“I felt like some National geographic correspondent on a fact-finding mission. We climbed rocks, crossed dangerous bridges, got chased by cattle, ran into goats and sank our feet in marshy soil.”
A few weeks ago, I hosted a friend who decided to take some time off and explore some tourist attractions in the Northern region of Nigeria. He started with my home area, Gana Ropp – a few kilometres away from Jos, the capital of Plateau State. I had another friend staying with me then, so the three of us took off on a hike. Below is his account of the experience, I just wanted to share with you. I live in a very beautiful place; it would be nice if any of you could come around but just in case you can’t, here are some pictures (word and visual) for you. (Forgive the lingua, it was written for a Nigerian audience).
* * *
Preceding the recent stretch of holidays in Nigeria – i.e the Sallah holidays (Sep 29,30) closely followed by Independence day (Oct.1), I was feeling really despondent. Under the burden of driving in serious traffic holdups, waking up at ungodly hours in other to get to work, I decided I had to skip town . There were some options on the table. I could have retired to the serenity of Ibadan or visited La Campaigne Tropicanna on the outskirts of Lagos. I decided on neither of those options.
On Saturday, the 26th, I decided that to take a trip to the North- Yankari Games Reserve to be precise. I did some online research and asked some knowledgeable folks. I discovered that I would need to get to Jos first, then to Bauchi, then to Yankari Games reserve. It seemed all easy on paper. I considered it a great opportunity to get to see the Northern part of Nigeria since my previous forays had been limited to Abuja.
On Sunday the 27th, I woke up, went to MMA2, got a mid-day flight ticket to Abuja and jumped aboard. That was the beginning of an intriguing and exciting experience. At the airport I ran into one of my closest associates and one of Nigeria’s most popular entertainment journalists – Ayeni Adekunle. Ayeni is an individual that I converse with regularly but have not had the opportunity to see physically since we left UI in 2004. Accompanying him on the flight to Abuja were Keke Ogungbe, D-One, Kelly Handsome of Primetime Africa. They were on their way to Abuja for Tee-A’s live and Naked show.
On landing in Abuja, I got a picture with Nigeria’s foremost Music Business Mogul- Kenny Ogungbe (love him or hate him). As I made my way out of the airport , I ran into my good friend and brother – Lamide Craig. I was really glad to see him for 2 reasons- Firstly, to express my sympathy over the passing of Nigeria’s own Yinka Craig (his father), Secondly, he gave me a free ride to Abuja township.
At this stage I had to set off for a 3.5hr ride to Jos. I had decided to spend a night in Jos with the family of a friend/ family friend (whichever one works)- The Famonures. They stay on the outskirts of Jos in an area called Ganarup . After much navigation, I was welcomed into their home at 9:30 pm. The moment I stepped into their house, it reminded me of the Ibadan house that I grew up in. I knew it had been built by Americans. The tall and thick walls gave it away. I got to discover that some foreign miners built the house in 1910. It was quite intriguing to note that a 98year old house was still standing while Nigerian houses collapse while undergoing construction. Anyway, I had a good night sleep under a double blanket and a cardigan. In the past, I have been known to insist on cold-water baths at all times. However, there was an exception to the rule this time. It made a lot of sense to have a hot shower in light of the threatening cold weather in Jos. Inspite of the harsh cold, a lot of J-town folks, get up in the morning to jog while wearing just tshirts/singlets. While some jog, others ride bicycles. These activities are said to be part of its colonial heritage.
Jos is a beautiful city that is surrounded by a lot of rocks, hills and mountains. Please banish all the thoughts of Oke Ado, Oke Bola and Oke Itunnu that you have in your head. “Oke yato si Oke”. When you get to Jos, you see the real “Okes”. The “Okes” are reminiscent of the ones I saw on my trip to Nsukka in 2001. It is sad to note that the only Hills/ Mountains we get to see in Lagos are mountains of refuse piling up at street corners.
After the hot shower on the morning of Monday the 29th, I “set forth at dawn”. My hosts live in a missionary settlement, which is surrounded by rock formations, and Fulani settlements. Unlike most parts of Lagos, there was no major demarcation of land spaces with fences. Everywhere led into everywhere. I was able to get a good look at the rock formations, which had probably lasted centuries. I got a good sighting of a lot of cactus plants growing in the semi-arid rock tops. After breakfast, I conferred with my hosts (Sharon and Buki) and we agreed on hiking around the compound and surrounding villages. Initially, I wasn’t blown over at the prospect of just walking around for the only day I had to spend in Jos. However, by the time the hike started, my spirits soared at the sights which I beheld.
As the hike started, we crossed a bridge which had been built in the colonial era to facilitate the movement of miners into the mining pits. In case you never knew, Jos was once known as Tin-city due to the abundance of tin deposits beneath the soils. I witnessed an indigenous tin-miner in action in one of the pits. I saw the effect of mining on the environment with small rivers being diverted in order to route them to the mining pits. It was not all environmental doom and gloom as I saw a miniature water fall alongside various lakes and mountains. At a point in time, I felt like some National geographic correspondent on a fact-finding mission.
We climbed rocks, crossed dangerous bridges, got chased by cattle, ran into goats and sank our feet in
Far away from the grip of the evil Third Mainland bridge, evil LASTMA (traffic) officials and evil policemen, I had found a great deal of good in the arms of Mother Nature. Getting to see 7-10 year old Fulani kids controlling a 50 strong herd of cattle was a sight I would never forget. My tour guides (Sharon and Buki) gave me a lot of insight into the Fulani way of life. Despite the fact that Fulanis are nomads, they get the chance to go to school through the aid of nomadic schools. Some of them eventually get to go to Universities inspite of their humble backgrounds.
We settled in from the hike at about 7pm. Even though my body was weak, my spirit was lifted. I couldn’t have planned a better vacation. After a good night rest, I bade my hosts goodbye. My friends invited me to a cafe in Jos for breakfast before I departed to Yankari. We showed up at Afri One Cafe and I had a sumptuous English breakfast. After breakfast, I got a cab that took me straight to Yankari Games Reserve.
Written by Oluwole Leigh.