We are excited to present this personal travel story from one of our top ten Travel Writer Award finalists. Read more about the travel experiences of Emmanuel Chika Prince.
I always love writing while on the road, the prospect of sitting on an uncomfortable chair with a couple of people with whom I could barely share anything completely freaks me out so escaping into literature has always been the best option.
But that day was different. First because I had never exceeded the length of the western border in my previous journeys. But today, I was taking the high road and traveling all the way to the extreme north. I felt a surge of excitement and trepidation at the thought of living alone, miles apart from any member of my family all on my own.
Secondly, because I had never witnessed such panorama in my life. As we crossed the border of the western region and entered the northern region, I noticed the fascinating change in geographical scenery and cultural trappings.
The air had a dense gray quality to it and there was a persistent and nauseating aroma that permeated everything around. I later got to realize that it was a spice used in the typical daily meal of the average northerner.
More interesting was the pattern of tenement building. I had never seen anything so randomly chaotic and yet aesthetically unique. Everywhere I turned, there were hastily set up structures from solid stone fortresses on the gushing hillside to tiny shacks perched on cliffs and mosques set by the roadside. There was a certain creativity to it that was evident and it sparkled through the chaos.
I don’t know how long it took, but as the bus snaked through the claustrophobic roads and the noisy streets of some of the cities, I felt a certain thrill at the prospects that awaited me.
I noticed the endless stream of military barricades especially when the motor cycle I boarded had to stop at a junction and we all had to walk through a barricade with our arms in the air, a task I found not so amusing with my overstuffed luggage weighing down on my tired arms.
When I asked, the bike man explained that they’ve been threats of a probable bomb explosion by the notorious sect BOKO HARAM just few weeks after a very deadly and successful bomb blast that claimed numerous lives. Hence the extra security measures.
I reflected on my experiences a few days later as I looked outside the window of the cab at the dusty road that led to Keffi in Nasarawa state where I was supposed to go through orientation before being posted to any part of the state to serve my country.
The orientation camp was a large expanse of land located at the outskirt of Keffi in what the natives calls Sabon-Gari. Outside the camp was a flurry of soldiers who searched us intimately before ushering us to the registration desk. The three weeks of orientation passed in a blur with so much crazy experiences squeezed into so little time and along with my posting letter I was armed with friends, illuminating experiences and prospect.
Since I had no previous plan, I followed the NCCF bus and along with other clueless corp members we were aided to a house on a hill surrounded by rocks, silent woods and gushing waters. That evening after being briefed by the leaders of the NCCF body which we later discovered stood for National Christian Corper’s Fellowship, I made a call to my mum while staring at the idyll of lush green hills and quiet woods.
We were treated with care and love in the NCCF lodge but that was not enough for the few of us who wanted to indulge our lewd and crazy fantasies of the service year encouraged by older corp members who all had exaggerated personal experiences to share.
After much house hunting with my new friend Chiamaka, we both got what we wanted. She got a mini flat in a quiet fenced compound while I got a dilapidated one room with a makeshift burglary in a hubbub which I had to share with the original owner and my new friend Reme. But beyond the house and the environment, I, Reme and Chiamaka formed a friendship that was founded on our love for adventures.
We spent our mornings signing in at the Kofar Hausa secondary school and the rest of the day getting soaked in the heat doing things we never had time to do during our university days. Like playing under a big tree and throwing stones at the fruits or throwing stones into a brown stream and comparing their distance. Then as the sun went down so did our inhibitions, we would climb different mountains armed with snack bags and a thirst for adventure, we would explore the length and breadth of the geographical phenomenon till we were too tired to climb. Then we would pick the most serene spot mostly one by the side of a stream in a valley and they we would engage in hamate twaddle till we were too tired to talk.
Of course they were times when we had to leave the beautiful city either for safety after rumors of impending sectarian violence or just to see the tall buildings and the lush life that was characteristics of Abuja just twenty minutes away from Keffi where Reme’s dad built his mansion.
In just a year, I learned the love language of a new type of people, I learned to sit back and enjoy life without a care in the world, to enjoy trivial fun like playing a game of chess, tennis or PlayStation while eating bean cake and drinking Kunu (a local drink). But most importantly, I learned to savor the beauty of tall mountains with green lawns, brown streams and silent woods.
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