The drive back from Tombel started off bright and early. We had made it past the several checkpoints without being stopped; the large checkpoint checking for fire extinguishers was not open on Sunday.
We had almost made it through Douala when I heard a thud-thud-thud so we pulled over and one of the tires had picked up a piece of rebar. Having had adventurous road trips in the past I had checked to try and find the jack and tools to change the tire before we left and there was a jack but I couldn’t find the tire iron to loosen the lug nuts. So I grabbed my bigger socket wrenches and put them in the car thinking they would work if we had a problem.
We had pulled over near a soccer game, on the main road in front of the Douala international airport and within a few seconds had an army of helpers to assist us. So we grabbed the tools and tried to loosen the lug nuts, they were not going to move, I even had 2 Cameroonians that jumped up and down on the end of the wrench to try. So I paid someone to go try and find some tools for us. He came back about 5 minutes later with the tools in hand, we got the tire off and the spare put on and when they went to lower the jack somehow the hydraulic center broke and we couldn’t lower the car, so they lifted up the car and I pulled out the jack.
But when we went to leave the young man who had went and gotten the tools realized that a taxi that stopped to help us took some of the tools he had, so I had to give him money to cover the price of the tools so he could get his identification card back. I gave all our helpers a few dollars and we were back on our way.
With the weight of the car on the spare we saw the spare was very low on air, so we slowly drove about one kilometer to the gas station where there was also a “tire repair” center. We pulled up to the tire repair center and asked them to fill it up our low tire and asked them to patch up the inner tube that was punctured by a piece of rebar. I’ve had plenty of tires patched here, and normally they can do it in 10-15 minutes. After over an hour and half of sitting in the sun I asked him to stop working on airing up the tire and give it back to us. Every time he put the tire back on he caused another leak. So we had another tire to serve as a spare if needed on the 200 km we had yet to travel to get back to Yaoundé.
We had gone about another 50 km and we heard this horrible noise, the treads from the spare tire had separated from the tire. So now we are in the middle of nowhere, with no jack and no tools and there weren’t very many cars on the road. So I managed to flag down a friendly car who couldn’t believe that I didn’t have a jack or the right tools, but the lug nuts on my car were a different size then his and he suggested that we were only 15 km from the next town of Edea, this was where we had the car fixed on the way to Tombel, and since the inner tube was still good I could drive slow to get there. Taking their advice we started slowly going when a young man ran up beside the car, I really was going very slowly, and told me there was a problem with my tire. I explained I didn’t have the tools or a jack to change it. He asked me to pull into his grandfather’s field which was the next turn a few feet up the road, it didn’t really look like a turn but I took his word for it.
He gets his grandfather who asked where the jack and tools were and I explained that I didn’t have them, but we tried the socket wrench again, same results as before.
So he sent his grandson to find someone who had tools, he was gone for about 10 minutes and came back and explained that they had not gotten out of church yet but he called one of his friends. The tools arrived but we still didn’t have a jack, so he grabbed several small boards and stacked them up and asked me to back up the flat tire onto the boards, then he put a log under the frame of the car to help prop it up. He took off the tire, pulled the boards out but the car was not high enough off the ground to put on the tire that we had partially repaired earlier in the day. So they dug down in the dirt around where the tire needed to go. We put on the other tire and we were back on the road, these guys wouldn’t let us take their picture of the work they were doing nor would they accept any money.
So with our tire on with a slow leak we were off again. We made it to Edea and pulled into the first shop I saw that had tires stacked up out front that made me think they would be able to repair the tire. I once again had to explain that I didn’t have a jack and I didn’t have any tools. Well neither did they, but they knew someone up the street who I could rent them from. So I went up talked to him and negotiated a price on tool rental and then they took off the tire. I then looked at the inner tube and asked if they could just replace it, they didn’t have any, but they knew someone who did; the same guy who rented me the tools. I went back and asked him how much for a new inner tube, he told me and went to get it. But it wasn’t the same size. I told him no, I need the same size finally he found a used one that we agreed on a price after a few minutes. I took it to the repair shop and they had it fixed in 10 minutes. I also found a fire extinguisher in this town while waiting for the repairs. The others riding with me asked if I was going to repair the other spare tire and I told them no, if we had another problem we would park the car and take a bush taxi the remaining hour and a half to Yaoundé.
Thankfully we made it back to Yaoundé without any further incident.