Olumo Rock in Abeokuta was our last tourist destination during our recent visit to Nigeria. This very popular tourist attraction, which I’d heard of but never visited was a welcome delight. Abeokuta is the capital of Ogun State. It is about 80 miles from Lagos. Federico was keen to see it, so we put it on the agenda.
My vision of a smallish rock was shattered when l saw just how big this “rock”was. Ginormous is a better word. I suppose the name Abeokuta which literally translates to “under the rock” should have given me a clue…. Duh!
Olumo Rock view from the bottom:
It really wasn’t that hard to find rocks once we got into the city because there are quite a few big ones spread all around that could be seen from the car. There was no mistake however when we pulled up to the right rock. It is located off the main road at the back of a very busy market where the shopkeepers sell tie-dye fabric and ready made gowns for which the city is famous. My sister got to do a bit of haggling as she bought some fabric The area is very well known for their locally dyed fabric. It’s not unusual for people to come from faraway states to purchase huge quantities for weddings and other events where they have aso-ebi (people wearing the same fabric, be it families, colleagues, siblings to differentiate themselves from other guests. You can see what l mean on this post on Nigerian engagement). I was instructed not to speak. Had l done so, the price would have been jacked up tremendously due to my accent.
In 2006, the then governor of the state had two elevators erected at the sight to ferry people up and down. Coincidentally, he owned an elevator company ;-) and it cost the people a pretty penny to install. Since he is no longer in office, they have fallen into disrepair and are no longer in use. Everyday, they tell the people it “just” broke down when in actuality they haven’t functioned for a couple of years at least :-).
Olumo Rock: Stupendous Views
Olumo Abeokuta History:
Abeokuta is an ancient city and Olumo Rock was used as a fortress in those early times. The Egba people were the first to settle there and in fact crevices in the rock were used as hiding places during the many inter-tribal wars in the early 19th century. From the high grounds, (137 meters above sea level), they were able to spot their enemies and they eventually triumphed. They named the rock Olumo which means “All the troubles and sufferings were over” according to the guide. This might be true in their dialect. In mine, Olumo means “God knows”.
Growing up and having to learn my native language Yoruba was very difficult. This is because we make use of these accents and dots under the letters giving completely different words for the same spelling so a word like “Ole” off the top of my head can mean “It’s hard” or “Lazy” or “you didn’t chase her/him” or “thief” or “there’s excess” just to name a few. Now, imagine my mom asking me to read the Bible in Yoruba! Absolute torture for a kid. The town eventually grew as settlers moved under the rock and spread out. The city of Abeokuta now has about half a million inhabitants.
Federico climbed up with the driver and guides and he absolutely loved it. The views are spectacular from up there from his images. The guides showed him the hiding places of the tribes whenever there was a war. He had to crouch as they were really low (less than 3 feet in places). I would have been so claustrophobic, but fear is a great motivator.
Olumo Rock Caves:
The climb to the top of the rock takes about twenty minutes. There are stairs to get you started, but at some point, that changes to holding on to rock surfaces and hoping you don’t fall. It is worth noting that there hasn’t been a fall since the rock was discovered because they believe God has been protecting them. The rock used to produce healing water during the rainy season according to the guides, but 50 years ago, it suddenly stopped, and not a drop since then.
There used to be guardians of the rock which consisted of elderly people born there, but they have all died and the tradition with them. The burial place of the last elder is still up there.
The Museum at the rock
The grounds of Olumo Rock include a small museum displaying local goods and art work. We visited it and got to see some interesting carvings and locally made jewelry, a weakness for my sister so she shopped. One of the other things that is plenty in this very fertile area is pure Shea butter (Ori). Shea butter is an all around wonderful product as it softens the skin, possesses anti-inflammatory as well as healing properties. Most people use it on babies and is really expensive in the western world when it’s pure. l purchased some to bring back with me at a very reasonable price.
It was a really pleasant way to spend a day. This excursion in addition to the Sacred Grove and Waterfalls really added to the enjoyment of our visit. Maybe if they ever fix the elevators, I might go higher :-).
There is also a restaurant with nice views of the city to get refreshments and local food. We had lunch there and loved the food. Once done, and before we left, we walked around the grounds a little and jut enjoyed the wide open spaces. A very nice way to spend a day in Nigeria.
Entry fee to Olumo Rock Abeokuta is roughly $9.50 converted because we had professional cameras which l think is a little too high :-). If you love hiking, you would definitely enjoying hiking up the historic Olumo Rock.
All you brave souls out there. Would you climb one of the biggest rocks in Africa, the monumental Olumo Rock Abeokuta in light of the fact that you have to crawl in some places?