Whether you’re an adventure seeker, one whose quest to assimilate knowledge never ceases to exist, or a nomad who delights and is intrigued by having breakfast, lunch and dinner in separate cities respectively around the world, seeing different places and experiencing contrasting cultural ideologies of the human race, then it is a necessary and so much so a critical advice in itself to not only pay particular attention to one’s environment, surroundings, and nature appropriately but to respect it and learn it.
Observation, first before any other, plays a very demanding role when it comes to making a decision on places to visit as nothing outclasses the place of planning – stems from having paid attention to the compass to which you seek to go. You want to be prepared for the challenges of whatever journey you decide to embark on. Whether you want to visit the Great Wall of China, or the Vatican City, or Mountain Kilimanjaro, you would do so much better if you have a premeditated fantasy about these places, especially when you haven’t been there at all, but have only read and researched about them – with individual minds conjuring personal visual representations.
Certain times, one needs to tread gently, be a bit more cautious as you have to be sure to possess the necessary exigencies set in place to help enjoy and appreciate wayfaring as well as being able to relish the numerous experiences that come with visiting a place. Well, according to the famous Lao Tzu, just as a good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving, it was in this vein that I got to visit the popular Olumo Rock in the western part of Nigeria, in the city of Abeokuta – meaning under the rock, Ogun State precisely.
Years before my visit, I had read so many journals of different individuals that paid visit to Olumo, juxtaposing and comprehending different experiences, and assimilating emotions that comes with such understanding. Olumo Rock itself has been since the 19th Century and as the name implies is a rock and this rock became a fortress for the egba people in times past.
The Egba people being the earlier settlers of this region during the war between tribes in the 1800s. This naturally occurring phenomenon, Olumo Rock that is, is now a popular tourist attraction and rendezvous for many visitors far and wide – both interstate and abroad. According to our tour guide, the rock became a place of refuge for fleeing Egbas and provided sanctorium to them as well as eminence to supervise the adversaries antics which lead to the eventual triumph in warfare.
Safe to say that although one wasn’t alive back then but it is clearly evident – as the tour guide laid emphasis on the superiority that existed right under the rock starting from its plain foot – that this place harbored and kept alive generations up until oppositions ceased to exist and this lasted for centuries but seemed as days to the people there. I typically but personally questioned such phenomenon but a part of me gave in as I stepped into the specific cave that acted as hideout.
It is easy to get carried away by the bold inscription that stood right at the entrance to the environs where the rock sat, the upgraded infrastructural scenery that housed sky-scraping structure where sets of elevators are ready to convey anxious tourists seeking to view the city from the top of the rock. What a sight one must admit once you are up there sharing space with the Iroko tree deeply rooted atop and that has been there for generations past.
I, like a couple of other wayfarers opted to climb the daunting stairs leading to the top of the rock. With our tour guide already in character from the first step, one can only appreciate the knowledge he imparted as we progressed in altitude. Talk about killing two birds with a stone, I was fed first hand information on the history of the rock and at the same time panting subtly which is a very good exercise for me.
If you pay close attention, you’d catch carvings in the rock that showed evidence of lives from ages past, statutes and different sculptures at certain intervals as we journeyed upward with the guide shedding lights to the plight of the people who lived here and how they were able to stay safe for many years before the conflict came to halt.
Trees deeply rooted in the rock, walls covered in paintings of different objects, cowries, bottle gourds, birds of different types beautified the entrance of the cove that domiciles the priestess, Iya Orisa of Olumo – mother to the diety of Olumo, residing on the rock. At 131 years of age, Chief (Mrs) Sinatu Amusa (not pictured above) is the priestess in charge of the shrine – Orisa Igun – that sits some metres away from the cave. As the chief custodian of the shrine, it is only customary to initiate conventional ordinances for people who come to find solace. Our guide related different occurrences and valid reasons to back up coming to a conclusion of traditional, cultural rites and understanding. (Orisa Igun in Yoruba means the god of longevity)
In keeping with our guide, “On every 5th day of March, the five pivotal kings in Egbaland – Alake of Egbaland, Oluba-ra of Ibara, Olowu of Owu, Oshile of Oke Ona, and Gbagura of Agura would come here to offer petitions and atonement to the gods of the town for peace to reign and also for the prosperity of the sons and daughters of the land wherever they may be.
As we traversed ahead to the other side of the rock, observable were clay-cleaved sculptures of five legends back in the day in Abeokuta with names – Lisabi, Adurodekun, Alatishe, Okukenu and Sodeke. It was believed that these men were revered for their gallant triumphs over invaders during the warfare.
I made efforts to visualize what life must have been like here in the 19th century, I had questions trudging my mind as I tried to comprehend all of the information – the ones I was being fed. Also, how the egbas lived in a cave that one could barely have an upright posture – literally standing 50 degrees to the ground while in this cave – this same place they cooked, wined, dined, slept and lived in for years.
The intriguing view atop the Olumo rock subconsciously directs one’s mind into some sort of deja vu, with corrugated iron sheets characterizing the views and liberal structures sitting conspicuously far away. Olumo Rock is a gorgeous sight to behold, the evening sun had just rested casting shadows in the horizon with beams of light piercing the clouds as I looked ahead. Nature itself must have commandeered this perception at that moment in time – such gratifying panorama.
‘Mayo Mayo Mayo Oh, Lori Olumo’ – the tour guide murmured in Yoruba making reference to the chants back in the day which interprets in layman’s terms – ‘ atop Olumo Rock will I always rejoice’. It was awe-inspiring to note that one is standing where history existed and was made.
When John Muir said in that popular excerpt “The mountains are calling and I must go” – it is clearly inarguable to corroborate with this, hence, I leave you gracefully in the words of Marcel Proust, ‘the real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes’.