Cameroon diaries IV.: The frog hunt

I’m thinking where to begin this story. It’s just so bizzare.

Well, you might have noticed that we seek countries and experiences that are not mainstream, because…we simply don’t like the mainstream. We strive for the unknown, unpopular and original. Therefore, when we heard about a giant frog- the biggest one in the world, we knew that this was something we needed to do. Goliath frog has almost 1 meter in length and weighs some 4 kilos. Size of a big baby. Weird enough, let’s do this.

grenouille

Source: Pinterest

As always with rare, weird, african things, it was very hard to find any kind of information about it. The only thing we found was one video on youtube. Reading the description we found out that the guy who made the video is a Slovak zoologist from the same university me and Peter went to. ?! I mean, what are the odds? Couple of weeks after, when I was visiting my family and telling about all this to my cousin, he told me that this zoology guy, Matej, was his neighbour and also one of his best friends. No comment here, world is…small. Really small.
So we organized a meeting with Matej and his girlfriend to get some more information about the mighty frog. What we got was like a cold shower to our enthusiasm-everything they told us was very negative.
It’s really hard to find the frog, since it lives in very remote places in the rainforest and rather wild rivers.
You’ll need a hunter, which is also difficult to find.
You’ll need to meet the chief of the village and pay a lot of money.
You should reserve some 2 weeks for it.
Well. We only had 2 days for the frog in our itinerary, so our expectations of actually seeing it were very low. But we tried.
The zoologist friend of ours gave us a tip for a couple of places where the frog is to be found. We chose the one with the funniest name (and which was the closest to us), Lolodorf. Sorry but this name is just funny. Anyway. You should see the faces of the locals at the bus station when we said we wanted to go there. Why???!!! Like why the hell?. I understood on the way there. From the city where we got on the 4×4 bush taxi it was 100 kilometres. 100 beautiful kilometres, that might be some 4 hours at the worst. Right after w left the city we knew that this won’t be 4 hours. Not even 5, not even 6. Have you ever seen those muddy african dirt roads in rainy season? The trucks that get stuck in the mud and have to stay there for days? Well, this was that kind of road. Our speed was probably 10km/h, no kidding. We had to get off and walk many times, the driver got stuck and often had to pass through little lakes of water. From some reason, the driver was driving barefoot, half-naked and drunk. Every time we stopped to drop some passengers off, he bought a beer or had a glass of palm wine with the locals. I guess I would do the same having to ride this road every day (except for being half naked). Our fellow passengers were also curious to know why were we going to Lolodorf. “Goliath frog, grenouille goliath”, Peter said. “Do you know it?” They did. The driver pulled over in the next village and called a guy named François. François was a fisherman and a frog hunter. After buying a small bottle of cheap whiskey for him, the driver and the driver’s assistant, François agreed to meet us tomorrow and take us with him to hunt. “But you have to buy me wellington boots and a headlight.” No problem. Could it really be as easy as this? Suddenly we forgot the pain in our asses from the 9 hours of the two of us squeezing on the front seat and headed to Lolodorf.
10 hours. We made it. 100 km in 10 hours. I wasn’t wrong when I told you that our speed was 10km/h. The one of the two hotels we decided to stay in looked nice. The room was simple, but okay. The water was running. Electricity worked. And, for the first time in central Africa, there was a mosquito net. Well, it was there because they knew that without it no one would stay there. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen so many insects in one room. Something that looked like a huge, 3x bigger mosquito, thumb-sized black buzzing something that I was really scared of and one MASSIVE cockroach. We turn the power generator off after midnight. There’s no electricity since February (it was July now), so we use these generators but in order to save, we turn them on from 7pm to 12pm only. Ah, ok. Alright. I’m getting under the mosquito net, long sleeves and leggins, shivering from the beasts that are constantly hitting it and after midnight, when the fan goes off, also sweating like a motherfucker. One of the worst nights in my life, that’s for sure.

Lolodorf in the daylight is not much to see. A small town in the middle of nowhere, with no electricity, one normal restaurant, where they serve only porcupine and people drinking warm beer in the maquis (small pubs) by the road. Eeeh ma chérie, come and drink with us! It’s funny. It’s like a little drunk ghost town, where people eat bushmeat and hunt giant frogs.
IMG_7299 (1)
At night, as agreed, we met François (the frog has to be hunted at dark). He didn’t own a phone, so the chance of him appearing were 50/50, but he did appear. Even one hour earlier. We bought him food and got on a motorbike, along with him and the driver. We went some 1,5 hours further into the bush. These night rides in the rainforest are something. I’ve never seen a more beautiful sky than there. There are no settlements, no lights and therefore the sky is crystal clear. You can see so many stars that it must amaze even the most unromantic and cynical person. If we won’t see the frog, this already might be worth the horrible trip.
IMG_7317François puts the boots on, takes a little backpack with a fishing net, calls his brother to assist him and off we go. Walking some 45 more minutes into the rainforest, closer to the river. The river is wild and deep and I seriously admire this guy stepping in it and checking the rocks with his headlight to see if there are any frogs. Sometimes I catch myself thinking if this is real or I am in some twisted mind’s dream. What am I doing here? It’s 1am. I am in the middle of a Cameroonian rainforest. Hunting a frog. WTF. I’m not scared though. I’m excited.
After 15 minutes François brings the first catch. A baby Goliath frog, some 20 cm long. He puts the poor thing into his bag, which shakes from time to time as the animal tries to get out, and we continue our hunt. Some more kilometres later he comes back with a much bigger frog in his net. This one is probably 60 cm long. It’s not an adult, but it’s good enough for us. For a frog, it’s already huge. A truly bizzare creature. We are tired so we tell him to get back, take some photos with this little monster and pay him to let them free. He doesn’t understand why are we taking his lunch but finally he agrees.


We get back into our lovely accommodation at 4am. I am so tired I don’t even mind the cockroach sitting on the washbasin, get into the mosquito net and sleep like a baby.

Even though the frog itself wasn’t that astonishing, the whole story, the trip and the settings made it one of the most interesting experiences of my life. Thank you Peter for your weird ideas and thanks myself for being crazy enough to do such things. This is life!
T.

P.S. Sorry for the bad quality of the photos – it was at night, taken with a phone.

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