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NEW FRONTIERS

The main crossing from Nigeria to Cameroon on the West Coast of Africa is the stuff that overland legends are made of. The Mamfe Road is only one hundred kilometres long, although it takes most well-prepared overlanders a week of slogging to cover that distance. As the monster mud holes are big enough to bury even six-wheel-drive vehicles to their axles, many lesser vehicles remain stuck until they are dug out by a virtual army of locals, or rescued by tracked Caterpillar machinery. All of that is in the dry season. Traversing the West Coast of Africa in the wet season is completely impossible, primarily because of this one road.

However, as I learned recently, none of that is true anymore.

In January 2016, a Chinese crew finished rebuilding the entire road. One recent report says that the crossing can now be completed at 100km/h with cruise control engaged, and is actually mundane and boring.

I came to West Africa in search of adventure, and had been expecting this road to be a highlight of my West African traverse. As far as I am concerned, this new road just won’t do.

It just won’t do at all.

Jungle tracks

Despite poring over maps and searching for alternate routes, I found information hard to come by. For years, the Mamfe Road has been the only crossing used by overlanders, and very few people have ventured elsewhere. Northern Nigeria and Cameroon are currently off limits due to Boko Haram activity, so in my search for a more adventurous border crossing, I am mindful of not venturing too far north.

How far north is safe? That’s debatable.

One route I investigate was described in 2008 as a “rough footpath inaccessible to any vehicle”. Tantalisingly, the description also says, “When you reach the top of the escarpment, it seems half of Southern Nigeria is spread out behind you.” All the maps I source – printed and online –show only bits and pieces of this potential route, leaving me a little uncertain. After talking to locals and digging deeper, I start to believe that there is a passable road of sorts, and I quickly become fixated on finding out one way or another. I have come all this way along the Coast of West Africa; it would be a shame to take the easy road now, and forever wonder what I might have found on that jungle track. If I am unable to cross as planned, I will be

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