TOURING CROSS RIVER
DAY 1: WHERE THE TREES ARE SATISFIED.
The month was August. Twenty four people of virtually all ages were cramped into a bus. At every available space were luggage of all sizes. Students were on uniform, ex-students and teachers were in plain clothes. They were not running away from hostility but on tour. Their destination was Cross River state. The duration was five days. Somewhere in that bus was me.
This was my third trip to Cross River state in four years, so you could understand why people imagined what new experience I would make out of it. Well, apart from being a way of learning, trips give me the opportunity to interact with others, explore nature and appreciate the way people in other parts of the world live. If you don’t mind, come along. I will be glad to be your guide.
Our aching legs could have shouted in triumph (had they mouths) when we finally stopped at Cross River National Park (CRNP), Akamkpa. You should be patient, for we must go to the lecture hall first. Shall we?
This park is said to be one of the 25 UN biodiversity hotspots in the world. Home of the endangered Cross River Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla diehli), sub specie of the Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)… do you think these terms are too biological? The park covers a total area of about 4000 km2 and is divided into two sections. The numerous flora and fauna here are of economic and medical importance, while some are new to science.
We are now on our way to the forest and our bus bumped along the cramped forest road. At times, we all get down and give it a push.
The whole of Cross River state seem to be so full of rivers that one simply goes crossing one after another. This made me wonder why this state is called Cross River. Is it because one crosses so many rivers or because of one great river called Cross? My thoughts were interrupted by huge machines crushing stones that were quarried nearby. In a short distance away, limestone was mined for making cement.
We moved on to the dense part of the forest. The temperature dropped and the humidity increased. “It will rain” someone said. Our guide laughed. “It is not rain, but these huge trees gather evaporated moisture,” she explained. “It is dark because the rays of the sun could only filter through its dense green cover”
Colorful butterflies and dragonflies were not bothered as we passed but went on with their normal businesses… only the shy squirrels ran deeper into the forest via a network of branches which also formed a roof over the road.
We are in the thicket, Shhh… no noise! In silence we walked in the dark, stumbling and falling as aerial roots and undergrowths protested our movements. We kept on walking for an hour, breathing hard. Unfortunately, this was not one of those days that one could spot a big game. Only bats dispersed as we went into a cave. Disappointed, we turned to go home, but hold on, watch those steps. In all, we had been to only an insignificant portion of the huge forest.
The full moon was hanging on the sky when we reached Ogoja, like a lone eye from heaven watching over us. We spent our first night there, but an army of mosquitoes, who probable had not eaten for the past week, made me keep vigil. I prayed that morning should come quickly, but time, for just this night, decided to crawl, and the mosquitoes kept humming into our ears. See you tomorrow…
We spent our first night there, but an army of mosquitoes, who probable had not eaten for the past week, made me keep vigil. I prayed that morning should come quickly, but time, for just this night, decided to crawl, and the mosquitoes kept humming into our ears.