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We walked forward, still protesting the locked gates when a white minivan parked right beside us. The driver probably knew we were destined for Awka. Since he guessed right, there wasn’t any need to overthink the decision so we hopped in.
N200 was what each of us paid for the fare to Ogbunike junction where we met about a dozen bike riders waiting impatiently to take passengers to Ogunike cave. Looking at how the bikers almost knocked themselves over to win our love, I could tell that the day probably had been plagued with low patronage.
We finally chose 2 of them without any tangible criteria aside from the fact that they were at the front. Both bikers kicked their bikes to life at the same time like synchronized swimmers. We negotiated the fare while on transit. Each rider would get N150 each.
The road which led to Obunike was as smoother than the highway to hell. It reminded me about the one I traveled on while going to Arinta waterfall. It was more fun as both bikes overtook themselves intermittently. I pretended I wasn’t enjoying the drama but it was damn fun until we got off the rated road to a very large body of forest. “This can’t be Ogbunike.” I tried convincing myself while our rider halted the bike somewhere around the middle of the forest.
The only attributes which gave Obunike away as a tourist destination was the signpost bearing the rules and regulations about the cave. Nothing more. But I kept my cool as our rider motioned us to follow him towards the centre of an open field within the forest.
The Management Team
A small tree with broad branches served as the office. Three men sat on a bench under the tree with straight faces as we walked closer to them. One of them with a big belly looked permanently angry. One would think he’s witnessed too many awful things in his lifetime. Clasped in his right hand was a bottle of big stout which had a fly perching on the tip but he cared less. The two other guys were the tour guides.
We greeted and asked how much it’d cost to access the Ogbunike and they made us understand it is N1,000 each. I was down on cash, so I asked if we could pay with our card but the look they gave me was enough proof that my question was like a taboo. “Una no fit use card o.” said the guy on the left. “Unless una go transfer the money make I go help una collect am for the bank for town. But una go add N500 for bike”.
We didn’t have a choice, so I transferred N10, 500 so he can withdraw N10,000, take N5,000 for our entrance fee and give me a balance of N5,000 so I can go home with some cash.
He zoomed off as soon as his phone beeped.
The guy by the right motioned us to follow him and we obeyed, lined up in a straight file behind him as though we were going to be used for rituals. He looked fearless as he tore through the narrow pathway into the denser part of the forest. Things began getting scary as the forest enveloped us, making it impossible to see the clouds.
I’ve not seen so many people inside a forest before. Most of them were students who have come for an excursion. They all were looking really excited about the entire experience and they posed in their respective underwear as they thronged towards the nearby river. It was a sight to behold as we descended the concrete staircase that led downwards the cave’s entrance.
Venturing Inside Ogbunike Cave
Now we are going to enter the cave now. But you need to off your shoe there.” our guide said, pointing to a spot where we saw at least 100 pairs of footwears scattered on the swampy floor. We chose a free section of the spot to store our shoes to avoid hurting stories. I mean, I can’t imagine returning all the way to Anambra barefooted. Even a Celestial Christian won’t do such.
In no time, our guide moved close to the huge body of rock while I kept wondering where the cave’s entrance was. “Or are we going into the rock through an invincible door?” I was still looking for an answer when he pointed to a very tiny hole by the base of the rock.
“Na here we go enter.” I was astounded but I did well in masking my shock. ‘This hole is just big enough to accommodate a crouching average-sized human!” I protested to myself. And before I could drop my placard, our guide had disappeared into the rock through the hole. Bukola, Victoria, and Tope followed him as though it was planned. I was left alone with John Bosco. And as I tried asking if he was scared too, he switched on his phone’s torchlight, crouched and disappeared after them without looking at me.
It was one of the scariest things I’ve done since I started traveling. For the lack of a better context, it was a 5 minute-journey that looked like 5 days filled with more horrific moments that I saw in Igodo– a 1999 Nollywood flick produced by Pedro Obaseki. My adrenaline rushed faster than it did when I went alone to Kwara in search of Owu falls. My legs were shaky and sweaty (even though the cave was f*cking cold), the water from the stream flowed rapidly as it swept the sand beneath my feet in the process. Making the entire thing more creepy. I had lost my voice already as I took an average of 1 step every 5 seconds.
Then, when I thought I’ve seen it all, they started rushing towards us in droves. I’ve never come close to so many bats and flying insects at once in my entire life. I didn’t know where I gathered the strength to scream that much. But that didn’t stop the entire colony of bats from having their way. Our guide made us understand that the bats were harmless, but that did little in calming any of us.
Halfway into the tunnel, we contemplated turning back but we were already made to understand that it is a taboo to go out through the same entrance we came in through. So we continued advancing towards the exit.
The joy we wore on exiting through the other opening of the cave was indescribable. Our guide probably was enjoying our company because he immediately suggested we go see the flowing River Nkissa which was adjacent to the cave.
We had a swell time enjoying the views around the river. We also took turns in savouring the coolness of the stream by dipping our legs into it as we posed at different corners to take pictures.
Left for me, we could stay by this river all day if there was nothing like day and night but the cloud was already shutting her eyes, and that meant only one thing. We needed to return to our base in Onitsha.
There is no doubt that the Ogbunike caves have major tourist potential. I tried imagining how amazing the atmosphere would look like if the tunnels were carefully designed with colourful lighting, and the environment redesigned to have mini cabins where tourists and travelers can sleep over to catch a night view of this beautiful beast in the heart of Anambra.
Home came calling
Now tired and severely hungry, we retraced our steps back up to the land of the living. John Bosco pulled a call across to our bikers to come to pick us up, and in what took like 10 minutes, they arrived and we sat in the same order as we did earlier and rode on the same smooth road back to te express.
We bade John goodbye while we watched him join a waiting bus at the other side of the express road to Awka, shortly before a blue bus heading towards Onitsha stopped in front of us.
Back at Onitsha, the first thing we did was went in search of an ATM to fetch more money that we could spend on food and travel the next day.
Our plan On getting to our hotel was to eat our food and play some games but as the saying goes, Man can only propose. No one had any more energy for those games as we returned to our various rooms and slept carelessly till the next morning.
Now, would I want to go into that tunnel at Ogbunike cave again? Hell No!
But would I advise you to try it out? Absolutely yes! The adventure is crazy!
to be continued…
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