Leaving Lagos to Akure
I had always wanted to visit Idanre Hills in Ondo State, South West Nigeria. The desire to visit this site was very much inspired by my good friend at the school of journalism at The Nigeria Broadcast Academy, Adelanke Akinmoladun aka Ade who hails from the community where these hills are situated. I had once joked to him I would be visiting during Christmas and somehow, I felt an urge to make good my promise travel there last Christmas since there were a couple of holidays during that period.
I had packed a few things I would need for the trip on the 23rd night and left for work. I hoped I would have convinced another friend, Able, who lives not very far from my office to join me on this trip since he had always wanted to follow me travel on my adventures. He was however not ready for to travel this time as he could have wanted me to inform him beforehand. He dropped by my office to pick me up to his house that morning so I could freshen up at his house before he drops me off to the park where I would get a vehicle going to Akure.
Able was exceptionally kind to me that morning. He took me to several bus parks to see if we could get a direct and a comfortable bus to Akure but all attempts was to no avail. Christmas was around the corner and most people were traveling home for the festive season. Most Nigerians especially Christians travel home this period to celebrate the season with their families and loved ones.
Unfortunately, we could not find a direct bus to Akure so I had to pick another one going to Benin, to make a change at Ore junction at Ondo State and then take another bus to Akure, the State Capital, from where I would get a shared taxi to Idanre community.
At around ten o’clock that morning we left Ajah, Lagos for Benin City via Epe. Travelling from here to Ore normally costs between 2500 to 3500 Naira ($7 – $10 USD). I paid 4500 which is a fair price to pay considering it’s Christmas season. We were a sort of family in the bus and made jokes about the weather, government, recent happenings in the country and several thing. Most of the occupants of the vehicle where from Benin City. Most people in Nigeria believe people from Edo State where Benin is located love to travel and work abroad. The conversation in the bus was also centered around this.
The road was not as busy as one would expect in a typical Lagos road when driving out of the state during festive seasons. However, the Harmattan dust was so much and overwhelming. Most of the trees and houses were clothed in dust, the same way pictures of houses and trees in western worlds during Christmas are immersed in snows.
Harmattan Season in West Africa
The Harmattan season is one of the toughest seasons in places around West Africa. This season starts around the end of November and ends around the middle of March. The weather is normally dry with dusty winds which blows from the Sahara Desert over West Africa. During this period, most places are very dusty and cold, even though it is very likely to find some very hot places. Relative humidity is around 10 percent and it is rare to see rainfall. This effect is caused by the North-east trade winds which blows across the northern hemisphere around the equator. This wind brings along with it lots of dust from the Sahara Desert and dryness to places around West Africa and them empties it into the Gulf of Guinea.
This time of the year, everywhere and everything is very dusty. People will have to clean or dust their houses and home appliances regularly so often as dusts accumulate over little time.
Effects of Harmattan
In some cases, the drop in humidity results in nose bleeding for so many people. Some even develop respiratory problems and asthmatic patients may experience more problems because of the dust and the very low humidity. People will be seen using wet lips very often to avoid the cracking of the lips. A lot more use oily creams to avoid cracking of the skin.
During this period, even though lots of people travel because of the festive season, this rise in the quantity of dust in the atmosphere results in the formation of what is known as harmattan haze which is makes it difficult for planes to navigate. This costs airline companies a lots of money as a result of delayed, canceled or diverted flights. Even though some countries that are hit mostly have implemented Improved Instrument Landing System (ILS) to help planes land safely despite the weather challenges of the harmattan.
There are other environmental hazards caused during this season like increase in fire outbreak due to the dryness in the air, sometimes, the winds can break the branch of trees or even remove the roof tops of some building.
Conversely, so many of us who live here in the tropics near the equator enjoy this season because it is cool and dry. There is no need for electric fan or air conditioner during this season. Most places are dry and cool. Also, it is a very good time for governments to embark on road construction projects in most of these places that have very large amount of rainfall during the wet season. The other advantage is that the issue vehicles being soaked in mud water which happens during the rainy season is avoided hence, people spend less on washing cars and on maintenance as a result of damages caused by rains.
We arrived Ore in Ondo State after four hours and I had to change to another vehicle going to Akure, the state capital before heading to Idanre. I got a vehicle and we continued to Ilorin. As usual, the people in the bus were friendly when they found out by the way I was dressed and the way I was taking picture. I eventually became friendly with a few of the passengers, especially one Ezekiel Aremu aka Easy who eventually turned out to be a good friend . He promised to take me round his state after visiting the Idnare Hills – a gesture I appreciated a lot even though I could not embark on it as I had to leave the next day. I safely arrived Ade’s residence and rested in preparation for the climbing of the hills the next morning.
Exploring Idanre Hills
Very early the next morning, we went out to get breakfast after which we headed to the foot of the hills from where we were supposed to start climbing. The cost for climbing for two adults plus a tour guide was around 4000 Naira ($11 USD). The guide may expect a tip after the tour and it is better to join a group of tourist so you tip less. The state government has made the site tourist friendly. Steps were built to make it easier for climbers – around 670 of them. This site has a very rich history of several kings and people who lived in it. It was recently recognized by UNESCO as one of the UNESCO World Heritage site.
We had two tour guides, a government employed guide and a local guide. The first guide got us to the first peak where we could see the whole new settlement for the people of the town. The other local who was a private guide with two other tourists now took us to other places which included an ancient primary school, an ancient court of law and the king’s palace. We even visited the miraculous stream and several other places. There was also a shrine where there were skulls of bulls for every king who has ever ruled the kingdom. The list of sites on this ancient settlement was very nice and it’s not a visit you would want to trade for anything. The ancients lived on the mountain to protect them from invaders and the enemy and their history of the place dates back to about eight hundred years ago and they were civilized in a sense.
There were other hilltops we could not visit. One of the hilltops still had remnants of a mast used by the defunct Nigerian Telecommunication Limited (NITEL). We were told this equipment served the telecom needs of Nigerians in the South Western part of the country. There were also signs of infrastructures built by the colonial Britain during the colonial era. There are several hills named after several personalities. Even one of the hills was named after a faithful king’s guard. There was the Agboogun in one of the hills that I never got to see. According to the stories, this Agboogun is a mysterious footprint that is believed to adjust to whatever size of feet that is placed in it except for witches or a wizard which was the reasons people of the community in the ancient times used it to know people who were evil.
We also went to the scene of the mysterious writings on the rock. These writings have not been deciphered by anyone yet. I recall we got to the scene, Ade was trying hard to point me to where it is but I could not see it properly – to stop the embarrassment, I had to tell them I’ve seen it meanwhile, I did not see anything because I did not go with my glasses.
We met other tourists who were either touring or relaxing – after all, it was Christmas. We spent about one hour or so before we headed down. The next thing was to find street food. I also had some challenges with cash. Even though there are banks at Idanre, the queue of people who wanted to make use of it were too much. I had to wait till I get to Akure before I could make withdrawals. It is advisable to go with enough cash when visiting as seeing POS terminals may be difficult
Easy, who was the passenger I had met on the way the previous day that had promised to take me to Ikogosi Springs but I was not very patient as I thought I could visit some more places in Nigeria where I had never been to. It was then I decided I would head to Bayelsa State to see the first place it was alleged petroleum was drilled in Nigeria and the Palace of Jaja of Opobo but not after I stopped over in Ondo town to see another friends at Journalism School.