Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Sights of the River Wouri

1) The sole bridge across the River Wouri (Cameroon’s widest river) is the Bonaberi bridge which was built over fifty years ago. It is a two lane one kilometer bridge which has easily been overloaded with traffic. Its capacity cannot withstand the modern day demand of Douala traffic. As such, there are always daily hold ups, twice a day, in the mornings and evenings as thousands of cars fight to go across it. Sometimes this causes serious accidents with cars hitting each other and hitting the bridge railings creating fat holes in them. The holes are seldom fixed. If you go across the bridge you’ll find gaping holes all through the bridge railings. Some holes have cement slabs which have been put across them. But generally, many of the holes on the bridge railings have nothing across them. On a certain Sunday, oh, I remember now, it was very early on Palm Sunday when the bridge was bare, one “clando” taxi car with seven people on board was speeding over the bridge from Rond point and went straight through one of the fat bridge railings and nosedived into the River Wouri below. The car sank and the passengers in it all drowned -whether it was out of drunkenness or recklessness or ritual sacrifice on the part of the driver, I can never tell. But that is how bad the state of the bridge is. And nobody is doing anything about it. There has been talk of a second bridge across the Wouri for some years now. Well, we heard the government is about to do something. But until it happens! That’s when we’ll believe.
2) I always watch them in disbelief -the boys on the Wouri. They sit or sometimes stand in their canoes, with hands glued to long poles which they insert into the water and rock backwards, the muscles on their bare sweating bodies glistening. Others sitting in the middle of the canoe have paddles which they use to propel the canoe forward by paddling away the brownish muddy water. All of a sudden, a boy emerges from beneath the river with a bucket of sand on his head and stands upright. His head barely reaches out of the river surface as he pours the bucket of sand into a canoe and disappears into the river again with the bucket. Another boy appears with a bucket of sand farther upstream and pours it into another canoe then is off again. So watching the surface, you’ll find boys constantly pouring buckets of sand into their canoes. The canoe occupants almost non committal to the bucket appearances as if nothing is happening. The River Wouri is one where there is rapid sand deposition, as such there is always sand at the river bed. This is how the boys in the canoes earn a living. Diving into the Wouri, collecting sand at the river bed in buckets and emptying the canoes-full of sand on land which they sell to people who intend to build. To me, it is indeed toil. A very difficult job!
3) Sometimes I see them, sometimes I don’t, as I go across the Bonaberi bridge almost every day. Their presence on the surface of the murky river Wouri always fascinates me. On most days they’re absent, on other days I see only a few of them. Yet on a day like today, I saw lots of them; a glut of seaweeds or in this case, should I call them riverweeds? They’re green and float in a bundle colony spreading their fresh foliage outward from their stalks very beautifully. Its like a pot of green flowery plants but without the pots; just flowery plants on the surface of water. Another one floats nearby, next to another one, and then another one, and next to it another one. And when you scan the whole of the river surface, you find all of them all over the place floating silently like soldiers in line. So beautiful. And before you know it the taxi crosses the bridge and they go out of sight. I’m hoping I’ll see them again tomorrow but tomorrow comes and when I scan the river’s surface, they’re all gone, just like comets. And for a week or two I don’t see any of them. But what biological aquatic process causes all this? I think of eutrophication but I’m not too sure.