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Cameroon’s Metche Falls; Where Culture Meets History

Calm and peacefulness are the words that I use to describe this place. With this serenity and quietness, one could hardly imagine the astounding spectacle taking place thirty stairs down, from highway number 4 (National 4).  From the top of a cliff, powerful waterspouts fall on the rocks below in a deafening noise.

The Metche falls are located 10 minutes from Bafoussam, the capital of Cameroon’s West Region.  Little known outside of the local community, the Metche tourist site, considered an important place of worship, is signaled to road travelers by a single plate surrounded by weeds. Many would pass by without even noticing it.

Old man telling stories

Old man telling stories

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Pilgrims arrive here barefoot, with empty containers that will be filled with the river’s sacred waters. They pour salt and palm oil on the ground at specific spots from the moment they enter the site. Then, they move downstream and get inside the waters in order to offer their sacrifices. These rituals, proper to the Bamileke people, allow them to connect with ancestors, ask for purification and seek their protection and intercession.

A man that appeared to be a site keeper (he was sweeping around at the time we met him) escorted us upstream where several men and women were candidly  taking  “ritual baths”, in order to free themselves from any spiritual impurity or bad luck. The man explained that on this same area, colonialists used to bring resistance and independence fighters also known as “Maquisards” in order to execute them. Hundreds of thousands perished here, for the rocks downstream left them no chance of survival as their bodies came crushing down and were swept away by the current. The killings stopped with one man named “Defo”, who managed to drag one of the colonial masters, a chief commander, with him while plunging. Their bodies were never found. “Fossi”, who survived the tragedy on that day, escaped and lived to tell his companion’s courageous act to the rest of his people. Did someone say historical heritage?

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Written by PH

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