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How to Spend 48 Hours in Bamenda

City Chemist Junction
City Chemist Junction | © Tony Vinyoh
The sweeping view from Up Station introduces you to a town that is welcoming, friendly and rapidly growing. Crowning the most prominent hills are the town’s oldest churches. One thing you won’t uncover easily is the grit that has given this town its reputation as the birthplace of political dissent. From great places to visit to the best experiences to have, let’s discover how to spend 48 hours in Bamenda, Cameroon.

Day one

Morning: Let’s see where we’re heading

The Germans administered Bamenda Province from their Fort Up Station in the late 19th century, and it is now home to two courts and the Senior Divisional Officer of Mezam. The main descent reveals a city waking up to its activities; there’s a bench to your right where you can sit and soak it all in.

The easiest road to the town’s eternal waterfalls branches to your right after Handicraft Centre. It can be seen from many spots in Bamenda, but few people have gone up close. Grab an early victory with a walk to both waterfalls. The second waterfall provides another fantastic view of the town right up to St John the Baptist Catholic Church. Use the same road back to Handicraft Centre afterwards, and reward yourself with a sumptuous breakfast and another view.

Stroll down Finance Junction, where you’ll instantly recognise the headquarters of the Cameroon Baptist Convention with its sand bay, which has saved many lives by trapping cars that experience break failure. Walk through the compound to see old missionary houses, new buildings and the headquarters of the biggest private healthcare provider in Cameroon. You can also shop for artefacts at the Baptist Centre Hall. Pa Ngwa and James have been selling wood and bronze sculptures, handcrafted jewellery and tools for over 30 years in front of the Baptist Centre Hall. Use the back gate to the new Nkwen Baptist Church and one of the oldest primary schools in the country, established in 1947. You’ll find the old church, two stone graves and the old school gong.

Pro tips: Wear trainers or comfortable shoes. Carry your camera if you’ve got one, or a fully charged phone, as you won’t be able to resist taking pictures. Don’t hesitate to ask for directions, as people will be glad to help. The rocks at the waterfall are slippery, so be careful if you dare climb.

Station is the best place from which to see Bamenda town © Amcaja / WikiCommons

Afternoon: Walk through Commercial Avenue and ride to Bafut

Commercial Avenue is the heart of Bamenda. Shops, banks, restaurants, the grandstand, Bamenda Main Market and Congress Hall lie along this busy street. You can get there by okada (bike) or taxi. At T-Junction, take a taxi to Bafut. Ask for directions to the Bafut Fon’s Palace. The palace has been the home of the fon (king) of Bafut for over 400 years, and his wives and royal family members live in more than 50 houses around the Achum Shrine. Traditional ceremonies and rites are performed at the shrine, which is said to hold a sacred object.

Feeling a bit hungry after all the walking and riding? Head over to the terraces at Saddle Hill Ranch for lunch. Here, you’ll eat the best of Cameroonian, European and American dishes. You’ll enjoy rich green surroundings, and if you’re up for it, horse riding, biking and swimming. It’s great place to stay.

Pro tip: Taxis and clandos (sedans that work as transport vehicles) can take up to eight passengers at a time. Even the driver shares his seat. You can pay for double seats for comfort, or hire a taxi.

The spiritual core of the Bafut Palace is the scene of rites and ceremonies  © Colibryus (Bruno Trédez) / WikiCommons

Evening: Dine in town

You can choose between many places along Commercial Avenue. Dreamland, White House, International Hotel and Century are all very close to each other. Century is very popular, and here you can eat the town’s favourite dishes, like achu, fufu and njama njama, eru and pepper soup. They also serve fresh salad and play pleasant, soft music.

Pro tip: Try the balcony at International Hotel and watch the sun go down over a beer, whiskey or a bottle of wine.

Saddle Hill Ranch, Bafut © Whimsy Baba

Night: Too many options, not enough hours

For a calm evening watching green hills and the evening traffic below, stay at International Hotel. At the right time, hit the hotel’s Revolution Nightclub. Out on the street, Njeiforbi is buzzing with night revellers. Up at T-Junction, Bonanjo is filling up with people and Candy Shop opposite is ready for business. If eating at 5am is your thing, celebrate the sunrise with hot pepper soup at Bonanjo. Ride to Chairman’s Pork (near the home of the Chairman of the Social Democratic Front, Cameroon’s main opposition party) at Ntarinkon to kill your hangover.

Pro tip: Legend demands that you eat early-morning fried spaghetti and eggs at Mami Loveline. Join the queue at Mobile Nkwen.

Day two

Morning: Start fresh, take it easy

Start your day with local coffee and breakfast at PresCafe on Commercial Avenue. Breathe in Bamenda’s fresh air with a seat outside and buy some local crafts. Ride to Spee Arts Gallery to see the work of the late master Sunday Nzante Spee. Bamenda’s most famous artist trained many students at his workshop, which is now run by his son Kari Nzante.

Pro tip: Buy colourful bracelets and necklaces from the vendors along Commercial Avenue. They’re made with beads, plastic and cowries and can be customised to add your name or a message.

Commercial Avenue is busy on weekdays and Saturdays  © Tony Vinyoh

Afternoon: Eat achu at Mile 4 and climb a tree

You haven’t really been to Bamenda if you’ve not experienced its famous achu spots. Mile 4 is the best place to go for achu (pounded cocoyams with a traditional yellow soup) served with abundant meat. After a heavy meal, relax over a drink and chat with locals. Continue to Mile 6 to enjoy a drink in a tree bar at Asa-Neh Resort. The place rents out a well-equipped tree house.

Pro tip: Good palm wine is sold just around the corner, and there’s always a lively crowd at the bar below.

Achu can be a bit tricky to eat for the uninitiated © Kewan M Fombong

Evening: Discover Le Biberon

There are many bars at Foncha Junction, but Le Biberon will give you the best local experience with its crafted design, great music and light dishes. Here, you can enjoy pepper soup, mushroom salad, chicken and organic vegetables.

Pro tip: It’s the best place in town for a date, with good food and great music.

Evenings spent at this bistro will stay with you  © Tony Vinyoh

You’ll be tempted to spend all your evening at Le Biberon, especially if you’ve got great company, but Chambo has been around for ages and its terrace and grill are worth trying. If you don’t mind loud music, Njeiforbi will make your head ring; Aruna is a great fish restaurant. You can also hop on a bike to New Road Junction and visit one of the biggest bars in the country at Dreamland Nkwen. On Saturday evenings the place is so busy it looks as if beer is free. Drinks at the top floor are more expensive. For an intimate experience, try Bonapriso, a couple of minutes away. Eat Mami Stella’s delicious tilapia with a good view of the road.

Pro tip: While you’re jumping and dancing, remember to find out if there’s a curfew.

Bamenda Falls © Tony Vinyoh