• Saturday, May 18, 2024
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Daring the rocky peak

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 Even from a distance, the eyes cannot ignore the magnificent, imposing sight of the ageless awesome rock. The closer you get to it, the more encompassing and protective it becomes.

Of course, that was the chief reason Egba warriors took advantage of its vantage point to monitor the movement of their enemies and for counter-attacks against invading forces during the 19th century inter-tribal wars in Yorubaland.

At a towering height of 137 metres above sea level (449ft), the igneous Olumo Rock at the heart of Abeokuta offers visitors a picturesque view of the city. The charm of having a bird’s eye view of the better part of the city from the peak of the rock tempts one to wish to be asked to bow down and possess as far as his/her eyes can see.

The rock and the surrounding complex offer a perfect holiday spot for those who desire something natural and different.

While the elevator (one of the several new improvements) ascends the magnificent rock until it reaches the top, the adventure is in climbing through ‘The Ancient Route’, a huge crevice in the rock that must be scaled to get to the peak of the rock by those who do not want use the lift or stairways.

As you climb through the flight of steps carved into the rock in the ancient route and the concrete balconies, which are now part of the climb because of the challenges they pose, you are ever refreshed with the hope of summiting the 449ft peak.

Your effort at daring the rock is compensated by the beautiful views of the ancient natural caves, a giant cave formed within the cantilever of the rock. Within the giant cave are smaller caves which provide shelter for as many as can find their way in.

As you continue your climb over irregularly-sized boulders, you will stop to admire cowry-studded statues, while contemplating the next challenge. This involves climbing through a corridor formed by two huge rocks over sporadically scattered boulders.

At a certain relatively flat surface of the layer of rock, climbers can walk around and enjoy the breathtaking scenery all around. This is where lost energy is replaced and thirst is quenched with drinks and beverages hauled up the rock in coolers. At this point, those who take the elevator now join those with a more adventurous spirit and physical strength to relax and take in some fresh air.

Like the Obudu Cattle Ranch’s Devil’s Elbow, there is a part of the rock where it is possible to slide down to the previous level, even though it is terribly tough coming back up the same way. However, safety is guaranteed as there has never been an accident on the rock. The locals strongly believe that the spirit of Olumo would not allow evil to befall its guests.

“Even if the devil asks you to bow and take the whole of Abeokuta that you see from the top of the rock, the spirit of Olumo will not allow you to fall,” assures Biodun Oyekunle, a tour guide.

But the rock is not all about climbing. It possesses numerous attractions that leave lasting impressions on the minds of discerning tourists. One of such is the “Egba time Hide-out” which possesses tiny, natural caves with holes on the floor.

The tour guide says the Egba warriors hid their wives and children in these caves while they engaged their enemies in inter-tribal wars. The holes dug into the floor were said to have provided a device for grinding pepper, tomatoes, onions and other staple foodstuff during the war.

Another attraction is a tomb with an epitaph describing “Sonni”, who departed the world in 1956. A sacred shrine which opens every August 8, it points to the rich historical background of the rock. The opening of the shrine is in reverence of the stone god, which saved the lives of the Egba people on many occasions.

Like in some parts of Plateau State, some aged people still live on top of the rock. But the mystery which astounds tourists and is well beyond the comprehension of the tour guide is how inhabitants get to 137 metres above sea level and also have the ability to carry on with their daily activities.

On getting to the peak of the rock, one cannot help but appreciate the wisdom of the first settlers for choosing such a perfect bulwark against external invasion.

The picturesque view of the rock is breathtaking and unmarred by human influence. It offers a panoramic view of the ancient Abeokuta City, capital of Ogun State and home of the Egbas, as almost every single structure in the town becomes visible.

One sight reserved for those who summit the peak is the Crown Tree, an over two-century-old Iroko tree that grows out of the rock and produces leaves all the year round. It is also known as Crown Tree because it forms a living stem or plume on the crown of Olumo Rock.

Also at the peak, visitors access the medicinal water of the rock which flows from the top near the crown tree right through the rock to the second base where it seeps out from the rock below the crown tree base level. It is said to have powers to cure many skin ailments when applied.

The late MKO Abiola’s family house, the first mosque in Egbaland, Ogun Television House, the first church in Nigeria, among other appealing and architectural masterpieces, appear in bold relief from this vantage point. These features, according to Oyekunle, make the rock a monumental landscape for the Egba people and the state at large.

When done with the climbing and back to the base of the rock, there are restaurants to refresh, a museum and water fountain to further fete the eyes, and so on. So, keep a date with the igneous rock in your next holiday!

 

OBINNA EMELIKE