong
Villagers in Ifit told us that we could use our bike and reach Anong through a road that the communities have made between Mbengok and Anong. We took the risk to brave the long lonely and hilly road to Anong. I must not fail to mention my admiration for the spirit of community development that exists amongst the people of this area. The people have invested enormous efforts to make the road functional. We traveled for many kilometers and most of the road was cleared of bush. We arrived Anong village later in the afternoon. Anong is situated at the foot of giant hills that have been occupied by cattle rearing Bororos.
We got to Anong palace at the time most people had gone to the farm. A young lady in the name of Timah Clementina welcomed us and showed us round the palace after I had introduced myself. My paternal grandmother came from Anong palace and I last visited Anong as a child some forty years ago. We rested there, ate some sugar canes and Clementina gave me a parceled present of dried cocoyam leaves (vegetable) or ‘atep’. We realized at the time of departure that the rear tyre of our bike was flat. It was during the time that we were making repairs that the mother of the current Fon of Anong came. (See Anong Palace at this link)
She was glad to see me. She knew my late grandmother and my late father very well. I inquired from her whether there were still rearing goats in the palace. She said that there were a few. I then told her the story of my father’s childhood days in Anong palace where he was rearing goats with the late Fon of Anong. (see story at this link: Subtitle Servitude in Anong).
I was forced to take another bike from Anong to mile 71 at Oshum when it became clear that the repairs of the one we were using became complicated. I was then taken by car from there back to Guka.
Second Tour: Visit To Tiben To Witness ‘Akopo’
River Momo is one of the big rivers situated in the North West province of Cameroon. During the dry season, the volume of water decreases. There is a spot along the river called Tembo in Tiben, Batibo subdivision where the river disappears underground for a distance of about 2 to 3 kilometers before re-emerging downstream at a spot called Ewo Teneg. The submergence commonly called ‘akopo’ usually occurs in December. This year 2006, it was reported that the incident took place on the 3rd of December. Ideally, I am told it used to happen in late December and lasts to the end of the dry season in March or April.
(see image of spot where river submerges at this link)
I visited this portion of the river on December 23rd with the help of Mr. Lucas Tebo and Teno Emmanuel Mbah. Both men hail from Tiben area and know the portion of interest. We parked our car somewhere along the Batibo-Widikum road and trekked along a path leading to Numben village from Tiben. After walking for more than twenty minutes, we branched off into the bush to make our descent to the river. We soon arrived the spot where the river submerges. A little bit downstream, stood a hanging bridge across a dry riverbed. The waterless riverbed was full of huge rocks stretching as far as the bends can permit you to see. I moved close to the rocks where the last remnants of the river water were submerging. I looked upstream and saw the river flowing towards me and looked downstream and saw dry rocks scattered on the riverbed. (See image of dry riverbed and hanging bridge at this link)
In order to see where the river will re-emerge, we had to climb back to the footpath and started walking backwards from where we came. We were traveling parallel to the direction of the river. It was too risky to walk along the bed of the dried river because of the rocky nature. After trekking along the path for some time, we branched off and trekked in the bush for more than fifty minutes before reaching Ewo Teneg (a very large rock on the riverbed with large surface area. Beside this rock near the bank were a group of rocks from where the river re-emerged. I stood on ‘ewo Teneg’ and saw the water emerge and forms a river downstream while the portion upstream was full of dry rocks. I hope I will have an occasion during the rainy season to come and see the change of ‘akopo’.
(see image of 'ewo Teneg' at this link)
Third Tour: Sights Of Ashong
On December 28th I set off for upper Ashong to visit a waterfall and a cave. The road through Awom in Guzang was quite good though dusty. With the blessings of elders of the area, I proceeded with two young men Mbah Titus and Tebeck Adamu. (See photo)
Many people of this hilly area have embraced cattle rearing as a profession in contrast to other Moghamo people that are basically crop cultivators. We first visited the beautiful rock over which water rolls and falls at a great height. We next drove to the area where the cave was located. After parking the car, it was quite difficult getting to the cave. There was climbing and descending in the bush on rugged terrain before we arrived at our destination. The cave is a deep indent on the cliff side of a huge mountain-size rock. (See photo)
It is situated almost at the middle of the rock’s height. You have to use a tiny track on the rock to get to the cave and avoid falling off the cliff to your certain death below. We got in and disturbed a few bats. We saw footprints and feces of wild animals in the cave. (See photos inside the cave)
There is a thick forest below (on the cliff side of the rock). In the rainy season, water rolls over the rock like the Wumunga cave in Guzang. Who says that Moghamo lacks touristic sites?
‘Nere’ Dance in Guzang
I seized an opportunity to briefly visit the annual ‘Nere’ dance at Guzang palace. Women groups came in different colourful uniforms. Even the ‘manyis’ (women that have bore twins) had their own uniform! Moghamo elites came from far and near and most of the men wore the colourful traditional attire of the North West province. (Image of faces at Nere Dance)
I could spot other Fons like the Fon of Bessi (oldest in Moghamo) at the occasion. A powerful delegation of men with den guns came from neighbouring Bali. The dance proper kicked off late and by the time I was leaving (past 5pm) the Fon of Guzang had not emerged from his residence.
(View Video of 'Nere' Dance at this link
The Christmas break gave me the opportunity to interact with many people including some like Mudoh Mathias and Ni Sam Nyambi that came from far away Britain and South Africa respectively. The last Guzang market before Christmas was as boisterous as it has always been on such occasions. There were burials and death celebrations left and right. Smiling children displayed their new Christmas dresses and adults feasted and drank ‘fitchuk’ that is particularly tasty at this time of the year. Everyday had an occasion that is always somehow connected to you. You really need to make an extra effort to avoid derailing your holiday programme.
Njei Moses Timah