Firstly, let me say a very big thank you to Social Prefect Tours and Social Prefect for a well-planned tour. I had a fabulous time on Saturday, July 16, 2016 as I took a trip to Olumo Rock with some amazing people. The tour was organized by the one and only, Chiamaka Obuekwe, CEO, Social Prefect Tours. Major shout-out goes to Virtue (a.k.a V.Rela) for hinting me about the tour, may your days be long.
All I can say is that the day started on a good note, because I can’t really remember how it started as I didn’t sleep the night before. I wasn’t anxious for the trip, I was working on a whiteboard animation project and surfing the net for inspiration. I think I started getting ready around 6.15am, I had to boil some water because the tap water was cold as a corpse. Yes, I don’t have a heater, I come from the streets and I don’t live in a luxury apartment. After taking a warm bath, I ironed my beige chinos pants, sorry, trousers (We don’t say “pants” where I come from); I always prefer the beige one for hiking. I was confused at first about which shirt to wear, but I finally settled for my Euro 2016 Spanish Jersey.
I think I left the house around 6.50am and I got to the pick-up venue by 7.55am. I found the group and walked over, but I stood aloof in one corner as everyone was still forming and holding up their “I don’t know you” mood banners. But believe me, this was a cheerful bunch as I later came to find out. Time whisked by and Chiamaka and her group started taking a roll call and giving out bags which contained a small jotter, a pen and some sweets. The jotter had a little cute personalized note from the Social Prefect which was kinda cool. I got a purple bag, but a beautiful lady stepped up and asked if I would like to exchange it for a red one amidst several pleasantries, of course I obliged, how can I refuse? I’m nice like that.
Hmmmm! Shout-out to the small chops vendor that catered for the trip, we love her sha, but she delayed us till past 9am along with some other latecomers. We left Lagos around 9.35am. The trip itself was epic, major shout-out to our bus captain, the high-spirited and ever-energetic Esther. It just so happened that I ended up in the #CoolKidsBus and honestly, I don’t think the guys in the 2nd bus had half the fun we had. We played the concentration game which was totally exciting and hilarious as we found out during the course of the game that there was a dog named “Puppy” and a girl named “Amadioha”.
We started out with introductions and I realized that the bus occupants were so occupationally diverse; we had so many interesting people with cool jobs; there was Benny the Photographer who likes to eat beans; Niyi, also a photographer (Graphics Designer and the Ladies man); Enthusiastic Esther, the General Manager; Chinedu, a Mass Comm CU Student (Social Prefect’s younger brother); Valentine, the fresh lasgidi Corper; Desola, who would rather choose “optional” for what she does. Then we had two people from the e-commerce space, Virtue and Kingsley (who also happens to be a Fashion Aficionado); Ify, the sweet lady who is an Electrical Engineer; Esosa, the quiet extrovert who was into feet (whatever that means); we had Make-Up Artists, Bloggers, PR Practitioners, a Content Creator and a Civil Engineer; there was Vivian, Mide, Tope, PamPam, Tomi, Toun, Mabel, Grace of GraysBibiPhotography; Tobi, the fine boy and lastly Femi, the professional basketball player (shout-out to him for finishing most of the Smirnoff Ice). I’m sorry if I missed anyone out, it wasn’t intentional.
Thankfully, we got to our destination in one piece around 11.45am. We disembarked and were awed by the breathtaking view of the mountain. Social Prefect gladly shared us our first set of drinks before we started the actual tour which began with the Culture and Art Gallery at the foot of the rock. Our guide here was the savvy talkative called Bamidele (Marketer Extraordinairé), who was also a Painter. Cameras were not allowed in the art gallery, so we couldn’t take pictures but he took us on a mental journey up the mountain giving us historical highpoints on how the Olumo Rock came to be such a tourist attraction.
He was quite humorous and engaging as he took us through the gallery from painting to painting and works of art on display and explained how they came into being. He illuminated the fact that the top of the Rock was shaped like a pregnant woman lying face up, but proceeded to tell us that this was from his own personal artistic point of view. He also hinted us on the reality of native charms and would have made our very own Chiamaka disappear for 5mins if not for the vehement protests by the group. At the end, he took us to a section where they had adire tops, wristbands, shades, neck-pieces, leather sandals and several other effects all made with local materials and could be customized and several members of the group did some good shopping while Bamidele made some good money.
After climbing 257 steps cut through the lower levels of the rock, we got to our first stop on the rock, which was the Olumo Shrine. It is said that only the two supreme leaders of the land (The Oba who is the Alake of Egbaland and the Chief Ifa Priest) are allowed to enter the shrine once a year to offer sacrifices to deities of the rock during the annual festival which holds on August 5th. Although, throughout the year, people come at different times to offer prayers and sacrifices to the deities of the rock with the belief that it can grant them children, money and longevity.
Further down we sauntered towards the west end and we reached our second stop which was the Egba War Time Hide-Out. This was a series of corridors and caves located beneath the rock where the ancient Egba people hid from their enemies during the time of war in the Old Oyo Empire. It is said that they lived under the rock for about two years until the war was over. Most of the moulds for the inner rooms had been destroyed over the years due to long exposure and lack of maintenance, but it was still eerie to see the kind of condition the people lived in back then at such times. There was a grave at the entrance of the cave which belonged to a Chief called Sonni Osi-Toko, he was the Osi to the Oba and was an early settler within the Olumo Rock. He died in January 1956 and was buried beside his house within the rocks as the old custom was; this was twenty years before the government took over the site and turned it into a tourist complex in 1976.
Just a few feet away was our next stop, the abode of the Mamas, a group of aged women who have lived within the rocks for centuries from generation to generation. They were harbingers of native charms and worshipped the deities of the rock which they believe grants them long life. Notable among them was the oldest called “Iya Orisa”, who was 131 years old as at last year. Before we left, they asked for some money offering for the women and passed a calabash round for collection. At the end, she murmured a few prayers over our heads (I didn’t hear a word) and we moved on.
Next stop was the foot of the giant Baobab Tree which was said to be hundreds of years old. In the early days, the primordial people would cut out the bark of the tree and it was processed and used as an incubator for premature babies. Honestly, those primitive souls had some crazy tech back in the day. After this, was the most challenging part of the climb which would take us to the very peak of the Rock, of course there was the stairs that could take you to the very top, but hey, we came here for the fun and adventure.
So we embarked on the climb, through a narrow crevice with uneven shaped rocks, navigated through boulders that looked as if it would fall on our heads and finally through a steep path that led to the breath-taking view 137metres above sea-level. Many had to summon the kind of courage a gladiator needs before he steps into the arena before they could make it to the top, but eventually we all did. It is also noteworthy to mention that Olumo Rock has not had any casualty on the rock climbing expedition since inception.
Victories were celebrated as we each got to the summit; believe me it wasn’t that easy. Shouts of “I made it” filled the air as we walked around the very top. The view was splendid, beautiful and expansive; you could literally see the entire Abeokuta from here.
Many milled around taking pictures that would create memories that would last a lifetime. Different picture poses were just popping up here and there, the free pose, the yoga pose and the karate pose were among several epic poses. I just hopped from one end of the summit to another, making sure to take in all I could and take as much pictures as I can. We took group pictures and videos, but we had to do “the jump” in smaller groups for better camera results. It was such a good feeling to be so up in the air. Fascinating to also see a guy selling Yoghurt Ice Cream at the very top and he had a POS just in case you didn’t bring cash.
The day waned and sadly we had to leave, but I’m glad I made the trip; it’s not one I would forget in a hurry. So much fun and so many wonderful people. Going down, we took the stairs and found our way back to a relaxation spot close to our first stop area. Here, Social Prefect gave us a good meal of Jollof Rice and Chicken with drinks. We all settled down to eat in groups of threes and fours as everyone sat with their old or new squads.
After eating, we all went down the last set of stairs and back to our buses. We kicked off the trip and stopped over at the Adire market not too far from the Tourist centre for a few people who wanted to pick some items. We were also supposed to stop over at the Heritage Garden Resort but it started raining heavily so we just moved on ahead to Lagos.
For the purpose of educating a bit and for those that want to know a little bit of history, please permit me to use the words of Amara when she wrote about this trip on her blog Chapter One, she said…
“’Olumo’ means ‘God molded’. That’s the simplest way I can put it. The name is derived from various interpretations of its importance to the Egba people. According to legends, the rock was first discovered by a hunter and farmer named Adagba in the 19th century and was later commissioned as a tourist center in the year 1976.”
And according to TakeMeToNaija…
“Symbolically Olumo is the single most important representation of Egba nationalism, it is the unique monument inseparably associated with their heroism and freedom. It is to them what status of Liberty is to Americans, it never fails to fascinate both the young and the old with its sheer size, configuration and several chambers located inside the belly of the “behemoth” in which its brood was hidden from the danger of incessant assault in the past. However, Olumo rock became the symbol of unity, freedom of the Egbas and all the residents of Abeokuta”.
It was a great trip, great tour, great people with a great Social Prefect. I definitely would do this again. To my new friends, Esther and The Gang in the #CoolKidsBus I celebrate you all. And to everyone that came on the tour, thank you all for making the trip worth it and one of a kind. I’m definitely looking forward to the next Social Prefect Tour.
Have a great day, people. I’m out!
Shout Out to GraysBibi, Nonijaz, Benny, Muna and all the rest of the crew for the pictures.