It’s the New Year and so we decided that for our first NXTour this year, we would go to Olumo Rock. It’s one of those places where, if you studied in Nigeria, you’ve seen it listed in textbooks as “a major tourist destination in Nigeria”. It is indeed one of the popular tourist destinations in the country, with an interesting history and a good view of the city of Abeokuta.
We set out from Lagos Island in the morning and got to Abeokuta in the afternoon. The road trip was longer than expected, but that didn’t dampen our mood. Some of the games played along the way made sitting through the traffic a lot better. They brought out different sides of people and it turned out we had some undercover rappers spitting out lines like “My fada, your fada, shallout to the guy on the bus with the tiniest bladder!”
Once we arrived at Olumo Rock, we had a tour of the art gallery first which doubled as a gift shop. There were some really interesting pieces of art – some made from recycled can drinks and other works showcased the adire textile art which is indigenous to the people of Abeokuta. We also went through to the herbal shop where the female herbalist showcased her different “potions” and mixes. Some for back pain, some for body pain, and a special one called “man power” which apparently is for men to ‘get ready for the ladies’.
Appreciating some of the artwork at the gallery
After this introductory tour, we started our hike. There were three landings, and each landing had it’s own attraction per se. We got to the first landing, and the attraction we truly appreciated was the opportunity to take selfies because this was the first point where we could appreciate the view of the town.
Starting the climb
View from the first landing
The second landing was actually where we learnt a lot about the history of Olumo rock. We explored the caves that were used as a war time hideout by the indigenous Egba people. In fact, the city of Abeokuta (which is the capital of Ogun State) got its name from the rock – it means “under the rock” when translated to English. The significance of Olumo Rock as a war time hideout is embedded in the meaning of the name “Olumo” which is actually an abbreviated form of “Oluwa fi mo” which means God has put an end to our wandering and suffering.
The grooves in the stones were used to grind food whilst the stone carvings serves as a memorial for fallen warriors
Exploring the inside of the caves
We then went to see the shrine. Humans were sacrificed to appease the gods, but (thankfully) only animals are used nowadays. The door of the shrine was locked, and of course we asked for it to be opened. Lol! Such dreams! Apparently it’s only open once year on the 5th of August, and only the Alake (traditional ruler) of Egbaland is allowed to go in.
See a feathered door, think it’s a cool photo spot. Learn it’s an active shrine, run away
There are some old women who live near the rock and come up everyday to pray for people. The story is that these women once upon a time sought refuge at Olumo Rock. They started praying for us in Yoruba (even though there were only like three people in our group who could understand what they were saying) and then slightly awkwardly, one of the women started undressing from the top…
We then finally made our way to the top most part of the rock. It wasn’t exactly a walk in the park getting up there. We had to climb through a narrow passageway between two rocks, walk across a bridge and then “run-crawl-climb” up the flat surface of one rock to get to the top. Obviously some people in our group just opted to use the stairs rather than go through those heart racing moments.
Climbing through the rocks
There was no bridge back in the day, so the locals used to risk it and jump across the rocks
From this point on you can’t go back, you can’t turn back. Be brave and “run-crawl-climb”
And then we got to the top. We sang the Egba anthem (which we had learnt on our introductory tour) to celebrate climbing up 137 meters above sea level to the very top. From there we could see a vast array of brown roofs and some significant places like the first Church in Nigeria (or so they claim) and the central Mosque. After appreciating the views, everyone’s cameras and acrobatics skills were put to good use:
- Start your road trip as early as possible if you’re driving from Lagos! Technically, it should be a one and a half hours drive from Lagos Island, but given as Lagos (and Nigeria generally) is highly unpredictable, traffic may hit you like a plague even on the days when you would least expect it. You can monitor the route on Google maps for days on end beforehand, and that traffic can still come out of nowhere and prolong your journey by about 3 extra hours.
- Of course, be appropriately dressed – comfortable clothing for a hike up and appropriate shoes like trainers or sneakers.
- The hike itself isn’t too bad, but it may initially be difficult if you start hiking immediately you get off a bus you’ve been sitting in for hours. Shake your legs a little bit after you disembark from the bus before you begin.
- As we always recommend – know thyself. If you can’t hike through the rocks, take the stairs. You can access the stairs at every landing, so be confident in yourself if you want to chicken out midway of your hike. However, it may be reassuring for you to know that no one has actually ever fallen from the rocks, so it’s a pretty safe climb.
- BEWARE OF GOATS!!! There is some love attraction between the goats in Abeokuta and Olumo Rock (at least it felt that way) and so they will almost certainly be lurking around you if you decide to chill outside and have some lunch. Make sure you don’t turn your back on your food because the goats might just help themselves