Not all those who wander are lost. – J R R Tolkien.
The wind whistled into my ears, together with the music box playing Wizkid’s ‘Joro’, a song that was meant to keep alive our vibe and excitement. But everyone seemed to either be sleeping with their head inclined on the headrest in front of them or hopelessly drooling on the neck of their co-passenger. My eyes caught that of mine sitting next to me and her words about how she would come here to disappear if ever she gets tired of life came to my mind. I agreed with her almost totally. The way the hills lapped over one another, the small houses built in between – I felt my heart swell, rising in the crescendo of a pumping machine, then ache and almost cried at such rusticity. I wondered if others could see what I was seeing or feeling. I took a look at the other strange faces on the bus, people whose names I would get to know and forget the moment they left, all looking exhausted and weary of the journey of five hours.
We were all people who had come together by a common will to leave our university environment of the University of Benin, Benin City (Uniben) and go mountain climbing in Ososo in Igharra town, Edo state. This was put together by a tour operator with just as little as three thousand naira each. And then sixty-five people wanted in. I happened to be the first person to hear about this exciting adventure and I told my friends, Ruona and Omo, whom I knew to have the same adventurous spirit as me. We saw it as a perfect gift to ourselves for the St. Valentine’s Day, hence our journeying together.
‘Are we there yet?’ Someone on the bus asked when we eventually arrived in the town.
Navigating our way with Google Maps and passers-by on the roadside for direction, it was much of a relief to finally arrive. It was a cramped journey.
‘Hallelujah!’ Someone leaped in the air.
‘Finally,’ Escaped the mouths of many as they eased themselves out of the bus and stretched.
Climb the mountains so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. –David McCullough.
‘Ejiro, I want to climb this particular mountain,’ Omo, my second travel partner said to me, a voice that seemed to say, since that guy did it, so can I. For a moment, I wondered if it’s her feminist-self speaking or her adventurous spirit talking, but I did not discourage her, and this was to become the routine between the three of us in the two days we would be together: one of us taking the lead and the rest following suit. She climbed the mountain and I captured her standing in a god-like posture atop it.
Joining her up there, I saw the surrounding neighbourhood and environment scattered about like grains in a sieve. It was like seeing the whole world in one breath – it makes one heady. At a glance, you would think it’s impossible to climb the mountain because there were grown out weeds and thorns in the midst of the rock, and the height of it could cause the faint-hearted to not dare such a risk. Indeed, rock climbing was so challenging to the extent that when I finally got to the top, I rewarded myself with water. Only three of us were able to make it to that particular mountain. I immediately understood the risk mountain climbers take. The air at greater altitude is so harsh, piercing in the manner of iced water on the skin, escaping proper filtration to plunge straight into the heart, leaving one breathless.
In the words of Helen Keller, life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all and I realised this in a whole day climbing one of Nigeria’s highest rocks: the Oruku mountain situated in the town of Igharra, home to a people who migrated from Kogi, whose language is Edo. I don’t remember if there was a moment I was overcome by the fear of falling; I just climbed, because that’s what you do when climbing, you leave all manner of fear behind and you do not look down, except when you want to actually get down.
For those considering mountaineering, there are several things one should remember. The adage ‘water is life’ is essential when climbing, because the air becomes thinner at greater altitude and also the tediousness of it would make one need to hydrate almost every thirty minutes. Since we are a generation that loves to capture moments, we’ll probably be taking phones with us – it’s advisable to place all valuables in a small strap bag that will be attached to your back as you climb.
The best way to enjoy a tour, in my experience, is to go with friends. In the words of Mark Twain, there is no surer way for one to find out if you love someone except you travel with them, and I enjoyed every moment with my girlfriends – it was the perfect Valentine gift to ourselves. The moments of Ruona and I enjoying the view of the world felt as if I was placed at the edge of it, to admire all that exists on earth. I tried, for a moment, comprehending the beauty by myself, but I just knew that it was a reconfirmation of the supernatural. The mountains, too, have eyes.
Ejiro Edward is a student at the University of Benin, Benin City. A passionate lover of the arts, her heart is deeply rooted in poetry. She uses her spare time to write and travel.
Cover and inset photos courtesy of Skyunit_photography