Creative Non-Fiction Pieces

Explore Obudu Cattle Ranch and Mountain Resort.

What You Need to Know Before You Explore Obudu Cattle Ranch

In December 2017, after a lot of saving, planning and excitement. I was able to tour Cross River state for a week. My first vacation without my family. Oh how I felt fulfilled! I shared a picture diary on my Instagram page. But I’m not just here to talk about how awesome the trip was. That’s a lie..I am. This is the surprise post I mentioned in my weekly Sunday update, Just So You Know.

The entrance of Obudu Cattle Ranch and Mountain Resort.

I’ll be sharing travel tips, giving an estimate of my expenses and things to do while at Obudu Cattle Ranch and Mountain Resort. Over the past decade travelling Nigeria for holiday leisure and adventurous exploration has been on the raise. With many indigenous tour and travel firms offering affordable, secure and fun packages, it can be daunting doing it personally. But this post will give you helpful travel advice. My love for exploring Nigeria and Africa is as high as Kilimanjaro. I’ve seen breathtaking wonders of nature on my trips.

What expenses are you making?
Without sufficient funds travelling can be disastrous. I’ll share my expenses during my tour of Cross River State. I won’t want you to find creating a budget difficult. Note that these prices might have changed.

TRANSPORTATION
Road Travel is an option if you don’t mind the hours. ABC Transport and GIGM offer affordable, trustworthy transporters
Flight Tickets can be as low as 16,000 or as high as 27,000 depending on when you book online with your desired airline.
Within Cross River, public cab fares cost way more. Seats in Ikom cabs at Calabar cost N2,000. Passengers are stuffed into these caravans. We paid for an extra seat at the back. Usually, two passengers sit in front, four sit in the middle and three at the back. At Four Points in Ikom, seats to Obudu Town cost N1,500 with similar sitting arrangements. From Obudu Town up to the Ranch cost N2,000. The cab driver was our guide since the Ranch workers were on strike. We and another couple paid N6,000 for his service. This money included our fare back to Obudu Town but with other passengers.

ACCOMMODATION

Jorany Hotel Resort, Ikom

I stayed at my ex-partner’s resident at State Housing Estate in Calabar so I can’t give price quotes for hotels there. You can search out affordable hotels on Hotels.ng. In Ikom I stayed at serene Jorany Hotel Resort at N20,000 per night. They also take payment in dollars. The spacious, clean room was on the ground floor. Accommodation at the Mountain Resort starts from 45,000 up to N500,000.

FEEDING AND SOUVENIRS
You should treat yourself to delicacies like Afang or Edikiakon soups with warm fufu, white rice and spicy chicken pepper soup, suya and jollof rice, etc. The average plate of food from bukas at Ikom cost N700-N1,500 depending on what you buy. In Calabar, souvenirs at the Marina Museum cost N5000 upwards for Ankara dresses, straw hats, mini sculptures, films, etc. Original Honey was the only thing sold at the Canopy Walk entrance by Ranch dwellers. The smallest bottle, large Eva water bottle, cost N1,000.

View of mountains from highest mountain in Obudu Cattle Ranch and Mountain Resort, Cross River.

What activities should you do at Obudu Cattle Ranch?
• Canopy Walk: was one of the fun things I did while on the Ranch. This Canopy is the first canopy installation of the company that laid the Lagos Conservation Centre canopy walk. It was just two bridges that led to a tall metal tower. The Ranch from above the tower was a magnificent view. The Canopy Walk is part of the Nature Reserve that has a Fern Tree Groove, Monkey tree views.

• Cable Ride: Is a paid ride that carries tourists high across the golden valley, grand mountains and chilled, misty landscape.

• Drive to the Presidential Villa etched on the highest mountain. Through snaking roads, past lodges, huts, settlements. You’ll drive through chilly, fog cloaked air to the top of the highest mountain. From the front of the Villa you can echo to the dipping, dark green, valley and neighbouring mountains. It’s a wondrous sight. The huts, apartments and villas are all on mountains or their sides. Little wonder it’s called the Mountain Resort.

Grotto at Obudu Cattle Ranch, Obudu, Cross River.

• Walk around the Grotto. The lush, golden landscape leads to a natural pool. It was a breathtaking. airy, golden landscape. This place made me whisper, ‘Cross River is a stunning beauty’ repeatedly. It’s N1,000 to access the Grotto.

• Visit the indigenous Obudu-Fulani settlers living at Banana Island nestled between 3-4 mountains on the Cattle Ranch. You can ask your guide to drive you there.

• Ask your guide for historical facts about the Ranch, settlers’ myths and other things you can do. When we drove from the Ranch entrance up to the first Hill curve. there was a sign post. Our driver said a high ranking military official had run the distance back when the Ranch was being created. That sign post is named after him in honour of his efforts of uniting tribes and encouraging hard work. If you see it, share its picture and tag me!

How do you get to Obudu Cattle Ranch?
First Route
You can take a flight to Enugu. At the Enugu International Airport take public cab to Ikom. At Four Points in Ikom you can get a cab ride for N1,500 to Obudu Town. Get another public cab ride up to the Ranch for N2,000.
You can get a bike ride to the town from the Ranch. Usually the bike rider switches off the bike and it rolls down the sloppy, twisting hill in a thrilling, lifetime ride. I didn’t do this because I’m afraid of unleveled, sloppy heights. On the Ranch there are public cabs that carry Ranch dwellers and tourists to a cab park in Obudu Town. Remember how you got, there then go back.

Road up mountain sides in Obudu Cattle Ranch.

Second Route
You can take a transporters bus trip to Calabar. I was on the road from Jibowu ABC park at 7am and got their Calabar park at 9pm. I love road travel. It exposes me to the sensational landscape, unpopular treasure sights, communal life and Nigerian socio-politics. Once you are at Calabar. Ikom car park at Calabar is called Mobil by MCC, bedside Conoil station. You’ll get a 4hrs drive in a public caravan to Ikom. I’d advice you lodge at an hotel and rest.

At Four Points in Ikom you can get a cab to Obudu Town, which is a 4 hours drive. I liked how traffic-free Cross River expressways and highways were. The mountainous land mass is extremely vast. Road travel between the state capital, Calabar and neighbouring local governments, eg Ikom, Obudu takes hours. From Obudu Town you’ll get another cab to take you into the Ranch. It takes two and a half hours to get back to Ikom from Obudu Cattle Ranch. To leave Cross River, you either go back by road travel or a flight at Margaret Ekpo Airport in Calabar.

Margaret Ekpo Airport, Calabar.

I remember the drive back to Ikom. As the sun set, it’s rays illuminated the cold, translucent air. The air I breathed was clean and crisp. It was chilled like someone had left the air conditioning on out there on the tarred two lane highway. The trees and mountain silhouettes smelt like fragrant pastries because of the cocoa farms and plantations lining the road aides.

Important!
•Find out if the staff of Obudu Cattle Ranch and Mountain Resort are on strike before you visit or book for Ranch lodgings. When I and my ex-partner went they were on strike. I was so grateful we decided against lodging on the Ranch. It was our local cab driver that we and other couple paid to be a tour guide. We couldn’t access the Cable Ride, Grotto Pool and some parts of the Ranch.

•Have a travel read o. Mine was The Secret Lives of Baba Segi’s Wives by Lola Shoneyin. Pick a paperback book that will be interesting. I’d advise either a witty poetry collection, intriguing short story collection, fantasy or mystery or African literature best seller. I say paperback because the drive from Ikom to Obudu and back takes over 7 hours. Boredom follows wonder after a while. The landscape and excitement can distract you from focusing on business, career or school books. Network is poor, so listening to online audio books or book podcasts will be frustrating. Your battery should be saved for emergency calls or taking pictures. Reading an ebook will drain it.

My humorous and dramatic Cross-River tour read

•Don’t take pictures at stops with military or police check points. It can be an oversight because the silhouette of large mountains beautifully fill the horizon. The device can be ceased and you might get harassed.

•Have safe places to keep cash because ATMs and POS are scarce once you leave Ikom. The highway cuts through fragrant cocoa plantations and outskirts of towns.

•Wear warm clothing. Obudu town itself is colder than the highway between it and Ikom. Nobody warned me about the temperature. Don’t wear shorts like I did. You can slay in Ankara maxi dresses, denim trousers and basically warm chic clothing. Your footwear should be hiking friendly. Being comfortable while climbing, walking and hiking is paramount. Don’t miss the sights because of sore feet.

•Write out your emergency contacts. Have a means of identification on you at all times. It can be your national, school or work I.D. Your phone battery might run out. For security reasons text your next of kin, family, close friends. They should be updated of your journey progress and stops where you are being harassed. A text is an admissible electronic evidence. Stay safe and be smart.

All the best with you wanderlust Gemstone!

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ILEYA IN LAGOS

ILEYA IN LAGOS is a creative non-fiction piece written by Adaeze Feyisayo Samuel.

ILEYA, is a Yoruba name for the Eid-al-Adha festival. It’s loosely translated to mean Going Home. It’s a specific synonym for ram meat, Fuji music, golden laughter, new clothes and traffic free roads in Lagos. Everyone you know looks forward to the second Sallah as they call it. It’s trite you get a public holiday. So you begin to call your Muslims friends weeks before to secure invitations. In spite of your preparations weeks ahead before Ileya, you’re always surprised with each celebration yearly.

You go to bed the night before contemplating your visiting schedule. Should you spend the day with your parents’ close Muslim friends or yours? There had been heavy rains that afternoon. An attempt to hold the rain for the next two days of the celebrations people say. What you don’t expect is to wake up hours before dawn to find your furniture, clothes and documents submerged in water. In your warm car, you doze off remembering books and movie scenes saying it’s cold sleeping in a car. The shock of your temporary displacement rings through your wet feet up your shivering body as loud as the mosque call for prayers. A daily, dependable, morning alarm in Lagos.

The visiting schedule is suspended as you make calls to your parents and apartment caretaker. While you salvage the dripping contents of your home. You know Mommy Moyo and her Ankara clad Olopos, skilled cooks, are already laying out fragrant, unbound firewood for the agbari ojukwu. The traditional stove that holds huge metal pots which boil her famous Sallah jollof rice you love so much. There is an eerie silence in the air as you turn on your data connection and Snapchat. Videoing your flooded apartment, collecting evidence you call it, you’re grateful your laptop was on a chair. Snaps of people travelling to their ancestral homes are online. You’ve watched them so you continue calling the caretaker’s phone number.

As your hungry stomach rumbles. You hear it. The sound of King Wasiu Ayinde”s voice. The voice and lyrical dexterity that got him crowned Oluaye of Fuji. This melodic singing in Yoruba language you recognise as the official soundtrack of Ileya. The piano, percussion and rumbling drums of his Fuji Fusion signify the men have began killing, cutting and dressing rams and cows. Which had stood unassuming in certain compounds days ago. You fry breakfast while standing in water. The smell of smoke, hot oil, steaming ram perfume the winds of the city you call home. Home! You remember Lagos is the ancestral home of certain city dwellers. With this a list of friends and their invitations to their Sallah celebration come to mind. You text your mother to apologise to her friends about your absence. The text says you sadly won’t drive three hours to Ikorodu to attend their spectacular yearly Ileya parties. What your text doesn’t say is that you won’t be there to kneel in greeting, chew mouth watering ram meat, laugh with strangers, gossip with friends, escape match-making parents, ogle stunning Aso Ebi and abayas or drop thoughtful gifts.

A loud bang scares the peace. Has the frying yellow plantain slices exploded in the kitchen? It hadn’t. The banger is followed by colorful fireworks you spot glittering in the sky relieved. Your misfortune almost made you forget it’s Ileya. A warm smile spreads the worry lines on your brown oval face.

Hours after the transculent water is scooped into large buckets and disposed. You drive out with your weekend bag headed to an hotel. As the car swerves onto the highway it seems the wind is singing Wasiu Ayinde’s Berlin. You smile knowing Aisha and her family would be back from the prayer ground lectures. Lagos streets seem too calm so you observe why. Less people are milling around bus-stops, few danfos speeding by and almost no hawkers. Many people have gone home or stayed indoors. The neon digits of your grey dashboard clock says Dami would already at the beach with her son, husband and father. She’d said they wanted a private Ileya away from her great-grandfather Lagos Island home robust celebrations.

After jumping on the white duvet covered stiff bed you cheer up as you roll around, sniffing clean cotton. Your phone buzzes and your hello sounds exhausted. It’s Nasir. He wants to know when you’ll be at his house for their exclusive Sallah party. This invitation is surprising considering what happened at Christmas eight months back. You explain why you’d miss– meeting his numerous cute cousins, speaking Yoruba with his favourite Aunt, savouring the chefs’ menu, turning down pot belly advances, getting reports of your afro bun photo bombing selfies, loosing count of full beer crates that morph into plenty empty green and brown bottles. He is shocked but agrees to drop your food and drinks at the hotel. You won’t miss savouring the Chefs’ menu after all.

Beads of cooling water land on the white towel wrapped around your curvy hips. You type HAPPY HOLIDAYS! to your social media friends. The #eidblackout and #barkadesallah are trending with melaninated slay selfies, happy family photos, unbelievable throwbacks, noisy videos, artsy Quran prayers and adverts. Your fingers leave your typeface to massage castor oil into gold streaks circling your lower back. From the window you see a shiny, black Gwagon drive into the shrub decorated compound. Nasir steps out from the passenger door. You happily note he could escape the white canopies and festivities. Your aqua-green lacquered fingers pull on denim shorts over your peach bodysuit and walk downstairs.

He’s lanky frame looks more handsome in crisp, white, native trousers and embroidered Buba. Grateful, you collect the warm large plastic dish, cold fruit juice pack and sweating cans of malt. He invites you to come around in the evening for ram pepper soup and champagne with his friends. You promise to think about it. You ask questions. Is he okay? Did he change his car? Is that a new friend in the driver seat? He says this his mother’s other car and her driver brought him to you. Outlawed you! The surprise doesn’t slide off your face fast enough but he ignores it. People tend to be more forgiving and generous during Ileya.

When the steaming scent of boiled tomato pureed rice, real Nigerian party jollof rice escapes the bowl you feel at home in this day. Each spoon filled with orange, red specked grains ignites memories. You remember how during Ileya, your Aunt would cook delicious turkey stew and jollof rice. Unlike your mother who never cooks during the celebrations. She’d dish out from her friends’ vintage China bowls of Odun food. Then go remove her mules, gold jewellery, iro and buba. A small bite into a succulent chunk of ponmo reminds you of Mommy Moyo’s late afternoon-evening parties. Well dressed guests eat and eat from a seemingly never ending supply of rice, moi-moi, coleslaw, pounced yam, semo, juicy pieces of brown meat, small chops, efo riro, egusi soup, suya and peppersoup. The three pieces of meat left make you smile. Your mother’s voice softly tells you Yoruba people believe you shouldn’t give gifts in odd numbers.

Another memory of Ileya, from Aisha’s grandmother’s Ikeja house shadows your chewing. Licking oily, spicy fingers you smile remembering driving her and two cousins to share food parcels for beggars. When you all got back her controversial, older, distant cousin Yetunde was being hugged by family members who’d watched Mama admonish her. It’s magical that family feuds are settled during Ileya. Faint fuji sneaks into the room through the billowing curtains. The opening snap of the malt can reminds you of Nasir’s finger nails tapping a dark, red wine bottle he served your mutual friends last year. Your clit almost misses those slim fingers. The hand wash is the colour of bubbling champagne in frosted flutes he usually reserved for you both.

With clean hands you look through whatsapp pictures and watch festive videos. Each status remind you everyone will have a different holiday. Not every Muslim goes home. But some unexpected family members will travel into Lagos. Some families may not kill a ram, after all it isn’t an explicit instruction. Not everyone will get parcels of fried meat. Many neighbors will miss the locked shops. A few after party invitations are disguised booty calls.

E ku Odun, this holiday greeting is padded with prayers. Even though you aren’t at Ikorodu unpacking vintage China bowls or sipping from champagne flutes perced on woven, raffia table mats. You thank God for the day, for family and friends that called, texted, checking on you, for life, for Ileya, for party jollof rice and free wifi.

END