Monday, 6 August 2012

Episode 20: Cross River - The Nation's Paradise

       I just got back from a five day excursion to Cross River state in Nigeria, and man, it was fun! The trip was organized by the Faculty of Science, University of Ibadan (my faculty, my school) but I was able to get one of my younger brothers, who isn't a student of U.I, to tag along. There were only 22 of us (25 if you count the Subdean of the Faculty and the two bus drivers) because about 20 muslims had to pull out of the excursion due to their Ramadan fast. Originally, the excursion had been planned to start and end before their fast. So what made it fun? Well, I got to see some of the best sights my country has to offer (for a dismal price, by the way), including water falls, cable car rides, and literally standing inside the clouds. Really. I'll break this post down into five mini-sections for each of the days of the trip so read on if you're interested in knowing why Cross River state (named for the cross river, called Oyono, which passes through the state) is known as "The Nation's Paradise".
A Roundabout near the University of Calabar

             Day 1 - Driving, blood pressure, bad music and getting lost
       The trip didn't start with a bang. We got to the faculty by 7 a.m but didn't leave till noon, and I got there on an empty stomach since we were supposed to leave really early. You should have seen the Subdean's face when he had to leave his own car and get in the bus with us. He almost hugged the thing. We spent the entire day on the road and it would have been boring if not for Blood Pressure, a U.I comedian (a student, of course) that happened to go on the trip with us). He sat in front of the bus every day of the trip and turned each bus ride into a stand-up comedy session. Whenever he wasn't making us laugh, I would read a novel or play a game on my iPhone, or play my 3DS, or talk to someone, so after 8 hours in the bus, I wasn't bored, but I was dead tired of the music. A DJ went on the trip with us (he's not a student) and had entertained us with such a terrible medley of Nigerian songs that the most patriotic of us still couldn't enjoy them.

Blood Pressure keeping our spirits high
            I think the highlight of the day was after we stopped at a roadside cafeteria in Port Harcourt for dinner at about 10 p.m. We continued our journey, took a wrong turn and around 1 a.m, realized we were lost. We had to park on the road next to a church in Awka Ibom and wait till morning. We sat around the veranda while the locals had a vigil that we didn't join in. Who wants to attend a church service where u can understand neither the preacher nor the translator? I worked on Project Monkey a bit then strolled off to pray while the rest talked and watched the "Etigi" dance the locals were doing. It's a Nigerian dance we hadn't seen before. During the praise session of the service, people were doing this Etigi thing and amusing us. We left at 4:30 a.m and got to our first destination of the excursion at 7 a.m. The night was boring, but at least we got to see "Etigi" and before we got lost, we had laughed our hearts out at Blood Pressure.

My Home is in Lagos, my school in Ibadan and the place labelled 4 is Akwa Ibom

              Day 2 - Tinapa Resort
           The fun began on the second day. We visited three main places, but let me start by saying we lodged at a house called Camp David right beside the gate of the University of Calabar. We got there by 7 a.m, left by 10 for some breakfast (just rice, nothing unique to the locale yet) then went to see Mary Slessor's tomb. Mary Slessor was a Scottish missionary to Nigeria. She successfully fought against the practice of killing twins at birth in that area and was a driving force behind the establishment of the Hope Wadell Training Institute in Calabar. Nothing exciting here, but I noticed the sign boards in the area were very British in design. Also, every round-about on the roads in Calabar had a unique design. I'll post a few below, but the very first picture I posted above is one of them.

Mary Slessor's Tomb
The Grave Masquerade. That's our bus behind him
Those aren't even Nigerian names. That's a river in the background. The grave is at the river bank

       Here are a few of the Round-abouts we drove by

I wonder if the lantern lights up this round-about at night?
             Our next stop was Tinapa Resort, a business and leisure resort still being developed under a Public Private Partnership by the Cross River Government. Here's a panorama I took of the entrance. You'll have to either click on the image or download it to see it properly, because you have to zoom and scroll from left to right to appreciate it, unless you have an app that can display panoramas the proper way.

Right behind this building is the Calabar River, where we later went on boat rides

Dunno what this is, but it sure beautifies the place!
                 We went to the mall at the resort, but none of us was prepared so we could only buy a few, cheap items, then we went to the game house, definitely the highlight of the day. After about an hour here, everyone was behaving like 10-year-olds again. There was ice cream, pop corn, but more importantly, coin-operated games. It was fifty Naira (about 33 cents) per coin, and games cost one or two coins to play. I can't upload videos yet until I go home and have access to a more unlimited internet data plan, so these pictures will have to do for now.

A Panorama of the game house
Motorcycle game.....not as exciting as the games I hadn't seen before
             There was a basketball game where you keep shooting real basketballs at a hoop until time runs out, and if you make it to the next level, it gets harder because the hoop starts moving about. My brother started it, but soon, one person would pay and about 5 six people would hustle to shoot at one hoop, and there were only two hoops! It was hilarious. There was this bowling one where you swing the ball into the machine and the ball continues going towards the pins on a screen, and you can't see where the screen starts and the real ball ends! The best one was the gorilla. A gorilla held up two metal rods. The player grips the rods and they start vibrating painfully. He tries to hold on as long as possible while his score counts up. Only one person got to the highest possible score, 3000. I recorded this funny video where one girl plays it and half a dozen boys hold her for moral support (I'm sure they had ulterior motives). Just holding on to the person playing the game, you will feel some of the pain too!

My Brother, Disun, and I in front of the Tinapa logo
Behind that big building, this is where we took the boat rides from

On the Calabar River
        There isn't much to say about the rest of the day. We got back to Camp David by 4 p.m, napped, then in the evening, strolled through the University of Calabar with a student guide to see what it looked like. We ate swallow (generic name for Nigerian meals that are dipped in soup, and can be eaten without chewing) and Afang, a Calabar soup. It was really fun seeing everyone play at the game house like little children and laughing at Blood Pressure's phobia for water (we later discovered he was just joking when he got to the swimming pool). I will update this post with the remaining three days of our trip. It took me over an hour to post thus far, and I have classes to attend tomorrow. Oh, it's 12:01 a.m, I have classes this morning!

You can get a glimpse of the Calabar River in this picture
                   Day 3 - Agbokim Waterfalls, Okada town and the trip to Obudu
          The romantic parts of the trip started on the third day. We left Camp David early and headed for Agbokim waterfalls near a town called Ikom. We stopped at Ikom to eat before going to the waterfalls, and man, was that place amusing! Everyone and their mum owned a bike in that town. In Nigeria, we refer to commercial motorcycles as "Okada" so I nicknamed the place "Okada town". You would literally dodge speeding bikes while trying to cross the road. I saw an old man, draped in a suit and tie, riding a bike. Another old man had shades on while riding. One sight that I failed to catch on camera was when two ladies crossed paths, each riding a bike, and greeted each other. Don't believe me? Take a look at these!
Notice all the spare tires in the top right of this picture
            On that day, like any other day, Blood Pressure kept us entertained and led us in games and chants during the bus ride. He also made anyone that was hawking food laugh whenever they tried to sell us something. Remember I said every roundabout in Calabar was unique? There was this roundabout with a sculpture of a man plucking something from a tree. A mad man (real one now, not sculpture), sat at the foot of the tree and we were amused by how he blended in with the sculpture. Blood Pressure waved at him and he waved back!
I guess this guy and Blood Pressure are birds of a feather
              We eventually got to Agbokim waterfalls, seven waterfalls side by side. We heard that before it rains, a rainbow forms around the falls. I wish I got to see that. led by a guide, we went as close to the falls as possible by going underneath one huge rock. We had to wade a bit, and this is where we started forming ad-hoc couples. The girls needed someone to help them through some of the rough terrain, after-all. Some people became a couple until the excursion was over, while some people were a couple for a day, then looked for another partner the following day. Don't ask me which one I did.
Agbokim waterfalls
You can't tell, but we're under a huge, leaking rock in this picture
That's me under the rock to the left of where we stood in the previous picture
Anything that goes down......
            We had to leave for Obudu Plateau early, so we couldn't afford the extra thirty minutes it would have cost us to take a stroll from the waterfalls to the Nigeria-Cameroon border. We spent the rest of the afternoon driving to the plateau, and constantly dropping our jaws at the hills and mountains we could see far off. Thing is, we could see the clouds literally touch the hills, and were thinking "are we going THERE?!?". Obudu Cattle Ranch (now known as Obudu Mountain Resort) is on the Obudu Plateau near the Cameroon border, approximately 110km east of the town Ogoja (my mother's home town!) and 65km from Obudu town (I don't think we passed through here, but we did pass Ogoja). We stopped for gas at Boki local government, the home town of infamous Nigerian king of musical parody, Vic.O! Rebeca Black's "Friday" deserves a grammy when compared with Vic.O's songs. Do a youtube search or check episode one of this blog if you want a laugh good.
That's not a blur, it's the cloud touching the hill
The stains on the wind shield make this picture a little poor..... I risked letting someone stick my phone out her window to take this pic. I was scared for my phone!

            We eventually got to the foot of the Mountain Resort at almost 6:00 p.m. While we were identifying ourselves to the security men at the entrance, I took this panorama of the foot of the resort.
         Then we discovered why we had to leave the falls early to get here. If we had arrived thirty minutes later, we wouldn't have been able to drive up the mountains. There was an 11km road that wound round the mountains. It had 22 elbow turns or "U-bends". Trust me, it took the skill of our driver and all the power the bus's engine could give to get to the top. The higher we went, the foggier it got. We could look down and see clouds. I don't think you got that. We could look DOWN and see clouds! We got to the top at 7 p.m and it was so foggy that when I tried to get a picture of us getting off the bus, the flash of my phone's camera hit the cloud in front of me and blurred the picture. Take a look...
         It was freezing, we were tired, so we had dinner and went to bed early (around 9 p.m I guess). The ladies stayed in two rooms, and the guys in three (or four, again if you count the two drivers and the Subdean). The third day was a nice build up to what we will remember as the best day of four coming in a bit.

           Before I start talking about the fourth day, I almost forgot to mention the classic joke that Blood Pressure made while we had our dinner. Only Nigerians will understand this one. You know the way Nigerian home video adverts go, yeah? Well, BP was all like "Calabar! Calabar! Come see when cloud dey touch ground! Come see mad man dey wave! See Okada everywhere! Don't miss this one! Starring, Blood Pressure! PSCHEW! Sly! PSCHEW! C.Y! PSCHEW! C.Y! PSCHEW! C.Y! PSCHEW!" then someone asked "Na only C.Y dey act the film?", BP finished with "...remain one. Subdean! PSCHEW! Grab your copy, NOW!!!". As I said, only a Nigerian would understand this joke and if you had been there to see him do it, you would have laughed hard.

             Day 4 - Obudu Mountain Resort
           Ah, the mountain resort! Nice place to visit (I advice anyone having their honeymoon in Nigeria to come here), but I won't like to live/work somewhere like this place. Since you're literally standing in the clouds, you're perpetually cold and a bit wet. There are all these little water droplets randomly floating around. We started the day early with our guide leading us in aerobics to loosen our bones for the treks and climbing we would soon be doing. I accidentally deleted this funny video I took of the guide chanting "Do as I do" while we responded "I do". He started with aerobics, but soon, our "I do" meant we were doing whatever silly dance he did! We headed for a grotto to play around in a mini waterfall. This was a real ice-breaker between guys and girls. They needed our muscular selves to protect them from the elements of nature. Walking uphill? Pull her along. Wading through water? Hold her hand. Blistering cold? Put your arms around her!
See why they needed us?
First stop, grotto mini falls
On our way there
I didn't feel like getting into a cold waterfall so early in the morning. I'm the only one standing
Water from the fall collected into this little pool a few meters away
Peter, A.K.A "Figures", our official cameraman for the trip. I was the unofficial cameraman
So much everywhere, so little time!
Dalmatian cow. Looks like the ones in the Cowbell ads
       Oh, someone fell in the water but she wasn't really hurt much. The boys got her out quickly. We eventually left the place, had our baths and then received a history lesson before breakfast. Apparently, Obudu Cattle Ranch was developed in 1952 by Mr. McCauley, Mr. Hugh Jones and Dr. Crawfeild. This work was later continued by a governor of Cross River state (can't remember his name) and the Protea South African Hotel Chain. Obudu also has the longest stretch of cable cars, wait for the world! There's also a helipad for Presidents and other suits to use when coming for a retreat. And being 1,500 km above sea level, we were at the maximum height helicopters could fly. With that said, we toured a lot of the mountain resort. As much as we could in one day.
First we headed for the "African village"
It had regular residential buildings...
Totally bullet-proof buildings for the president and suits....
Then we went to the side with British buildings. All wood everything
Everybody except Figures, the man behind the camera
I can't shout
A panorama of the England-like area. There's a lot of space between buildings though
            There was a spa, a restaurant, a playground, now that I think about it, the design may have been British, but the offerings were more like China town!
The Sky isn't blue in Obudu. It's all white!
             There was also a tennis court, a basketball court, and some roads leading off into special places like the Monkey Face Views, where we didn't go since the monkeys aren't caged (it's meant for wildlife research), the Fern Tree Groove, and the Leventis Tree Platform. We took a detour to see some of them, and walked on this shaky rope bridge they called a "canopy walkway".
Don't look down! On the way back, I slowly managed to cross without using my hands at all!
The tree house thing they used in the Gulder Ultimate Search in 2005
It should have read "Leventis tree house. The one you saw on TV"
We finally went to the reception
           Since I had been told that this place was done by the British, I was looking for signs to tell me whether the roads were originally designed for us to drive on the right hand side like we do in Nigeria, or on the left like they do in England. I saw a few proofs that it was designed with left hand driving in mind, although everyone drives on the right at Obudu now. The next picture is one proof of the original design.
This would have been written on the right if they intended for us to drive on the right
The reception had lots of Nigerian artwork and embelishments...
.....Including the Masquerade we saw at Mary Slessor's tomb on Day 2
I think Blood Pressure had beef with this goat
     The water-park was at the foot of the resort, right at the entrance before the 11km road that took us up here the previous day. We took the cable cars down to the water park. It's a fourteen minute ride by cable car, whether you're going up or down. One could feel the air pressure block his ears in the cable car, just like in a plane. When we got to the bottom, we could see (and more importantly, feel) the sun again!
A view of the hills from inside the cable car
Another view from inside the cable car. This is almost at ground level
The U-bends of the 11km road as seen from the cable car
At the bottom of the cable car chain thingy
        The water-park was really fun! There were two stainless steel pools, two water-slides, and lots of splashing! I won't post pictures of anyone at the pool here without their permission, so I can only post a picture of my brother and I. I think we spent about an hour here before going back up via cable cars (7 people max per cable car) and heading for our last destination of the day.
This is the only picture that my face isn't hidden by water. Unfortunately, I was wiping my eyes when it was taken! The water-slides were so much fun!
           The last stop was a place called the Holy Mountain. It's the highest point in the mountain resort. They say your prayers get to God unhindered here. You just speak, don't yell, and God is all like "shh......I don hear you!". Not that I believe that my prayers were more effective there (God is omnipresent after all), but we all took some time out to pray when we got there. It was the foggiest place in the resort too. I could hear some water at the edge of the cliff but I couldn't see a thing. You know what's scarier than looking down and seeing how far the fall would be? Looking down and not seeing how far the fall would be!
Saw these guys on our way to the Holy Mountain
People praying. As I said, the sky isn't blue here. It's white.
I couldn't even tell how much farther that cliff went before I'd reach the edge
Not that I pray like that normally, but given the environment, I couldn't resist getting my Moses on!
             And that's it for the most exhausting and awesome day of the trip! We went back our rooms, had dinner cooked by the girls (and they did a better job than all the places we had been eating at before), went to bed, and got woken up to come and dance. They had gotten a D.J so we could party on our last night in Cross River State. Needless to say, I sleep-danced for a while then went back to my room.

           Day 5 - Journey Back Home
           We spent the whole of Friday driving back to school. We left the mountains at 7:00 a.m and it took us 30 minutes just to drive down the 11km road and get back to the foot of the resort. We didn't eat any proper food all day. We would stop sometimes to ask for directions, or for gas, or for people to ease themselves or to buy food. I mean bread and snacks. We took pictures of each other sleeping in the bus, which I won't upload here so as not to embarrass anybody. Since it became a sin to fall asleep during this journey, I didn't sleep until past 7 p.m, when no one cared anymore.
I think I can upload this one since you can't see her face. I got one of a couple sleeping too!

I think this is how we got back. Shorter, and we didn't get lost
                Actually, we gave someone a lift from one state to another. He directed us, so he got a free ride. At one check point, we were stopped by these hungry soldiers. I'm ashamed to say that all we had to pay to get past them was two Gala sausages and one Fanta. Look at where the blue arrow crosses the water in the map above. That's the river Niger, and we drove over the Niger bridge. We passed a lot of places I can't remember. It was the longest journey I've ever had by bus. Fifteen hours, forty five minutes. At least on day 1, we came down from the bus to eat twice and we spent almost three hours at the Akwa Ibom church where they danced Etigi. It never got boring though. Blood Pressure, much better music than the first day, our phones to keep us company (I still had my 3DS with me even) and people exchanging contact details. I got to my room in school by 10:45 p.m and thanked my God for a wonderful experience!
Approaching the Niger bridge
See the river on the left...
...and on the right.
Can't remember which state I bought this huge loaf of bread at. Probably Benin or Edo
One more time, the Niger bridge
So, when are YOU going?


  1. Great expedition, even greater fotografs. You all obviousli had a ball! Nice one! I also wanna use this opportunity to say, 'Thanks for ''listening'' to my album!'

  2. You're welcome, Hill Town Bionic!

  3. I really missed. I wish I could whirl back the hands of time. Great write-up by the way.


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