Olorun ma je ka k’agbako is a Yoruba prayer that literarily means may God almighty not make us cross path with Agbako. Figuratively, it means may we not encounter an unforeseen misfortune as we journey through life.
You see, Agbako was a character in what happens to be one of the most admired literature books of all time (Ogboju ode ninu Igbo Irunmale written in 1938 by D.O Fagunwa which was later translated to English by Prof. Wole Soyinka 44 years later).
Agbako was a vicious beast with 7 heads that would stop at nothing at killing a hunter called Akara-Ogun– a son of a brave warrior and wicked witch on one of his hunting expeditions.
Fact Check: Ogboju Ode ninu Igbo Irunmale is the first novel to be written in the Yoruba language
Please Note: The story about this forest is based entirely on fiction. What this means is that the events which occurred were only an imagination of D.O Fagunwa as he tries to justify the ways of God to man whilst acknowledging the constant interference of the spiritual forces.
Why did I embark on this trip?
Due to my strong conviction and belief in multiple existences within our physical world, I was super excited when this trip was announced by Nigeria Tourism Lovers, an amazing travel community in which I am a member. To me, this trip will avail me of an opportunity to document one of Nigeria’s least explored destinations.
“This is a no-brainer, Tunde, you should join this trip,” I whispered under my breath, punching *737# simulteneously to listen to my bank balance which at that moment, was more important than my instinct. Having confirmed that I had enough to keep me alive until my next paycheck, I packed my bag and joined 7 other community members on the journey to Ondo state.
Getting to Igbo Olodumare
The forest is located in Oke-Igbo, Ile Oluji-Oke Igbo L.G.A., Ondo State where Pa Fagunwa himself is a native. So you’d have to take a cab from Ife roundabout in Ondo to take you to Oke-Igbo and then hop a bike to Igbo Olodumare.
It was a Saturday morning and the sun rose so lazily that you would think it had a hangover. I had agreed to join Ibrahim and Abiola at Ojota so we could link up with other members of the group in Ondo. The journey from Lagos to Oke-Igbo would take about 6hours by road, so I maintained my rule of not eat anything until we alighted at Ife roundabout where I had my first meal of the day at the magnificent Captain cook restaurant standing by the roundabout.
In no time, the rest of the team showed up and we crossed to the other side of the road to negotiate fares with the cab drivers plying the Oke-Igbo route.
The journey to Oke-Igbo was absolute bliss. The road was free and our drivers too were skilled. The villages we drove through were so quiet that you can shake hands with the peace hanging in the air. I got excited every time our car bumps into a pothole or when our driver swerves to avoid one. It dawned on me that I’ve actually missed traveling. My ego was just too much for me to admit.
It wasn’t difficult for the people of Oke Igbo to know we were strangers. We hopped out one after the other from the cabs and took refuge at a beer palour that seemed to have stopped thriving due to the economic downturn of the country. The goats too wouldn’t stop staring. The ones that weren’t starring continued to bleat, the chickens were cackling, and the sun burned so hotly on us that you’d think we were the ones who woke him from the sleep he was enjoying.
During group trips, I hate participating in negotiations because I think the fewer the hagglers, the faster our journey would be. So, Ibrahim led the negotiating team and we finally got 4 bikes to drive the 8 of us into Igbo Olodumare.
Don’t let me lie to you, I thought I was prepared for the journey ahead until our bike left the tarred road. I started seeing fewer houses and more of the forest. The bleating goats have now been substituted with croaking toads in very high pitch. I once read that when the pitch is that high, they’re probably mating. lol… who wouldn’t mate in such a cool condition?
The sun had stopped following us because I noticed the air which blew my face was as cold as ice. I felt relieved. Maybe I shouldn’t have been scared after all,” I thought within me as Biola continued talking at intervals from behind me while our rider drove fiercely against the cold wind. The road got narrower and rougher but I cared less as the trees on both sides continued to swing back and forth like it was a cultural dance rehearsal in honour of a noble.
I was enjoying every bit of the moment until things turned sour abruptly. The path on which we now drove became very sandy and dusty. The bike ahead of us raised so much dust that my entire body was now partially coated in brown. The trees were no longer green and dancing, they now were brown and frowning. It dawned on me that the sun too never left. It burned us harder and I could tell he was doing that deliberately. The torment continued until the smiling trees returned again. We got stopped by some policemen who wanted nothing but bribes before allowing us to continue into Igbo Olodumare.
We soon started seeing more mud houses, more goats, and even more chickens but the quaking toads were no longer heard. I observed that planting and harvesting cocoa seems to be the mainstay of this village because every house seems to have beans of cocoa being sundried on the floor outside. We journeyed on until we got to a signpost that welcomed us to Igbo Oludumare. I was getting excited as I jumped down to take a few pictures of the signpost when our rider said sharply. “A o tii de be o (we aren’t there yet),” but didn’t say why we had to wait.
Apparently, that spot marks the beginning of our real journey into Igbo Olodumare. The other bikes soon joined us. The lead rider (who obviously was older than the others) parked quietly and took about 10 calculated steps towards a banana tree on the right, he squatted and started rendering some incantations in a hushed tone. While he did, my mind flashed back to a particular page of the book:
… as the 13 ghommids arrived they sat round the tree… some walked on their heads, others hopped frogwise, one had neither arms nor legs; his appearance was like a rubbery tub…
A quick glance at my phone revealed that the time was 3:15 pm. I looked around, it was just us and the forest with some chirping crickets. “What will happen if the armless ghomids jump out from nowhere? How would I tell if they were truly harmless or not, as described in the book?” I asked myself with a trembling whisper. I didn’t even tell my mum exactly where I was going. F*ck. It was a huge mistake on my path.
Different parts of Igbo Olodumare Explained
Fifteen minutes deeper into the forest, we were faced with a slender brown gate that ushered us into yet another part of the forest. This was after making a stop in a small community nestled within the forest to do another round of haggling for our entrance fees.
When Fagunwa described this forest as the home of every vicious beast on earth and the dwelling of every kind of feathered freak, I smirked. But not anymore. The main forest looked exactly as described, only that there were still no roaring beast or a crying gnom on sight. Instead, we only saw a few of the natural representations/landmarks as described by Fagunwa. They include the following:
Oke Langbodo: This was another body of rock whose top allows you to see an aerial view of the forest, howbeit partially. Climbing this rock has to be among the scariest things I’ve ever done while traveling. A wrong movement of the leg can cause severe injury or even death due to how steep it was.
Other places mentioned were; Ojola ibinu, ekun oloju kan, ibujoko olowoaye, esu kekere ode, oja awon iwin, agingun idakeroro, ogbun ainisale. All of which we weren’t able to explore.
Quick tips on exploring Igbo Olodumare
- It’s always good to go as a group: That way, the journey becomes fun and you can split bills and also haggle for better bargains
- Do not wear bright coloured clothes due to the dusty road
- Wear proper hiking shoes
- Travel very light
- Hold more cash instead of depending on cards
Time to go back home
Another glance at my phone revealed the time was 5:15 pm. We knew it was time to leave. I for one would have loved to see what Igbo Olodumare looks like at night, especially because our guide made a bold claim that the leaves from the trees light up at night to illuminate the entire forest. Only Olodumare knows why most of them tell such lies. I smirked.
We journeyed back to Oke Igbo on the same bikes with which we had come, except that Biola had to switch bikes for obvious reasons, but the journey seemed shorter this time. The sun was nowhere to be found and the goats were tired of bleating. We stopped by at the beer parlor to collect our bags and boarded another set of cabs which took us back to Ife roundabout. It was already dark by the time we got to Ore. The time was tending towards 8:30 pm but the entire place was still bubbling with screeches from cars to fuji music being blasted from multiple shops at the park.
We needed to get a space bus that could carry us all at once to Araromi (where we planned to spend the night) but we had a hard time negotiating with the only driver capable of driving at that time of the night because the journey to Araromi will span for another hour and a half.
The Death Race Journey to Araromi
He finally agreed so the 8 of us joyously packed ourselves inside the 6-seater Siena. I never imagined the ride to Araromi would be that crazy. The first few minutes were cool as we tried navigating our way out of Ore. Things started getting ugly when we got on the lonely road. Our driver drove like there was more to it than just dropping us at Araromi. He drove so fast that I was convinced he once was a fayawo (car smuggler), The fact that the roads were bumpy and riddled with potholes compounded our woes. The absence of street lights shattered everything. But his action was understandable. Such a lonely road should not be driven sluggishly on.
Cost breakdown of traveling from Lagos to Igbo Olodumare
Ojota, Lagos to Ife roundabout – N3,100
Ife roundabout – Oke Igbo – N200
Oke Igbo – Igbo Eledumare + Access – N1,000
Oke- Igbo – ife RA – N300
Ife RA – Ore – N400
Ore – Araromi- N1,875
My heart was literarily in my mouth by the time we got to our Araromi. I mean, you must be a cat with more than 9 lives if you rode with us without feeling terrified.
Araromi was plunged into absolute darkness and silence, except for a few barbers who were still tending to their customers. Our accommodation was nothing fancy. I wasn’t expecting anything cool from a N500 bedspace anyways. It was in one of the family houses in the village- a bungalow which corrugated sheet served as the toilet and bathroom. The 8 of us were to manage 2 of the rooms and nobody protested as we gisted all through the night till sleep plucked us out one after the other.
Are you wondering why we had to pass the night in such a place instead of a hotel? lol
The real question should be: why did we even go to Araromi in the first place?
My name is Tunde Phillips- a travel blogger from Nigeria trying to encourage more people to embrace traveling by writing compelling stories about the destinations I have been to. Let’s be friends here on Instagram, and here on Twitter. I’ve got a youtube channel that I’d like that you subscribe to as well.
I look forward to you reading my next blog post!