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2018 was a pretty productive year for me and as it was winding down, I decided to do something crazy – Go up north! (not the movie…). Northern Nigeria
Now, whether you live in Nigeria or not, you might be familiar with the religious cum ethnic crisis that have plagued Northern Nigeria for a while. What with the incessant kidnapping of school girls to clashes between Fulani herdsmen and indigenous farmers, the region has been the recipient of insalubrious publicity.
Little wonder the idea of spending my holidays there was met with opposition from well meaning family and friends. But knowing my flair for adventure, my luggage was already mentally packed before goodbye.
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The trip was a mixture of a group travel package organised by Motley Travels & Logistics, and then a personal trip to Jos, Plateau.
So where did I go? What did I do? Did I have fun? Well, sit back with your box of popcorn and travel through my eyes.
I was beyond excited when our tour bus left the take-off point in Abuja for the 8-hour drive to Bauchi. It was going to be 4 days and 3 nights of absolute fun.
I live in Port Harcourt, a southern city in Nigeria and so I am well accustomed to a flat geography. You can imagine the awe with which my eyes traversed the beautiful rocky terrain as our bus sped. Cutting across Nassarawa, slightly brushing southern Kaduna, with a brief stopover at Jos (Plateau) for lunch. And finally reaching our first stop in Bauchi – The Emir’s Palace.
Emir of Bauchi’s Palace
First thing that struck me was the palace beautiful earthen theme with intricate and colourful designs. It was a surprise to discover that the entire palace was built with mud. It was built in the 19th century by a famed master builder from Zaria named Babban Gwani (real name Muhammadu Durugu).
We were received by the palace tour guide who gave a brief history of the building, the emirate and their historical instruments of war.
Upon initial entrance into Bauchi city in Northern Nigeria, I had noticed an arc-like gate structure. Further research revealed there are some other such arc gates across the city.
These entrances, known as the nine historical gates of Bauchi, were formerly metal gates built to secure the city. The nine gates were fixed to a mud wall surrounding the city. The gates have since been redesigned to meet modern architectural demands.
We were shown one of such metal gates, which is being preserved at the palace.
As we gently drew the curtain on the first day, we bid goodbye to the palace and its people, and proceeded to our accommodation for the first night – Command Guest House.
Command Guest House, Bauchi
Since we were on a safari kind of holiday, I was not expecting such luxurious lodging as part of the package… lol. The Command Guest House was a pleasant surprise for me. From staff hospitality to the restaurant’s food, their facilities, the rooms, I would rate the hotel a 4 out 5.
Morning soon came, breakfast done and we were on our way to begin the second day of our adventure. Next stop – Sumu Wildlife Park
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Sumu Wildlife Park
Sumu Wildlife Park was nostalgic for me. It was reminiscent of the three months, I had spent in Kainji Lake National Park in 2009. This was part of my training requirements while pursuing a bachelors in Forestry and Wildlife Management.
Sumu is like the unsung hero in the Pearl of Tourism. A lot of people associate Safari in Bauchi with just the Yankari game reserve and are ignorant to the presence of this wildlife park.
Opened in 2006, Sumu Wildlife park is home to various fauna like giraffes, zebras, elands, wildebeests, kudus and impalas. It was a beautiful experience seeing a giraffe and zebra for the first time ever!
The wildlife park has also got a museum that reminded me of all those taxidermy lessons years ago. It’s stocked with skin, skull, guns (from poachers I believe) and other artefacts.
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Goodbye giraffes … goodbye zebras. Next stop – Tafawa Balewa Tomb.
Tafawa Balewa Tomb
In this ten* feet grand edifice rests the remains of Sir Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. He was the first and only Prime Minister of an independent Nigeria.
The tomb was declared a national monument in 1979. And it makes use of natural lighting, topography and a magnificent building structure. It combines all these with the power of story telling to evoke emotions. All the while, it takes you through the life, times and philosophies of the late Prime Minister.
Also, there is a mini museum where you can see some of Tafawa Balewa’s personal belongings. A six spring bed (rather what remained of it), a prayer mat, some caps and a radio set. This shows how much of a simplistic lifestyle he led.
By this time, we were all so eager to be on our way to our next stop – Yankari Game Reserve.
Yankari Game Reserve
The drive from town to the game reserve was about 45 kilometres (I think). While driving you arrive at the gate and just then you’d think you have arrived. Tada! There’s still some kilometres to go. But we took a convenience break at the gate – and some more pictures!
We finally arrive at the reserve and are shown to our rooms. Truth be told, the accommodation is nothing like Command Guest House but I am impressed. It’s a clean ‘studio’ with working air-conditioning, water heating, clean sheets. There were some complaints from other tourists but I was fortunate to have none.
We had been warned about the ‘area boys’ (read baboons) of Yankari and their mischievous nature of grabbing food and other items. So, I was extra careful with my personal belongings.
There’s this serenity about the environment. The weather reminds me of the chilly autumn feel in Oxford.
Next day’s itinerary included Yankari game reserve safari and hike to Marshall caves visit.
It is believed that former natives of the area used to live in these caves to ward against attacks from slave traders. The caves are 59 in number and are so named because they were discovered by a British historian – P.J Marshall.
Unfortunately, due to the time of the year, I did not get to see any out-of-the ordinary wild animal, just the regular wildebeests and elans.
Wiki Warm Spring
Although I have heard the concepts of warm springs, I still found it difficult to believe that a water body would literally be warm. Well, you know what they say; seeing is believing, or rather swimming is believing.
Never have I ever seen a water body so blue and clear. I could see the sandy and stony bottom of the spring. The water is constantly flowing and supplies the water needs of whole facility.
Also took a quick peek at the museum and the crafts market where I copped some waist beads and jewellery.
It’s better to do this trip with some cash at hand as your payment options are limited due to the absence of ATMs or POSs.
Saying goodbye is never easy but it was time to leave. Overall, I really did enjoy the vacation and it was totally worth the cash spent.
The only downside was the restaurant at Yankari. Hospitality in terms of food, doesn’t seem to be their strength. We always had very long wait times before our meals arrived. A hungry person is really an angry person so they need to improve a whole lot in that area.
That said, this is a trip that’s totally worth it and if you have the means you should totally go.
Got any questions, feel free to ask in the comment section.
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