Yaounde, the city

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As an architect, the city of Yaounde like Accra, stirs up feelings of disappointment anytime I really look at it. The feelings are more intense in Yaounde because the topography is beautiful – even breathtaking at some points. Yaounde is hilly in the purest sense of that world. It’s not the harsh, unfriendly kind of hilly, no it’s gentle slopey, rolling familiar-looking green hills mixed with enough steep inclines to make jogging rewarding, and cycling exhilarating (cycling downhill, at least).

The planning (or lack thereof) is sad and sometimes upsetting. Especially when one spots a perfect hill that could have had the buildings upon it as adorning jewels and not unfortunate occurrences. It’s disappointing because I came to Cameroon expecting to see examples of that inherent grace and appreciation for beauty that seems to run in francophone cultures.

Don’t get me wrong, there are beautiful buildings – several in fact, but the overall composition isn’t usually picturesque.

They’ve Got An Awful Lot Of Taxis in Cameroon

No troskis. Really, No troskis. Just a whole lot of taxis, in Cameroon.

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Yellow taxis in Yaounde

 

There are no taxi stations, so taxi drivers move around town all day looking for passengers. And, mind you, this is a shared taxi system. Depot (“dropping” in Ghanaian English), where one person hires a taxi isn’t common. It’s mostly tourists or Kuukuwa 🙂 that try it.

This is how everyone else does it.

First stand by the road in the loosely demarcated taxi stop areas, making sure you’re facing the general direction of traffic to the area you wan’t to go to. A taxi with empty seats will slow down (sometimes very negliglibly) when it approaches you. Now here’s the tricky part. You have to quickly tell him where you are going and make an offer of the fare you wish to pay, and speak fast because he slowed down oh, he didn’t stop. For example.

*Kay and Em at roadside waiting for taxi. Sees taxi approaching. Kay clears throat*

*Taxi slows down, driver turns to look at Kay and Em*

Kay: Carrefour Etoudi, deux places, trois cent francs.

If taxi driver accepts the offer, he stops and honks. Kay and Em get in. If he doesn’t accept, or isn’t going in that direction, he ignores them and drives off. The average cost is 200 francs, but if it’s a very short distance and you have an authoritative voice, you can pay 100.

 

You can imagine how stressful this system can be for someone who doesn’t speak French well, or know the names of places. For instance, the second and last time I tried this system the taxi driver drove me to an unfamiliar neighbourhood because my “Carrefour Bastos deux cent francs” sounded like something totally different to him. Now, I just do depot for my daily routines, and if I want to go somewhere special, I call my taxi driver pal… another story for another day.