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Exploring Enugu, the Coal City

Sep 13 2017

It all started with planning the trip a month ago. I have always wanted to explore the eastern part of Nigeria and from there move on to the South-South. I finally got to carry my bag and hit the road with a travel buddy of mine.
We booked our bus with GIGM and choose our preferred seat, always a window seat for me.
The D-day, we got to the bus station 45minutes early, picked up our tickets and waited for the bus to leave. As usual, stipulated time is never followed, that is not new.

Crossing the Niger

There are two things that welcomes you to the east, the River Niger bridge and the red soil. The beautiful moment of crossing the River Niger never gets old. The structure is an architectural beauty on its own, and driving through it is quite thrilling. It was a wet afternoon by the time we crossed the Niger and thus we journeyed onto Enugu. The east is a red soil terrain which you would have started noticing from Ore-Benin onto Delta and further down on crossing the Niger.
On the way to Enugu, you can not help but notice the effect of erosion on the terrain, it will be good if good roads that fits a red soil area with enough strengths to withhold the weight of the trailers and trucks that passes through daily.
We got to Enugu in the evening at about 6pm. Another one of my tips for road trip was put into use. I had contacted an acquaintance who live in Enugu previously on getting a cab driver that will take us round the various sites we want to see, but unfortunately he could not get one. The cab driver that took us to our hotel was quite amiable so we talked to him about driving us to our locations. He checked our list when we got to the hotel and pointed out the ones he thinks is near and the ones that are far off thus making us to choose locations that are more important to us.

Getting around town

I had reached out to about three photographers who are within my network and two had responded. It was one that picked the hotel we stayed in after i went online to check it out. We met Emeka later in the evening, discussed our itinerary with him and he gave some tips. It was quite useful as they helped our driver with location during our trip.

The following day we set out from the hotel around 6:30am to catch the sunrise over Miken Hill which is considered the top most part of the town. We were able to get some view as the highest point is now house to a radio station and we can not get in. The sound of the birds with the serene atmosphere was quite inspiring.

Then we went on to Ngwo Pine Forest and Waterfall. It is not far from the road and you can not miss the tall pine trees. Driving inside you will notice the line of symmetry for the trees. The base of the trees is filled with wet grass, it is raining season and due to lack of proper care, the ground is crowded.
We got to meet the custodian of the Forest, Mr Iche Bonson Onoh, a native of Ngwo. Mr Bonson is a staff of the Forestry department for about 17 years.

Photo: Idoko Negedu

Ngwo Pine Forest

He told us a bit about the pine forest. “The trees were planted by the Europeans with the effort of the Federal Government. They were first planted in 1936 and were replanted after the Biafran war, he said

The forest was planted for erosion control. The purpose of government planting these trees is for the production of paper materials. It is also meant for recreational activities. The government still fell the trees if it’s needed for paper production and are replanted after some years which results in some of the open gaps you can see.”

There is a system to planting of the pine trees. Normal planting has a space of 12-15 feet between each tree. The trees are planted in gap form for easy passage of vehicles, people and animals.
Taking a closer look at the trees, some are planted in scattered form, not in line symmetry. According to Mr Bonson, these are the ones planted by Nigerians after the war. The ones in line formation with enough gaps between are the ones planted by the British.

The trees are imported from Brazil and planted by Europeans. The forest is a joint partnership between the village and the government with about 80% going to the government and 20% to the village. The maintenance of the trees is expensive and the village cannot bear the cost.

During the dry season, there is bush burning amongst the trees and thus it affects the production of its seeds which are the pine cones. The seeds inside the pine cones are used for re-planting else where or the felled trees.

After checking out the pine forest, we now embarked on a journey further into the bush where the waterfall, cold and water spring, and the cave are.

This time around we had three young men as guides. There is a little trail that leads to the cave and the water. You can see signs of erosion on the land and most of the land is used for farming. We pass through the farm lands to get to the cave.
The warm and cold spring are at the entrance of the cave. The cold water gush out from a small hole on the left and a few steps further to your right is the warm water. You can feel the change in temperature when you step into the water.
A few steps ahead is the Ngwo cave with the waterfall flowing down right through the middle. It looks like a the cut out tip of a cone. The interior of the cave is red like very similar to the red soil in the area, don’t know what to call it.
It is a very beautiful sight to behold.

From here we went on to the Ezeagu Tourist complex, which is in the next article. I can say that Enugu is a land of many streams and most of the tourist sites are in the hinterland.
It will really be great if the government can train the locals to work as tour guides, allow them take care of these sites and have a revenue sharing formula of 70% to the village and the locals and 30% to government. These will increase sustainability in Tourism. You can steal government money but you dare not steal community money.

What do you suggest? I will really like to know your thoughts. Do kindly share your thoughts in the comment box

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